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What Roman Women are Wearing Today

My husband and I just wrapped up the Roman leg of our journey (onward to Cinque Terre!). I know many of my fellow female travelers are concerned with looking nice and fitting in, and since by some coincidence I managed to pack exactly the right travel outfit to adhere to the local dress code (though I don’t think there was really any way to disguise the fact that I am a tourist), I figured I would share my observations here.

Although there are of course as many styles and approaches to dress as there are individuals, I found that a very large number of women of varying ages seemed to dress according to a simple formula: nice jacket, tight pants, some kind of shirt.

The shirt was the most widely varying piece of this recipe, and probably most adaptable to personal preference and need. I saw everything from t-shirts to light sweater tops to nice blouses. I myself brought several solid colored t-shirts and a printed tank top with a nice drape to it and these all worked very well.

The jackets mostly seemed to be of three main types: leather jackets, sweater jackets, and (most commonly) blazers. I saw many different lengths and fits. I happened to bring my Eddie Bauer Departure Blazer as a dressier alternative to a sun shirt (they are often out of stock but it seems to be regularly restocked throughout the year) https://www.eddiebauer.com/p/21101682/womens-departure-blazer, which had much lighter fabric than a standard blazer and didn’t hold its shape as well, but it packs like a dream and when you walk in to a nice restaurant at the end of the day when the light is low, nobody can tell if you’re a little wrinkled around the edges. All the denim jackets I saw seemed to be worn by foreigners, but I expect these could probably also be styled to suit.

Lastly, the tight pants part was often filled by skinny jeans, snug black dress trousers, and once or twice by black leggings. Usually even the jeans were a darker color. I brought a pair of Athleta Stellar Tights, which fit into the family of “looks like office wear, feels like yoga pants” and they looked great and felt comfy all day. https://athleta.gap.com/browse/product.do?pid=982974

I wore some variation of this outfit nearly every day in Rome and always felt as though I was dressed appropriately. My husband and I even dined at a nicer-than-average restaurant on our last evening (Il Marchese in the Pantheon area—highly recommend, especially for cocktail and amari lovers) and my husband expressed concern that we might not be dressed well enough, only to discover I was wearing almost the same outfit as the hostess (though she had nice ankle boots versus my sneakers…oops).

Anyway, I hope someone finds this useful! I think I could probably pare down my packing list even more now that I have a better sense of what outfit can work for (nearly) all occasions.

Posted by
2466 posts

We just returned from Sicily and saw the same variation. I was annoyed with myself for not bringing a blazer as i have in other trips.

Posted by
190 posts

Love this update, and especially with the links for products that worked well for you.

I'm not particularly concerned with "looking like a local", but I do love finding clothing that is versatile and travels well. We only travel with carry-ons, and now I'm sharing luggage space with our 5 year old, everything I pack must do double-duty and be able to be worn multiple times. I just added those Athleta pants to my shopping cart! I have a similar pair from Athleta from years ago, but they're navy so I feel that they read slightly less dressy than a black option would.

Have a great rest of your trip!

Posted by
7 posts

Thanks for the advice! How do you think this will change for summer? I can't imagine wearing a blazer around or long black pants!

Posted by
19 posts

Alicia — unfortunately I haven’t been to Italy in the summer so I can’t speak to general fashion trends from season to season. Hopefully someone else will weigh in.

The blazer I linked to is actually extremely lightweight and I wasn’t kidding when I said I brought it intending to use it as a sun shirt. In retrospect I probably could have gotten away with bringing a normal blazer this trip, and could comfortably wear the Eddie Bauer one in temperatures 20 degrees hotter (it’s been in the mid-60s to low-70s the whole time so far). Speaking only for myself I would probably modify the outfit for summer just by switching up my shirts to all tank tops (keeping the blazer) and swap the black pants to a lighter color. But then, I’ve never been one for skirts or shorts; too much chafing when it’s sweaty out!

Posted by
29 posts

Thank you. This is very helpful. Did you happen to notice what teen girls were wearing? We are going in July.

Posted by
7 posts

Thanks Kat - I was thinking about skorts and blouses/t shirts (and hat of course) but I like the idea of the lightweight blazer for sun protection. Thanks for link and I will def check into getting one! Enjoy the rest of your trip!

Posted by
77 posts

I like looking at streetstyle accounts on Instagram to get a sense of how people are dressing in a given city. I'm currently lurking on Romans in Rome.

Posted by
124 posts

What a fun report! I have been in Rome for three months and I do like looking at fashion as it appears on the street. Your observations are pretty much spot on.
I have been travelling to Rome with basically the same wardrobe plan for over twenty years and, while no one will mistake me for a local, I always feel comfortable and well presented.

Posted by
1290 posts

Thanks, Yes Blazers are back but often oversized. Skinny Jeans huh? You don't really see those anymore, that is surprising, they have been replaced by wide leg boyfriend style jeans, or any wide leg pant worn above the ankle usually with a chunky shoe.

