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Fashion Recommendations for Italy?

I am great at packing light... but I look and feel like I'm camping. We're going on Best of Italy in October and I want to look at least a teeny bit fashionable sometimes... or at least not frumpy. I'm 68 and tend to shop at Costco and REI and everything is just plain. Recommendations for some age-appropriate items for a bit of pizzazz? Bonus points if they can be worn with my Hokas! (If you are unfamiliar with Hokas they are addictively comfortable "running" shoes)

Posted by
16116 posts

Denise, the easiest thing ever for adding a bit of color/pizzazz/fun to a plain wardrobe is a scarf. They're very lightweight, pack small, and work for ladies of any age. You could pack a few of the circular type that just slip over your head or go with longer ones which can be tied any number of ways. They can also double as a shawl for bare shoulders when visiting churches, and make great souvenirs as, again, they pack small and light. You can even use them as a fancy belt to jazz up a plain pair of capris, jeans or slacks.

Not necessarily recommending that you buy these (they're expensive) but here are some examples of how they can add some 'pop'. Look for less pricey types at, say, Marshalls or TJ Maxx.

I am a hopeless tomboy, BTW,, so I know what you mean by a wardrobe from REI or similar. HA!

Posted by
33336 posts

I don't know what a Hoka is but nice pretty scarfs go with everything. One black top, 3 scarfs = 4 outfits...

Posted by
11493 posts

My formula in cities is jeans or dark slacks, a nice quality, plain colored tee shirt, and an overshirt or cardigan or fashionable hoodie in a bright color, pattern, or stripe. Think red tee shirt with a black cotton cardigan and add a pretty scarf. Or a white tee with a print no-iron blouse as a layer.

Since we do small towns and hiking a lot, I usually pack almost like I am camping and I have found hiking pants in black can look OK for cities if I spruce up the top layers a bit.

Posted by
115 posts

I don't own a single item of clothing that isn't black, gray and white! And although I sometimes wear scarves at home I find them annoying. I would only wear a scarf if you do in your "real life"! I bring a lightweight pretty cashmere one for the plane and if needed. (It reads "fancy", I think!)
The question is not the neutral colors but the style. Are you talking zip-off pants and shirts with strap thingies to roll up the sleeves kind of camping clothes? Or yoga-ish athleisure?
I am most comfortable in my black on black whatever! I wear a very tiny pair of real gold hoops 24-7 and also a gold chain that I can tuck under my top when hiking or in crowds.
Lastly, I gave up worrying about what people think! As long as I am well groomed and pleasant. Happy travels!

Posted by
222 posts

Scarves and/or jewelry make great light weight souvenirs so you may want to limit what you pack and see what the locals are wearing once you arrive. I have a few scarves that bring back fond memories each time I wear them.

Posted by
6378 posts

I'm with Kim here. Don't bring a scarf: Buy one (or more!) in Italy! I have some beautiful silk and cashmere scarves I bought years ago in Florence. And they make great gifts. I took care of my entire gift list one year with lovely, inexpensive pashminas and scarves from Italy. Well, except for my dad. He preferred something from the Vatican.

Posted by
4003 posts

I kinds agree with you. I wear nice slacks in dark colors, navy, Black, and/or dark Grey. I finally found a nice pair of jeans so I will include them too. For tops I bring both T-shirt, usually solid, and button down shirts with a small pattern, such as tiny polka dots, or a solid. The fabrics can be cotton, linen, washable silk or blends. I wear very thin undershirts which are easy to wash, add warmth when needed, and negate the need to wash the blouses. And of course I bring a cardigan or two. I definitely use scarves because besides adding some color, they can keep you warm on a breezy night.

I know posters will disagree with me, but we took a three week trip to Paris and London last April and my clothes were fine. We try to avoid hot weather on our trips whenever possible.

I just received a new order from for my trip to Norway in May. They have very good prices and very soft colors.
Also, I was shopping the other day and went into Chicos. I haven’t shopped there before because I didn’t like their prints or fabrics. But, I have to say, it is very much improved. They sell more solids, their prints are more subdued, and their fabrics are better. I ended up with quite a few pieces for my trip to Italy in late August.

We are in our late 60’s and have so many friends who can’t travel anymore because of health issues or money issues. Therefore, I treat every trip as if it could be our last. If needed, anything I can’t sink wash I have done at the hotel.

BTW, we also use carry in size also. It can be done.

Posted by
77 posts

Last year I took a very simple (cotton) Little Black Dress that I wore in the evenings to dinner (yes nearly 8 days in a row :)). I also brought a pair of flats (terrible for truly walking in, but totally fine for strolling to dinner). I was really glad I had it -- it was nice to have something to change into from hiking clothes at the end of the day. I also had a scarf that was handy because some of the evenings were cool.

