By James La Russo
ROME - In Italy, March is marked by fashion week. It's the time where Italians find out about the latest trends and styles that they use as a guide throughout the upcoming season.
For many American students studying abroad, Italian style can be aesthetically aggressive. Italy – the capital of moda and a place where wearing clothes straight off of the runway is not uncommon - is really quite different from anything else that they have ever seen before.
Visiting student from the American University of Rome Megan Strohson's initial impression of Italian clothing was nothing like what she had expected. She assumed Italians in Rome would dress similar to the way Italian-Americans dressed in her native Long Island. "My Italian-American guy friends would be shocked that guys here in Rome are so feminine with tight formfitting jeans and girly accessories," she said. Strohson noted that her Italian-American female friends would be embarrassed to wear glasses, but that girls in Italy embrace impaired vision and get large, thick-framed plastic glasses that evoke a lot of fashion appeal. She employed three very distinct adjectives to describe her first impressions of outfits seen in Rome: gaudy, tacky and flashy.
Strohson explained that a comparatively simpler outfit is valued in America. In Italy, she finds that the louder your outfit shouts, the more recognition you receive.
Many Americans find comfort in "safe" outfits that have been popular in the past and are otherwise "approved" conventional pieces. Italians are comparatively more adventurous with their wardrobes and embrace the avant garde.
Gabriele explained that Americans will sometimes go out without makeup on and with their hair up in a pony tail, while any Italian woman would consider Coco Chanel's famous quote in even small instances: "I don't understand how a woman can leave the house without fixing herself up a little – if only out of politeness. And then, you never know, maybe that's the day she has a date with destiny. And it's best to be as pretty as possible for destiny."
Gabriele added that American fashion in Rome stands out due to three associating wardrobe items: North Face jackets, jeans and good, old sneakers. There is an exception to this, which she claimed is the look of some American girls who appear to have "bought out every color and type of leggings from American Apparel and pair them with Ugg boots daily."
American everyday fashion (as seen in Italy) appears to be based solely on comfort. But "comfort should not equal carelessness and [ultimately] looking unflattering," Gabrielle said. She admitted that she embraces fashion and that it can look flashy at times, but rationalizes the importance of looking good, "none of us are natural beauties or models, but
accessorizing and having fun with fashions helps the way we look."