Friday, October 30, 2009

Finding a New Style

When I packed my bags and moved to Florence last year, I knew that I would have to survive my California wardrobe during my first months here. I knew that if I stayed, I'd eventually develop a whole new me, a whole new Italian style influenced by my new environment. So I prayed that my sporty style of jeans, flip flops and t-shirts would do the job for a few months until I had some time to digest the prevailing fashion and to discover the stylish "me" deep down inside that has been burning forever to come out.

Well, the first thing that smacked me immediately in the face was how Italians make fun of the American sense of style. They think we have the worst sense of fashion. They don't criticize it, they just laugh at it. We are the country at the top of their "Worst Dressed" list and Hillary Clinton leads the pack. After a few months of living here comfortably in my California uniform, I realized that I was being made fun of. My clothes were too sporty looking, too casual, too unimaginative, too American. This is a city of show, of art, of in-your-face fashion, of showing off, of loving the way you look, of being whimsical, of dressing super-feminine. It is a city of dresses, not pants. High heels. Never, ever, ever sneakers.

It was time for me to throw out my old wardrobe and start all over again, the way I did when I dumped my New York suits and that precious mink coat and headed west to California Land.

For months I observed the styles and shopped in the stores here, and didn't buy anything because I've never had a flair for fashion and I cannot figure it out. Unfortunately, I lived in uniforms all my life. In grade school and high school we wore ugly Catholic school uniforms, and even in college the style was boringly collegiate. Twenty years working for JPMorgan Chase made things worse....I wore navy, black or grey Talbots suits 24/7. Weekends didn't matter because there were no weekends. Moving to coastal California was easy, because it too has a uniform. I've gotten away with murder for years and the truth is hard to face. I have a terrible sense of style.

So, here I am living in the most fashionable country in the world, and I'm stuck with a lifetime of ugly clothes and bad taste. I didn't know what to do. I still don't know what to do. I shopped and shopped and was overwhelmed. What looks good? Can I even find my size? Well, I couldn't find my size, I can't, and it does not exist. They don't carry small sizes here. In fact, in Italy, they do not carry petite sizes at all, so almost nothing fits me. When I ask other small women what they do, the answer is that they keep the tailors in business. And everything that does fit me is not my style, for instance, very low cut. I've been having trouble figuring out just what would look good on me.

I bought a few things, but after getting home and looking in the mirror, I felt ridiculous. There is NO such thing as a REFUND anywhere in Italy. Exchange, yes. Refund, never.

So, I've gone into a complete "freeze" mode, waiting for some kind of inspiration to hit me. In the meantime, I am perfectly comfortable in my cycling clothes, probably because it's easy. Another uniform.

Here, you've got to be creative. I won't survive it, if I don't get more courageous. Italians are infinitely artistic, especially in their sense of personal style, while we in America are much more uniformed and boring. Here it really doesn't matter what you wear as long as it's different and accessorized with jewelry, scarves, belts and that indescribable touch of fantasia.

I think I have to spend more time clothes shopping. That's probably the problem. I don't like to shop for clothes because I really don't know how. Short of hiring a personal shopper, I'm still waiting for the inspiration.