Posted by
19 posts

Letizia — yes, I know boyfriend jeans are getting big in the states and I did see a few pairs around Rome, mostly on teens, maybe high school students? Which makes sense, I think millennials and older are clinging to their skinny jeans in the US as well.

dipali_p — I didn’t get the chance to see many teens, mostly in groups coming from school in the afternoon. As far as I could tell they dressed pretty similarly to teens in the US, I saw a fair number of hoodies, different kinds of jeans, some of the same types of graphic tees I’ve seen in the states. I imagine your teen will fit in and feel comfortable wearing whatever she normally wears.

Posted by
29 posts

I had read on one blog on Italy that you shouldn’t wear a fedora in summer. I’m going to need some sun protection in July s I have eczema and prone to hives triggered by heat and sweat. Any thoughts?

Posted by
19 posts

Kats & Barbara
Did you pay any attention to the Guys. I love the attention that Italians pay to attire. What do you have in recommendations for us traveling as a couple. We are youthful 70ish, active, couple. When last in Italy (BOI)I traveled with a dark blue blazer dark jeans and leather shoes. I was the odd one on our RS Tours.
We will be heading the RS Sicily Tour in early October, traveling with our 40 something tech son and DIL.
What do you suggest? 😄 that’s me smiling thinking about how hard it will be answer. No shorts, running shoes or Safari pants here.

Posted by
2580 posts

if you don't know, the term of art is "capsule" wardrobe, youtube is full of women offering tips on same

Posted by
77 posts

For the guys, I'd just say WWSTW: What Would Stanley Tucci Wear?

Posted by
2745 posts

you shouldn’t wear a fedora in summer.

Do they explain why you shouldn't? Just curious, I had no idea Fedoras had slipped into the "tourists' stuff" like white socks to the knee, sandals and Hawaiian shirts.

Posted by
19 posts

Did you happen to notice what teen girls were wearing?

dipali_p — I had the chance to observe a large group of teens on the Cinque Terre ferry this afternoon. I can’t promise this is representative, but here’s what I saw: the girls were in crop tops under chunky sweaters or black leather jackets, gold hoop earrings and stacked necklaces, small round sunglasses like they used to wear in the late 90s, bootcut jeans/boyfriend jeans/skinny jeans/other kinds of wide leg pants, chucks and black boots like doc martens. The boys were in much more casual sportswear including hoodie sweatshirts and baseball caps. Hope that helps!

Posted by
3682 posts

KatC, thanks for the link to the EB Departure Blazer. I'm not a fan of black, but they have a tall blue (Atlantic) one in a 12 that might work.

It's lack of structure is a plus for me. I could substitute it for one of the button-up departure shirts I usually wear over a tee on my trips.

I could never wear blazers at work because they were too tight and binding in the shoulders and the arms were always too short -- way too restrictive.

Although my trip is to Ireland and Wales is this summer (7/20-8/24) and I'm more concerned about being too cold than about being too hot, this looks like a garment that might be casual enough for me as well as useful.

Since I'm on the wet side of WA right now, I might even be able to try one on in an actual store. What a concept!

Do you know how much the blazer weighs?

Posted by
845 posts

I can't imagine wearing tight jeans and a blazer in summer! My last visit to Rome in August, I was shopping for a summer dress, begging for nothing to stick to me. Oppressive heat and misery late August.

Posted by
14 posts

Thanks so much for this information! We are traveling to Rome for the first time at the end of June for 5 days. Wondering what kind of clothing/shoes will work best then. I tend to wilt in the heat and will be bringing a large hat - just not sure what else!

Thanks for any thoughts!

Posted by
861 posts

I’m on a FB Italy page and I’m seeing tons of dresses from people posting their real time pics. I’m taking mostly dresses, a couple maxi’s.

Posted by
77 posts

Thanks so much for this information! We are traveling to Rome for the
first time at the end of June for 5 days. Wondering what kind of
clothing/shoes will work best then. I tend to wilt in the heat and
will be bringing a large hat - just not sure what else!

Thanks for any thoughts!

It's probably going to be hot. I'd recommend skirts/dresses, tailored shorts or wide-legged pants in a natural, breathable fabric like cotton or linen. Walkable, but stylish sandals or, if you prefer closed toe, Converse or similar. To cover the shoulders in churches, you could throw a short-sleeved lightweight cotton or linen button-front shirt in your totebag.

I've been having great luck on fashion resale sites like The Real Real and PoshMark. For our trip to Italy in July, I recently scooped up quite a few items from Marni (Italian high fashion) for a steal on The Real Real. They've got men's stuff, too!

Posted by
17 posts

Hi,
I just came back from Rome. It’s already hot at 25 degrees by 11 am. I’d say, for summer, dresses for women would be the most appropriate for the heat.
Always accessorize, though, scarf, sunglasses, nice belt, a light shawl in the early evening with your spritz aperitivo!
I did notice the clunky shoes this year-probably just a fad.
I agree about the skinny jeans and nicely fitted jacket in the cooler shoulder seasons-that’s my observation in the streets of Rome. I’ve been there almost every year in the last 10 years.
I’d say, in general, a fitted and neat appearance is a more local ‘look’ for women than baggy and casual.
I marvel at the slim waists of the locals even with all the pastas and pizza-must be all those hills!