This year we're planning on visiting more churches so I needed something longer. My sister gifted me this jumper for Christmas and I Love It. It's super comfortable, packs up to nothing, has a ZIPPER POCKET, and just adds some color and a tiny bit of style. And my 55 year old body seems to do just fine in it. I've worn it with my Adidas street tennies and it works great.

Posted by
385 posts

I am a fan of Athleta Elation pants. Soft fabrics, high-waist comfortable waistband, they drape nicely and when paired with a cardigan, look a little dressier. Also fine for hiking and daily wear. They wash out in the sink pretty well and dry overnight. Look great with sandals, sneakers, booties.

I'm with the others in suggesting a cardigan, or two, as a nicer option for layering. I always have a couple of scarves, but then I wear them at home too, so...

Posted by
7464 posts

Hi Denise, I am in my ‘60’s, too, and travel very lightly. And by the way, the RS 17-day Best of Italy tour was our intro to Italy back in 2006. We absolutely loved all of the tour and have returned to spend more time in almost all of the locations during subsequent trips. You are in for a real treat!

For adding some pizzazz to your wardrobe, go to your local Macys, Dillards, or some TJMaxx, Ross, or similar type stores. Look on the sale racks. Even Target may have something appealing. Pick out a few tops that you might not ordinarily choose, but it looks like a happy travel choice, something you would enjoy seeing in a photo of your trip…and will dry fairly quickly. I do love to wear scarves and bring them when I travel (just packed some last night!), but there’s a lot of variation in fabrics and how they feel next to your skin. Pick something that won’t feel clingy or weird. I buy the inexpensive ones with pretty patterns & colors. I recently bought two of these and am bringing them - the choice style that’s the long thin length. $10 each.

But, wear one for a day of activity at home. If you don’t like it now, don’t think you will like it traveling. Another item is to select a clearance necklace; again, look for something fun, not a basic necklace.

One other option, but it is a little spendy. I love this dress from Royal Robbins! It feels like REI clothes and dries so quickly! But, it’s very cute and paired with either a fun necklace or cute scarf is a great travel choice. Mine is getting packed to head back to Italy : )

Posted by
864 posts

I agree with you, after the first few trips I always felt like I was dressed to go on a hike. I like Athleta. They have pants that are lightweight and dry quickly but a bit more stylish yet look good with sneakers and they’re having sales right now. For shirts I’m always looking for Orvis sales.

Posted by
1458 posts

In preparation for my trip to Italy last September which included an evening wedding, biking and hiking (all packed in a 38L backpack) I watched youtube videos to get an idea of what people wore in the city. I typed in Milan street wear September and was really surprised at the number of fashionable Milanese women going to what looked liked a formal event wearing long beautiful dresses with nikes, converse, birkenstocks.... You get the idea. It all had to do with proportion. I would think that a dark pair of Hokas with black or navy pants would be fine. Watch a few videos. You'll see that just about anything goes.

Posted by
10359 posts

Former Hoosier here. I have always worn the same clothes whether in Europe or Indiana. Dark pants. Black patterned sport shoes right now. Black socks, shirts, t-shirts, little jackets/ overshirts to wear over the shirts. Full length raincoat, not a jacket. Scarves for the shirt and jackets/overshirts, and different scarf with the raincoat. I live in France now, in a climate similar to Rome, and wear all my Chico pants, tops, jackets and am always getting compliments on them. Other places I used to shop and have worn all over France and Italy: Macy’s sales rack, Target, and Kohl’s. Be sure the stuff washes easily, use black as your base color. No one will notice the clunky shoes. I wear my clunkers to opera, symphony, art museum. I was just in Italy over Christmas and will be back there in May dressing in my best Target and Chicos. BTW, we switch to sandals May through October and ditch the scarves due to the heat.
Number 1 though is to let your hair grow and get a cut when you arrive in Italy. Let them work their magic.

Posted by
925 posts

If you want to be comfortable but also look fashionable, Athleta has some nice options. Wraps or open cardigans and nice jogger-type pants. Dress monochromatically and put on a nice statement necklace or a colorful scarf, you will look fashonable.

Posted by
338 posts

I just purchased two Athleta Brooklyn Heights joggers for our trip to Italy next month…they will work with both and more dressy tops. I did a hand wash test run…they dried quickly and look good! They’re joggers, but aren’t too “gathered” and would work well with Hokas!
And I agree…Italy has beautiful scarves!

Posted by
4174 posts

Now for something entirely different.

I love color. The one time I packed neutral colors, I was miserable each time I saw my reflection. Neutrals work for many. I'm not one of them. I'm 78 and not sure what would be age appropriate for me. I dress the way I've dressed for almost 40 years -- covered up by my tops and pants. But from head to toe, I break all the neutral rules and love every minute of it. Is that pizazz?

