Freaked about Fashion

…and pickpockets and scam artists and people cutting the bottom out of my backback and crowded trains and…woah, woah, woah.

Ah, the internet!  The leader in unsubstantiated claims, dramatic horror stories, and one-sided viewpoints!

The Hubby and I spent waaaaay too much time last night browsing the interwebs and getting worked up about being American tourists in Italy.  We learned that we wear grubby, unattractive clothing in our day-to-day dress, that we’re going to be pickpocketed by children, mothers with babies and sleazy men, that the Hubby  is going to get drugged and dragged off to a den of prostituzione where he’ll be forced to buy high-priced drinks for women and get conned into sleeping with them, and that I’m going to get groped by every man on the street (Damn, I’m good!). 

So we’ll be on guard for pickpockets and scam artists.  We’ve got our tiny over-the-shoulder bags for the camera and other small semi-valuables, under-the-clothes hidey spots for our passports, credit cards and the bulk of our cash and we’re only packing one backpack each for our clothing.  In Rome we’ll try to avoid highly-packed trains and obvious distractions by potential theives.

All good.

But I really do need to go shopping!

I had planned to bring a couple pairs of jean shorts, several t-shirts and Teva sandals for daily wear, and one simple black dress with cheap but cute strappy black sandals for a nice evening dinner.  The Hubby had planned two pairs of cargo shorts, several t-shirts, Teva sandals and his favorite baseball cap for daily wear, as well as a pair of black slacks, a short sleeve dress shirt and leather dress shoes for dinner. 

No, no, no – what were we thinking!?  All the websites are saying that if we dress like this we’ll be pickpocketed, scammed, and beggars will trail us like rats after the pied piper.  Oh, and the nice, non-scamming Italians will scorn us, sell us crap products at higher prices, or just ignore us.  Le sigh.

I have business casual clothing that could pass, but they’re a little on the business side and are all made of heavier materials appropriate for Minnesota’s four seasons of fall, winter, spring and air-conditioning.  I only own one cute sundress that might qualify as Italian “casual wear”.

I hate spending money on clothing.  Some of my favorite dress pants are from garage sales and second-hand shops.  I just don’t see the point in spending $50 (and higher) on a pair of jeans that I could get at the Salvation Army for $6!  Target’s 30-75% clearance racks rock, and even boutiques and higher-end department stores have kick-ass sales now and then.  I don’t buy used-looking clothing, I just don’t buy this season’s $100 shirts because I can always find something similar for $20. 

It’s not that the Hubby and I dress like slobs – far from it!  Some of our clothing are just American phenomena, I guess.  Like day-to-day donning of baseball caps, tennis shoes, t-shirts with logos/designs and jean shorts.  I also learned that tight pony tails are looked down upon as sloppy and the last resort of someone who slept through her alarm clock.  Makeup isn’t just for special occasions in Italy (but colored fingernail polish is), and almost every website we visited said that I need to have a large scarf that can serve as a shawl – not only for cooler evenings, but because many churches in Italy require covered shoulders for men and women. 

So, our “fancy” outfits still alright for dinners, but we need to rethink our daytime attire.  Aside from my one summer dress, I have a pair of light black pants and a pair of dressy, flowing capri pants which should be fine for most days, but I need one or two lightweight, summery blouses, and a pair of black and/or brown comfy walking shoes that will match all of my outfits.  The Hubby needs a pair of stylish light-weight pants and/or tailored khaki shorts and a pair of loafers.  I guess we’re going with what I would consider preppy/yuppie style for most days. 

But I’m still packing a pair of jean shorts and a t-shirt, just in case everyone is wrong 🙂  We’re Americans, people are going to be able to guess that we’re Americans and we won’t be ashamed to be known as Americans.  But as one site suggested, to lessen our chances of being ripped off, and to avoid unwanted, unflattering attention, maybe we don’t be those Americans – loud, rude, sloppy, expecting the world to conform to our needs and desires.  I bet that a smile and kind voice can go a long way in the fashion capitol of the world.  

Even if I’m dressed like an American. 

~~~~~

Italian language practice:

Tre giorni fino a Italia!

Buon giorno!  Come sta?  Me?  Molto bene, grazie.  E lei?  Buono.  Arrivederci! 

And of course, the most important questions:

Mi scuzi, parli inglese? 

Dov’e il bagno?

Sono allergico al frumento.

This picture from space of Italy at night is way, way too cool.  I found it at an awesome-looking blog called  Dad2059’s Webzine of Science Fiction, Science Fact and Esoterica

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3 Responses to “Freaked about Fashion”

  1. Madleine Says:

    Don’t stress about it too much.
    Here’s the thing. They’re going to know you’re a tourist no matter how much you try to hide it. The con artists know the signs for “American trying not to look American” as well as they do “clueless American.” But at the end of the day, they are no worse than con artists and pickpockets in the US. Wait…I take that back…the one time Alex and I were the target of a pickpocketing, the guy was so bad at it that we ended up shaming him on a train.
    Behave like you would in any big city, be aware of your valuables and where you are. Assume that everyone is trying to sell you something, even if they claim they aren’t. Take pictures, be a tourist, have fun. Be as polite to people as they are to you, and ssume that any jerks are individuals, and not part of a cultural jerk-dom.
    As for the groping in Italy….Ok…at least in Florence, that was totally true. I was with my host father (who for all intents and purposes appeared to be my father there), and some guy pinched my butt. Right as I was standing next to my former Hitler Youth host father. I couldn’t help but be more amused by the audacity than offended.

  2. biodork Says:

    LOL!

    I love this – thanks for the comments and the words of assurance, Madleine.

  3. jana Says:

    I agree with Madleine. Be yourself and enjoy the trip. The more one tries “not to look like a tourist,” the less fooled everyone around is. How many times does life really present the opportunity to be a tourist? Savour it. It feels good to be clueless (and totally open about it).

    While Italy is famous for its temperamental (i.e. crazy) drivers, loose morals and streets filled with pickpockets, those are stereotypes just like the ones you read about the “loud, rude, sloppy” Americans.

    I know you are a bit worried (I will admit here, it amuses me a bit) – but don’t be. You’ll love it, no matter what you will end up wearing. No. 1 rule of foreign travel – be comfortable! Who gives a rat’s ass about looking fashionable if you have planned to walk 37.8 miles in a day? You know what those Italian bombshells in 4-inch heels would do? They’d take a taxi!

    But being ready to cover ones shoulders and knees (and preferably toes) is priceless. Because the apron the churches lend to ignorant Americans are NASTY.

    Oi, despite the obvious jitters, I’d trade with you in a second! Make sure to take a million pictures, like a proper tourist! I can’t wait to read your stories.

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