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How to dress like an Italian

4 min read

How to dress like an Italian
Oozing effortless elegance and grace, Italians sure do know how to dress. Whether you’re looking to infuse some chic into your home wardrobe or be sure you’re dressed appropriately for your next Citalia holiday, we’ve got you covered.
There’s one word you need to know in order to dress like an Italian: Sprezzatura. First appearing in Baldassare Castiglione's The Book of the Courier, published in 1528, this Renaissance term was defined as “certain nonchalance, so as to conceal all art and make whatever one does or says appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it". Simply put, sprezzatura is effortless chic, where imperfections are both celebrated but calculated. Sprezzatura is why you’ll find an entire nation dedicated to a style that’s simultaneously smart yet informal, and sombre but sensual.
Image of a woman overlooking a lake in Italy


Italians truly embrace Slow Fashion, opting for high quality over quantity and the less is more concept. Even though clothes are sourced as investments, Italians don’t wait for a special occasion to showcase their luxury apparel. They wear what they love when they want and are masters of donning clothes that work both in recreational and office environments, such as the sophisticated suit blazer.
In fact, Italians love to bend the rules of formal wear. For example, to add the casual air, men’s trousers are perfectly hemmed so that they stop just above the ankle, and jackets are featherweight without any unnecessary padding and lining so that they appear softer on the shoulder.
Italians are experts in the capsule wardrobe concept, where items of clothing are mixed and matched together so that multiple outfits co-exist. They choose clothing that works throughout the seasons, while focusing on neutral, often monochrome, colours. The classic style is minimalist, using 100% natural fibres, from merino wool and cashmere in the winter to silk, linen and cotton in the summer. This is where sprezzatura really comes into force, as natural fabrics tend to provide the quintessential wrinkle on an otherwise impeccable look.
Italian fashion habits really are the ideal travel style. Streamlined outfits reduce your luggage, light linens cool you in summer, and merino wool works well in both hot and cold climates.
Image of a man wearing a suit reading a newspaper


Want to know an Italian fashion secret? A great fit always trumps a flashy look - and that’s why Italians embrace the art of tailoring. To dress like an Italian, you’ll want to befriend your local tailor. Even if your budget doesn’t allow you to buy expensive items, whether it’s a shirt, trousers, streamlined blouse or skirt, you can achieve the same result by getting clothing altered to fit you perfectly.
When it comes to wearing fitted clothes, Italians know that style starts with the undergarments. Women in particular choose quality, neutral-coloured, feminine lingerie that don’t fight the look. Most Italians treat their clothes as friends for life and take good care of them, and a tailor can help with repairs that in turn increases their longevity.
Image of people walking a catwalk for italian fashion


Italians have an innate way of carefully putting outfits together, building each look from scratch. They usually start by selecting a hero piece that will make a statement. This could be the flash of an animal print, such as leopard or snakeskin, or a vivid handbag or man bag. Or it could be something small and subtle, such as a bold and beautiful brooch, a colourful pocket square in your suit jacket, or a bright leather belt.
Glamour can easily be sneaked into your daily style with the Italian’s love for sequins, glitter, and gemstones. The versatile essentials are then added around the statement piece, and the style rules here are easy to follow: most wardrobes feature 100% cotton white t-shirts purchased from the local merceria (haberdashery), blue jeans, and black trousers with clean cuts.
Even if outfits are punchy with dramatic silhouettes or short hems with long sleeves, the key to every outfit is balance - harmonising any touches of drama with elegant minimalism. Think Giorgio Armani who pulls off a black velvet top, or Sophia Loren with a patterned silk scarf around her neck in an otherwise monochrome outfit.
Image of a building in Milan in Italy

Italian signature style

Leather bags
Italy is the home of quality leather bags. Whether it’s a feminine handbag, signature satchel, sporty duffle, or classic tote, the craftsmanship that goes into Italian leather makes bags heirloom treasures that get passed down the generations. Repair old designer classics sourced in the many vintage shops found in Rome and Milan. As leather ages, bags develop a gorgeous sheen and take on a real character of their own.
Soft brim hats
Leave your baseball cap at home. When Italian’s aren’t wearing a helmet as they drive around their Vespas, you'll often find them in the summer months donning a soft brim hat with an indented crown. Fedoras are made of felt, while Panama hats are weaved with straw, and both offer alluring summer style to men and women alike.
Vintage shades
Sunglasses are as much a part of Italian culture as opera and pasta. Not only are sunglasses functional, finding a pair of sunglasses that compliment your features is a fundamental style accessory, which is why you’ll find them worn even on cloudier days. Classic vintage shapes, such as Wayfarer, Aviator or Cat-Eyes remain a big style hit, and you can add in some contemporary chic with a wooden frame.
Leather shoes
Don’t even think about packing your flip flops. It’s no coincidence the country is shaped like a boot: Italians are proud shoe wearers, and their go-to footwear are classic loafers, espadrilles, or strappy sandals, naturally all made from high-quality breathable leather. Once you’re an Italian style pro, you might want to move onto the more high-maintenance suede or velvet footwear. Italians don’t really do socks: just like their meals they prefer their feet al fresco and consider visible socks, especially white ones, a style faux pax.
Despite technological advances, Italian men have a real affection for lavish timepieces, and they know how to wear them well. Straps are perfectly sized on the wrist so that their watches are always on display.
Image of the colliseum ampitheatre in the city of Rome in Italy

Discover the real Italy with Citalia

Are you ready to dress like an Italian? Citalia are the UK’s leading Italy specialist with over 90 years' experience in tailoring holidays to Italy. Experts are on hand every step of the way to ensure you make memories to last a lifetime. It’s never too late to start planning your Italian escape!         
Visit citalia.com to discover the real Italy on your next adventure. Andiamo!
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