As I have mentioned before, Italian clothes are known for their high quality, sophistication and style. The “art” that Italians created goes back thousands of years. I remember visiting Pompeii and marveled over the painted frescos that were preserved from ancient times. The use of colors and patterns on the walls of homes and bathhouses was simply extraordinary. This art, these creations, were passed down generation after generation and it reflects today. Not only in the art, but also in the fabric. How did the modern day Italians become so well revered for their fine fabrics?

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Let’s start with World War ll. Following the war, Italy was economically devastated. As part of the rebuilding process, the United States government helped restore and rebuild the Italian textile industry, providing the best machines for the job. The Italian government worked diligently to export their textiles to other countries, including the US. But what exactly makes their fabrics superior?


Again, I have to take a page from my grandmother. I remember as a child, she gave me this small pink purse. She said it was “special” as it was created in Italy with the “best silk on earth.” It was a tiny clutch, complete with a pearl button. It was so beautiful. Of course, I left it out and our dog at the time decided he liked the taste and chewed it to bits. I never had the courage to tell my grandmother, or anyone else. But, I remembered the pride on her face as she handed me this purse. “It’s made in Italia,” as she beamed with pride. She pointed to the “Made in Italy” tag sewn on the inside. She said it meant it was “the best” as Italians were known for their excellent craftsmanship, prestige and using only the best available fabrics. I didn’t know at the time where silk came from, but I certainly know now!

Silk is made from silk worms. Italy invested in mulberry trees, the prime source of food for silk worms. They cultivated the worms, gave them the ideal environment, kept them happy. They generated the finest silk around. The Italians would then use special techniques to weave the silk, producing a superior product.


Wool is no exception. Italians knew where to find the best available type of wool, and capitalized on the information. They obtained wool from New Zealand, a country known for the best wool. The wool is soft, silky and Italians used skilled people to make it soft and comfortable. Italy is also known for their fine leather. They would treat the cattle fine, and take only the best hides. They never took shortcuts. They would soak the hides, called curing, over time. No artificially chemicals were used. They used all natural extracts to soften the leather, making it unique, super soft and durable.

Other Italian fabrics such as cotton, lace and linen are produced in the same way. They find the best ingredients, use the finest machinery and employ a knowledgeable and skilled work force. They don’t cut corners! How do I know this? I was raised in the days of making pasta, from scratch. I was raised to make wine, from scratch. I learned to sew clothes, from scratch. It’s the same today…using the best ingredients to ensure the best “product.” It’s the Italian way.

If you had some time to peruse my profile, you already know how I feel about the Italian fashion industry. Being a product of an Italian household, and having several opportunities to visit the country of my mother’s heritage was such a blessing in disguise. My Nona and grandmother tried to impart their love for all things Italian, including the clothes. I caught on pretty quickly when it came to my love and appreciation for homemade Italian food, but the clothes came a little later for me, during my first trip to Milan while I was still in college.

Walking among the Italian women in the city made me feel intimidated. They were so elegant. Put together. Glamorous and classy. They were stunning and beautiful. I stared down at my shabby appearance and vowed I would change my look, and learn as much as I could about this, since clearly I was missing out and ill-informed. Although, I can’t blame the Italian women in my life! They tried; I just wasn’t a willing student at the time. As I walked down the quadilatero della moda, elegant names like Versace, Ferragamo and Pucci greeted me…my reflection in their windows motivated me to know more about Italian fashion. So, I learned.


There are too many famous Italian designers through the years that shaped and influenced the fashion world. I’m going to mention just a few, for examples. Pucci began in the 1940s, before the war. They experimented with kaleidoscope designs and bright colors. They added scarves and shirts, showing a completely new style that was bold and opposite of conservative styles of dress. After the war, other designers began making names for themselves, especially among the elite. For instance, Ferragamo became one of the most famous shoe designers in history. He molded the feet of many famous people, and used wooded markups to design shoes especially for the individual star. Couture indeed!

In the 1970s, the fashion capital of Italy shifted from Florence to Milan. Milan became the place for designers to house their looks, and people flocked to see the latest trends. Gucci became famous for designer handbags. Celebrities loved the look, and the general public wanted it! The Missoni family created their signature zigzag pattern that still captures the essence of their brand without sacrificing modern style.

Armani and Versace came on the scene in the 1970s. They used neat clean styles and elegance for men and women alike. Versace developed into a flashier, chic style, promoting colors and sexy designs.


Valentino is often referred to as “the Rolls-Royce” among designers. He designed both casual wear and couture, and earned a reputation for high quality and trendy style. How did these designers succeed? The one thing Italians do differently than most other countries: they keep the business in the family. This allows for continuity in brand, style and seamless business sense.

There are rising stars in the Italian fashion world that are offering fresh, new, high quality perspectives to build on their fashion predecessors. This next wave of designers will drive the Italian fashion industry, and the rest of the world forward. That information is best saved for another entry. Buona Serra!

I was born into an Italian family where dressing smart was part of our culture. Whether dining out, going into the city, or to church, dressing to impress was a part of life. I come from a long line of stylish dressers, from my great grandmother (Nona) to my grandmother (Etta) to my beautiful Mom. My Italian heritage comes solely from my mother’s side, although my Irish father grew up in an Italian neighborhood. He would often joke about the Italian neighbors inviting him for dinner, and gave him small tastes of homemade wine from jelly glasses. My mother’s style certainly rubbed off on my Dad, although he swears he learned the art of dressing from his neighbors. So, what is it about Italians and their clothes? How do they dress so classy? I have a few theories about that.


Historically, Italians were the great creators of art. From the frescos to the statues and magnificent buildings and architecture-the art influence is in the blood. Additionally, Italians are very passionate people. They are vivacious and love life, embracing and expressing their passions through work, home and family. These values come through in the clothes.

Italians have unwritten rules for dress: the right fit, the right color and the right fabric. My grandmother told me Italians “dress to impress” and they make it look so effortless. How? Because they wear their clothes with confidence. They believe it’s a sign of respect to yourself and others to dress in a manner that conveys sharp, refined and elegant taste. They ensure their shirts fit perfectly. No baggy shirts, and snug on the body (but not too snug!) In other words, buttons should button up, without exposing anything underneath. Italians will go the extra mile an invest in a great tailor, so the clothes fit they way they should.


Don’t be afraid to wear color! Italians are masters of mixing colors, patterns and fabrics. You will never catch an Italian wearing a t-shirt with lettering on it. Simple is best, and understated is key. My grandmother never bought something she didn’t 100% love. She would complain that people buy too many clothes, when all one needs are a few sharp pieces: a skirt, a dress, a few blouses, and accessories to change the look. My grandmother could make her black dress look casual for the day, but add a colorful belt, some heels and a great pair of earrings, and she transformed. She always made it look so easy. For men, a perfectly fitted suit, some button down dress shirts and tailored pants are what you need. A few pairs of jeans are acceptable. The biggest thing I’ve learned about Italian dress? Shoes are very important! You don’t look complete without a stylish pair of shoes. Don’t take my word for it. If you get the chance to visit Italy, allow yourself to be inspired by the people and their passionate sophistication and grace. They wear what they are. It truly is an art form. Buona Notte!