Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Italian women: best dressed in the world

I inadvertantly mis-set the closing date for the Thoughtful Dresser poll, it should have ended this morning and I'm closing it now. So sue me.

But there's no mistake about the result with Italian women 12 points ahead of their French rivals in the best-dressed women of the world contest. I added some other nationalities in order to stave off objections by proud patriots, but the real contest was never in question. Young British women are good at experiment, and are quick to adopt the latest fashions, America has given us street style, but that's mainly in menswear.

In Paris in September for a couple of days shopping at Le Bon Marche I had never seen so many incredibly well-dressed women in the same place at the same time, and as much as one looked at them it was difficult to see how they had done it, like great prose which seems simple, plain and effortless, yet cannot be copied. For it wasn't that they wore the latest styles, is was how they wore their clothes, how they pulled a whole look together, often out of very simple elements. But move of the fashionable neighbourhoods, and things don't look quite as good. Every French woman knows to buy a classic jacket, but in French towns of the interior you see women who are perfectly dressed, but dowdy. The young, too, seem to take clothes so seriously that there is no sense of fun, which surely is a component of being young? French women dress well, I think, because as a nation they are taught how to from an early age, are rarely overweight, and their bodies are in proportion. Far harder to dress well with a difficult figure, such as the large-bosomed women of Italy.

Italians have a saying which permeates every aspect of their lives: la bella figura, the beautiful form. They apply it to a palace and to a can opener. Design is everything. Italian women are show-stoppingly well-dressed. Not for them, the muted good taste of the French. They have a stronger sense of fashion and, crucially, they have at their disposal good design available at all budgets, from Armani to Benetton. I have been to small towns in Sicily, mafia-ridden impoverished villages, sleeping under the hot sun of the Mezzogiorno, and come evening, the time of the passagiata, the doors of the houses open and out come the women, carrying Gucci handbags.

So for me, Italians are the winners. Because you will find well-dressed Italian women (and men also) in every part of the country and at every social class and situation. What is the secret, I once asked an Italian? Ironing, he said. Very, very good ironing.


morty said...

I share your thoughts on this one. A good figure is a great asset. It is something to build on and helps you stand up straight.

indigo16 said...

Well thats me scuppered because I dont iron anything. I suspect the Italians would win a food poll as well.

Toby Wollin said...

Oh, I love this!! I also think that Italians appreciate more different sorts of women's figures (which is why, I think, they have better and more plus sizes than the French do - the answer in France just seems to be "mince")and have a greater sense of joy and fun about the whole thing.

Sarah said...

Haha! I went to middle and high school in Italy and ironed every single morning before leaving the house. None of my American friends can believe that.

La chipie said...

I recently was visiting friends who live in a small italian town and I have to say that though I was extremely impressed by all the men and many of the women, the majority of the women in their 20'/30's walked a close line to vulgarity, skin tight tops cut above the belly button and etc..
But then again, I'll have to come back when it's not summer. I never saw as many versace/ dolce and gabbana jeans jackets either.
I completely agree about the french though.

Emily said...

So true. Both that Italians are truely gifted when it comes to fashion and the comment about ironing (that's definitely one of my New Year resolutions).

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