Creating confidence

There are things about Italians that I don’t understand and probably never will (not using AC even though you have it installed in your house, trying to protect their children from getting a cold by dressing them in 20 layers of clothing when it’s 70 degrees outside, straddling the lane markers on the highway, double parking at a 45 degree angle and then walking away from the vehicle, eating dinner at 9 o’clock at night) but the one thing I really want to become an expert on is their self-confidence. They don’t seem to have any real doubts about who they are and that confidence shows through in what they wear and how the carry themselves.

I know I’ve talked about this before but in the past few months I’ve decided that I want to be more Italian, not in the ways I don’t understand but in the way I want to: I want to be more self-confident and I want it to show through my wardrobe. I’ve always secretly loved clothes (though I love shoes more) but never felt confident enough to wear things that other people wore. Part of the problem is that I don’t know how to take a compliment. It has always bothered me when people say I look pretty, or they like my outfit, or whatever. It’s not that I didn’t want the compliments I just never know how to respond without seeming like I was expecting the compliment.

When it comes to my current wardrobe I err on the side of comfort over style and tend to look more cute than pretty. I’ve been mistaken for an 18 year old which isn’t necessarily a bad thing except when you’re meeting your husband’s coworkers and they wonder (perhaps jokingly, perhaps not) if you’re his daughter. In high school there were a couple girls who, unfortunately for them, looked like they were in their late 20s when they were probably only 16 or 17. When I was 18 a girl that was younger than me asked me if I was over 12. She was serious. I was seriously close to punching her in the face but managed to restrain myself.

Because I usually choose comfort over style I tend to stay away from clothing that is constricting or not cotton based. This severely limits my options and it’s been a hard habit to break. Why would I want to wear scratchy fabric when I could wear nice soft cotton?

That being said if there was ever a place where taking fashion risks would go relatively unnoticed Italy is it. Although Paris would probably be the ideal location but I don’t live there.

Anyway, I just wanted to write about this to help me get over it. I can’t be the only girl that has this issue, right?

Dress for success

For a very long time now I’ve said that if I had the money my wardrobe would consist mostly of clothing from Ann Taylor. I guess it’s always had that look of sophistication that I fancied I’d have one day. That day is unfortunately not today but that hasn’t stopped me from very, very slowly trying to build a wardrobe that looks more like that of a 30-something and less that of a teenager. I don’t plan on ever becoming mature in the sense of giving up all my dorky interests and endeavors, I’d just like to be able to look like a grown up should the need arise. As I’ve said before Italians just know how to dress themselves. They take fashion risks but it doesn’t look crazy, it somehow just works. I envy their ability to put together outfits that if I were to wear them would look ridiculous and yet they pull it off. My gut feeling is that says more about me and my lack of self-confidence when it comes to dressing myself than it does about their innate ability to pick incredible clothes.

My cousin Bobert (aka Bobby, aka Robert) is marrying a most lovely girl, Amy, in September and I am at a loss as to what to wear. I would like to buy a new dress, to go outside of my comfort zone a little bit and try something I wouldn’t normally try while using as an excuse the fact that I live in Italy. By claiming that I’ve been influenced by European fashion I’m hoping that I’ll get over worrying about what the US trends are and just enjoy clothes for what they are – an expression of one’s personality. You gotta fake it til you make it, right?

I’ve been browsing numerous websites looking for inspiration and ideas and came across this dress yesterday:

I like the classic look of it. I can imagine Audrey Hepburn wearing something similar but I worry it’s too safe, too much like all the other stuff I’m already drawn to. Wouldn’t it be better to do something a little crazier? I don’t know. This is where I get stuck. I over think it and then can’t make up my mind. With a dress like this I could get some bright red shoes or maybe some yellow ones, and give it a little pop. But then I think maybe I should do something totally different, something more like this:

Or this:

Both of these are a little out of my price range, and the second one may be a little short for my liking but you see where I’m going with this, right? I plan on going shopping up the hill at some point in order to see what kind of things I can find here. The price point will probably be not so great but it will hopefully give me a better idea of what looks good on me.

Do any of you have any favorite websites or stores where you’ve had luck finding awesome but not incredibly expensive dresses?

Jeggings aren’t just for women anymore

The title is not a joke, people. I repeat, the title is not a joke. I had visual confirmation today that younger men are starting to wear super tight jeans and potentially jeggings. This will come as an horrible surprise to 75% of American men as they find nothing wrong whatsoever with loose fitting, comfortable Wrangler and Levis jeans. Of course hipsters will rejoice because they’ve been waiting for the day they can wear a pair of jeans that are that much tighter than their current pair.

