It seems incongruous to talk about Italy and fail to touch on its sartorial repertoire. For, fashion is ingrained within the Italian culture, no?
The streets of Milan are punctuated with curvilinear women dressed in Dolce or Versace, elegantly smoking and pouting excessively. Men, in sleek Armani suits stroll nonchalantly around the Galleria Vittoria Emmanuelle, don’t they? Or is this decadence and decorum a figment of my imagination? A style and era long bygone, but nostalgic nonetheless.
It would seem so. Sharp tailoring has been replaced by relaxed sports luxe and alas, the men no longer have a penchant for Armani. They prefer a dressed-down look of distressed denim and embellished hoodies.
Personally, I prefer the glamour of the 1950s, but fashion, as we all know, must progress, reinvent and then revisit.
While we associate ‘Italian fashion’ with the cities of Milan, Florence and if we’re pushing it, Rome, is it really ingrained within the rest of the country’s consciousness?
Sadly, a recent trip to Sicily would seem not.
Not to offend or affront, but Sicily stands in polar opposition to Italy’s north, and this applies to its sartorial agenda.
A stroll within the piazza of Licata will elucidate.
It’s 11pm and a warm August evening. The air is punctuated with the flavour of citrus, accompanied with the overpowering scent of a freshly lit Marlborough.
Women with prominent cleavage and tiny embellished totes push strollers. The men slick their quiffs and strut as the children run wild. Nonnas in heels and Houndstooth sit on the benches gossiping. The nonnos are in braces and flat caps smoking cigars.
It’s an eclectic mix.
The dress code? Your most fanciful, look-at-me outfit – for ‘tis Saturday night.
It’s a fusion of Britney Spears / Justin Timberlake circa 2002, with a dash of the 1940s-post-war aesthetic thrown in.
It’s extreme, overwhelming and totally enthralling.
A connoisseur in people watching, I was engrossed. It was millennium déjà vu; low rise denim, lacquered hairstyles, tiny Louis Vuitton bags, open shirts, triple faded denim, metallic tailoring, neon scrunchies and 9 inch heels.
In total contrast were the older population. Clinging to the former sartorial decorum of a bygone age, there was sharp tailoring, hats, brocade jackets, braces and tweed.
Small Society, Loud Attire
Licata is essentially an agrarian community, a small and inclusive society with an abundance of charm and beauty. Yet, devoid of clubs, discos and pubs.
The result is that people live for certain weekly events. Saturday night in Licata’s sole piazza was one: you walked, talked, strutted, stared and gossiped, before you returned home and waited impatiently for the next Saturday night where you would repeat the ritual again. Your most decadent outfit was an essential.
I speak with knowledge and understanding on this.
I hail from a small town, without an abundance of extracurricular activities. Consequently, anonymity was impossible; you knew everyone’s business, and sadly everyone knew yours too.
We would tentatively hold our breath for a house party; a chance to all hang out and see each other and wear our most eye-catching garment. Likewise, Sunday afternoon at the pub was always an important one. The Beer Garden at Terrigal, I can recall, was really the only place to be seen.
There are negatives and positives to such a stripped and socially streamlined society.
Evidently within the negative camp, is simply the lack of choice, activities and things to do. Yet, on the other hand you were guaranteed to never feel like an anonymous individual in a swathe of glamorous people.
And as I sat and stared in the Piazza of Licata, I shed a nostalgic tear. This inclusivity hasn’t been a factor in my life for 18 months now, and I miss it.
However, what I don’t miss is the over the top, Dolly Parton-esque outfits that we used to adorn ourselves in. We only had one night of the week to make an impact and we certainly made the most of it.
And with that, a man in white sneakers, ripped, baggy low rise jeans, a tight Gucci singlet, sunnies and a white cap walked past.
The minimalist trend certainly hasn’t hit Sicily yet. Will it ever?