The basics for me are 3 pairs of pants that are real pants, not cropped, not capris. I don't do skirts or shorter pants because the real pants cover up the tops of the very comfortable and supportive ankle high, lace-up, KEEN waterproof hiking boots I wear, along with fun compression socks, 99 per cent of the time on all my trips. That combo really helps to fight the fatigue. The last thing I need is to turn an ankle on the rough terrain or cobblestones. That's all for my eyes, because I know no one else is looking at my feet.

The pants I'm most likely to wear are from Eddie Bauer. They are like these and these. They sound like they are for hiking, but I find them very practical for travel (and so do the reviewers) because of the comfort and the good pockets. Over the years I've bought them on sale in a variety of colors to choose from for my trips.

I never wear white because I know I'll get pasta sauce on it. I do coordinate my tops, pants, ankle boots and outerwear with a scarf that I use as an inspiration piece to build my travel clothes around. My scarves are large (typically about 30"x70"), come from cheap stores or Amazon, make great bibs for that pasta sauce, are easy to wash and dry fast. I almost never wear scarves at home, but I feel underdressed in Europe without one. Maybe with fun earrings that's my pizzazz.

I own this scarf in these exact colors. I do like black as the background for a fun pattern. I almost used it for my last trip, but chose a bolder ;-) pattern with fewer colors.

FWIW, I've taken 6 Rick Steves tours (including Village Italy). I don't remember seeing anyone "dress up" at all. In fact, we often went straight from an event to dinner without an opportunity to change anything. I have no idea what people did on their own.

Posted by
341 posts

Go to a blog--Travel Fashion Girl. It's loaded with great ideas. TFG even has a Facebook page where hundreds of women that have experienced similar will answer with great solutions and ideas. Some will even post pics of what they want to bring or wear and ask for opinions, and they get some great advice!

Being in Italy, people dress to go to the market. Not couture, but put together in a creative way. Your Hoka's will be fine. REI and Costco may be good for layering which should be fine in October, so don't give up on these items. Just incorporate and jazz up.

A Scarf is a must. You can find fun ones in Italy at markets, street vendors, or shops. Fashionable sun glasses would be a good investment, too. Get your brows and nails done by pros. Seriously. Women don't over do their hair- maybe redoing your haircut or styling to be trendy will also minimize the feeling of frumpy.

Posted by
7464 posts

@Lo, I ordered the scarf you highlighted, and it arrived today. I love that lightweight feel of this inexpensive scarf! Thank you!

Posted by
14280 posts

@Jean - we may have to coordinate who wears that scarf to our meet ups! I bought it a few years ago when Lo was talking about it. It's a great Fall scarf for me!

I have a standard capsule wardrobe with shirts of cobalt and aqua. I'm contemplating taking an aqua jacket with me in the Fall to France. I love color. I usually take a tees in white, black, cobalt and aqua with 2 coordinating scarves. I don't usually wear them at home but I do enjoy them when I travel. I think your tour starts in Venice, is that right or is that for 2025? If so there are lots of places in Venice to buy scarves if you want to wait.

If you want capsule wardrobe ideas, I really like The Vivienne Files ( ) for color combo ideas. Her clothes are more formal than my retired N. Idaho lifestyle needs and some of her things are more expensive than I would pay but I love her color ideas.

I'll agree with folks upthread who say they've done the Best of Italy and no one dressed up AND you were often going directly to dinner without time to change or clean up. I went in the Fall of 2022 and while the weather was pleasant in Northern Italy, it was hot by the time I got to Rome. My wardrobe may look too hikey-campy for you and may be what you are trying to get away from since I'm a Costco/Target/Eddie Bauer shopper.

OH!!! I did get a shirt for Best of Italy. Travel Fashion Girl's blog was going on and on and onnnnn about the Eddie Bauer Departure 2.0 LS shirt in white. I bought it, had instant buyers remorse because ME? White to travel? What was I thinking? Well, I took it for a sunshirt and it was awesome. NEVER got dirty. By the end of the tour I was leaning up against walls, Metro cars, caves, lol and trying to get it dirty....but it did not. Today I saw on GMA the recommendation for non-frumpiness is to tie the LS white shirt at the waist and wear a cami underneath so you don't show skin. I may try that although lord knows I do NOT need volume around my menopot!!!

Posted by
37 posts

I just wanted to say I am loving this thread. We are doing the Village Itay tour next month and I am also seeking ideas on how to brighten my neutral colors. I have fallen in love with the Italian silk scarves. I don't wear them at home but they sure provide a pop of color and would be a way to employ a different look.