Maintaining dignity in the land of the fashionable

We all know that Milan is a fashion capital. Milan fashion week was a couple of weeks ago and I can confirm that I felt an absolute frump wondering around in my non-designer attire. I was hoping that I would be able to blog about fashion week and all of the amazing things I saw when I slipped into the Armani show and exchanged witty banter with Giorgio himself. Alas, I spent the week cooped up in my bedroom finishing some mid term projects. The supermodels really missed out on my fashion prowess this time… But all is not lost! I have witnessed some ‘every day’ dos and don’ts, not limited to fashion, which are pretty important in order to maintain your dignity in Italy.

Moving from a small island to Manchester, where anonymity levels are significantly higher, it really didn’t matter what you wore. Nobody would think twice if you went out in some trackies and a hoodie and I’m not exaggerating when I say that every now and again we all nipped to the shop in our PJs. Well, not in Milan! Something I’ve noticed is that whether or not you are particularly fashion conscious, if you are going to be in public view, you should dress well and wrap up warm. This, at a minimum, entails: a pair of jeans, a turtleneck, another top over that, a nice pair of knee high boots, a piumino (always grey or black – fur also acceptable), a scarf, maybe a woolly hat and sun glasses (not weather depending).


“Just nipping to the shop!”

I have no issue ensuring I am fully clothed when I leave my apartment, but if the sun is shining and you decide not to wear all of these layers, you will receive looks of concern from all you meet.

The next observation that surprised me is about footwear. I often take off my shoes when I am indoors or at a rehearsal – it makes me feel more comfortable. The Italians were stunned when I took off my shoes! Hopping around in my socks left them all in giggles! I have checked and it’s not rude, but apparently it’s not completely normal either… If you want to fit in,  particularly if you think odd socks are fabulous (aren’t they?), keep your shoes on.

The next thing to note is that people don’t get drunk here. It’s possibly the first time I have really questioned why a night out in the UK is synonymous with drinking. Here they’ll say ‘andiamo a ballare’ or ‘let’s go dancing’ – isn’t that a better way of thinking about a night out? My favourites are the nights where I let my hair down and pretend I’m Beyoncé – why do we need to get drunk to do that? The Italian’s are having a whale of a time and they remember it. Note: if you have one too many glasses of wine at dinner after a concert that’s absolutely acceptable.

Last but not least, the word for toilet is ‘gabinetto’. I’ve been merrily asking where I can find the ‘gabinetto’ for weeks. Yesterday I discovered that it actually refers to the physical toilet, not the room. When I said someone was in the toilet, I was implying they were actually in the toilet bowl… oops.

cat in loo

To sum up: always look sharp when you go out for milk, wear comfy shoes and don’t take them off, don’t let them catch you doing Jägerbombs at the bar and if you need the loo, ask for the ‘bagno’.

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