Armani, Gucci and Prada: What do Italians really wear?

With prices like $795 for a pair of stilettos or $1,750 for a handbag, it’s safe to say that you won’t find brands like Dolce & Gabana or Versace in an average Italian’s wardrobe. La moda italiana is envied and admired by everyone from college students to soccer moms, but what do Italians really wear? On the streets of Italy, you’ll notice that Italians follow more laid-back, yet still fashionable, trends.

Iconic apparel

Thanks to the brand Fix Design, teens and young adults can be found wearing accessories and apparel with images of characters like Mickey Mouse, Tom and Jerry, and Hello Kitty on them. The brand also sells women’s clothing with a 50’s flair that can be recognized by the brand’s signature bow.

Influential movie stars are greatly admired by Italians. You can find James Dean and Marilyn Monroe t-shirts sold by the chic Sisley, a brand owned by the Benetton Group.

American influences

It’s hard to ignore Italy’s obsession with the United States. Old Glory designed apparel, scarves and even shoes are must haves for the fashionable Italian. Although this may seem strange, think of Americans’ obsession with foreign soccer jerseys.

There is not one Starbucks in Italy, but the Italian brand Scout has made the Starbucks’ logo and drinks popular by printing them on women’s clothing.

Foreign sayings

Italians love items with phrases in other languages, often English and French. Many teens wear t-shirts with sayings such as ‘Daddy’s Girl’ or carry purses that read ‘Mon Petit Sac.’

A jeweled smile

A new form of jewelry for women in Italy is bonding a small crystal to the corner of the tooth, usually the one to the right or left of the two front teeth.

No shopping malls

In Italy, you won’t find malls with 50 or more stores like in the United States. Italians shop at their local centro commerciale which includes a grocery store similar to Target or Walmart along with clothing and specialty stores in one building. Oviesse (pronounced Ooh-V-ESSAY), a popular mid-priced apparel store, is usually found in the centro commerciale. It carries the latest fashions and is owned by the Italian department store Coin, one of two in Italy. Similar to ‘Bloomingdale’s,’ Coin can be found, along with Thai-owned la Rinascente, in the center of larger cities.


La Rinascente Shop (Piazza del Duomo - Milan)

Bag and shoe trends

Alviero Martini is known for his 1a Classe handbags. Their recognizable map motif, developed in the late 80’s and early 90’s, has become synonymous with Italian handbag design.

Often called Italy’s most famous sneaker, the brand Superga makes a basic tennis shoe in a variety of colors. Almost every young person in Italy owns a pair, recognized by the brand’s black and red swirl logo.

Superga & Margherita

The debate between ‘Made in Italy’ and ‘100% Made in Italy’: Buyer beware, even if only part of an item is made in Italy, it’s allowed to be labeled ‘Made in Italy.’

American fashion that became Italian: Did you know that Ray Ban sunglasses, the ones made popular by Tom Cruise in Risky Business, are now Italian? In 1999, Bausch & Lomb sold the brand to the Italian Luxottica Group based in Milan.

Many Italians, especially older ones, will buy their clothing at il mercato instead of a store. At Italian markets you can find both fine quality Italian wear and discounted imported items.

Written by OSIA National Office Intern, Carol Cummings. Cummings is a senior at American University, majoring in print journalism, with a minor in Italian.


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