Photo from x-shoes.com

Other trends I’ve noticed: Chucks are still in, leather sandals are super popular (especially Birkenstocks), neon colors are apparently back, and something akin to the photo below is how men and women are styling their hair. I’ve seen quite a few women with the sides buzzed almost all the way up and the rest of the hair in a ponytail. It’s really quite impressive and rather bold, I think, considering the only women with short hair were usually over the age of 65. It seems the kids fancy a bit of androgyne and are not against having people question whether they are a man or a woman.

Older Neapolitans still prefer their business casual look with sneakers, which I actually rather like. I’m always a fan of looking nice but having comfortable footwear. Although the choice of sneakers leaves something to be desired on occasion. Even if those sneakers cost over $300 a pair, they still look like orthopedic shoes.

It’s kind of interesting how the same kids who all looked exactly alike a few years ago are now taking the fashion risks and having fun with their style. They’re a lot braver than most Americans, that’s for sure.

Disclaimer: I am in no way an authority on fashion as I have previously stated. These remarks are just a casual commentary on what I’ve observed while wandering around this fair city.

In defense of shorts

Greg has lived in Naples for six years and I have come to visit him numerous times during that period. If you’ve ever travelled to Europe you know that their fashion sense is similar but also vastly different from ours in the US. What do I mean? Well, they’re similar in that people wear clothes and different in that they are willing to wear stuff that most Americans wouldn’t even dream of spending money on. Up until this summer (or last, if you’re to believe Greg but who wants to believe Greg?) women did NOT wear shorts, ever. EVER. Capris? Fine. Jeans? Have at it. Slacks? Why the hell not? Skirts? Maybe. Shorts? Nope, don’t even think about it. Men would occasionally wear shorts though the preferred warm weather pants are man-pris. (Guys wear these a lot in the US as well they just call them “long shorts” but they are, in fact, man-pris. Google it, you’ll see.) “But,” you’re thinking, “when I went to Italy three summers ago I wore shorts!” Yes, you did, but did you notice what the locals were wearing? It wasn’t shorts. For example: the uniform for teenagers (boys and girls alike) across Naples a couple years ago was skin tight t-shirts, belted, low-slung, tight-fitting drop crotch jeans, and Nike Air Max 97s. Apparently a memo had gone out and every teenager was required by law to wear some variation of this outfit every day year-round even when it was 95 degrees outside. (If you Google “drop crotch jeans” you’ll see they are the latest trend, lord help us all.) Anyway, fast forward to last week when I arrived here and noticed that women and men were wearing shorts! Cute, brightly colored shorts of all different lengths and styles! And! And! They’re wearing flip flops! I can’t express to you how exciting this is because it means that I no longer have to hide the fact that I like to wear shorts and bright colors. It’s one thing to draw attention because of something you can’t help (hello blonde hair, blue eyes, obviously not Italian) but now I don’t have to worry about drawing attention for wearing shorts on super hot summer days. Praise be to Jeebus! I know this seems like a ridiculous thing to get excited about but a lot of times it’s the little things that mean the most. (By the way ladies, a lot of the guys are wearing short-shorts and it’s pretty great. I’m just sayin’.)

This past weekend we took a trip to Ikea (to which I wore rolled up jeans because I wasn’t wholly convinced the shorts things was real) so that we could buy a new dresser for my fabulous wardrobe. (Ha!) During previous visits I’ve put my clothes into a much smaller dresser that Greg bought at Ikea because I didn’t bring all that much stuff with me; staying for three months and having access to laundry meant I was free to travel light. We also bought a new chair with a foot rest so I can spend my days lounging in comfort. The apartment was fully furnished when Greg moved in so there’s not much room to add our own stuff but I plan on buying a couple slipcovers to help make it look not so…mis-matched. Greg isn’t quite on board with it but I’ve tasked myself with making this place look nice and that’s what I’m going to do.

I’ve started looking around for jobs but so far nothing is standing out too much. I’m thinking about taking more classes at Centro Italiano so I can improve my Italian. It’s gotten a bit rusty to say the least. I still have to get my permesso di soggiorno so that I’m official, hopefully by this Friday.

Live long and prosper,

Kern

P.S. I in no way, shape, or form claim to be an authority on style or fashion. My outfit of choice includes jeans, t-shirts, and either Vans, Pumas, or Chucks so please accept my apologies if I offended anyone with my overly generalized critique of Italian style trends. But, come on, those drop crotch jeans are just horrible.