5 Tips: What To Wear in Rome, Italy

The first time I came to Italy I was arriving via Los Angeles and working at Guess? (jeans) company headquarters. I was use to wearing upscale club wear to my office job. Luckily, I had quite a few tips from people who lived here in Italy – thank God. What is ok in LA is certainly not ok here in Italy (except at the disco).

That being said, I was a bit conflicted on how to do this post – and how it would come off. A lot of my readers are American, and American’s are used to the freedom of dressing in a way that reflects their own personal style. Sadly, Italy is a place that 100% judges you on what you are wearing – not necessarily if it’s designer, but more on the lines of appropriateness, fit, and style. It’s not like we walk around Rome looking identical – far from it. But, there are a few (ok quite a few) unspoken rules. 

Respect the Local “Dress Code”

Rome is Rome. When in Rome dress as the Romans do – classic and relatively conservative. That being said, when in the North of Italy (wealthier, trendy-er, more up and up) you will have the opportunity to dress a little more daringly; Check out Angie over on her blog at Reasons To Dress to point you in the right direction.

One thing that really calls attention to someone is how “covered” they are. Italians are extremely preoccupied with staying the perfect temperature (erring on the side of being warm). A scarf is usual worn or brought along (even in the summer) in case of a sudden breeze or the much despised air conditioning. Even though it’s been in the low 80′s there have been quite a few locals walking around in heavy coats and sweaters.

*Note:  If you are a tourist and you are make the usual rounds of the sites – please make sure that your skirt/dress/shorts is somewhat modest and that you have a shawl, scarf or light jacket to don. You may be refused entry if you don’t (trust me, it happens).

Dress for the Occasion

Italian are famous for dressing for the occasion. Are you going to play tourist all day and hit up the sites? Just enjoy La Dolce Vita and stroll about? Play in the park with your kids? Etc. Decide what you are going to do and dress for that occasion.

Think Sexy (I bet you didn’t think I would say that, right?)

In Rome, the women that look the chicest manage to mix conservative, classic, and sexy effortlessly. Tailored pants and button up shirts (left with enough buttons undone to give a good show some ample cleavage). Well cut dresses cut to show off the figure. Heels. (Fitted) Jeans and a classic white t-shirt with the perfect bra underneath.

The common theme is well cut, well fitting and understated sexy.

They aren’t openly sexy – the dresses aren’t cut up to their tushies, their shirts aren’t open to their navels and rarely do you see short on the bottom and low on the top – but the point is they wear clothes in a way that is flattering and shows off their shape.

Accessories (shoes, jewelry, bags)

Shoes: Let’s get this out-of-the-way: Roman’s wear sneakers out and about. But I didn’t say they wear athletic shoes. There is a difference. Athletic shoes are what you wear to go running, to aerobics or to go power walking through your suburban neighborhood. Sneakers are the better cut, better shaped and more chic version of their sister the athletic shoe.

Another shoe to leave at home is the stiletto. I don’t care if they are your hottest, most favorite shoe that makes your ass look perfect. Leave them at home. If you choose to ignore this you will look ridiculous, cling to your husband until he tries to shake you off and you will trip and fall a million times. On top of that – your shoes will be forever ruined. Instead, bring a thick wedge sandal.

Finally, my favorite shoe (well, daytime shoe) – the ballet flat (or loafer – NOT Sperry’s). Can you really go wrong with the ballet flat? Nope. They are the perfect shoe to pull any outfit together: day or night. Oh! And if you have a pair of rainboots – bring them. We do wear them here in Rome (Hunter is really popular), and, we’ve been having a ridiculously amount of rain!

Jewelry: Think small. Don’t wear anything overly precious to you. You do not want to draw attention to the fact that you have (or potentially have, even if you don’t) “money”. You will never be able to guess how wealthy a woman is in Rome by her jewelry – a small wedding band, a thin necklace (often with a cross) and a watch. That’s the usual.

Bags:  Bags (and shoes!) are one of the things women splurge on here in Italy.  You will see every high-end designer possible. From what I’ve seen, gypsy’s aren’t really label conscious (aka your Chanel is as safe as your Target). Just make sure it has a zipper close – you will find a hand in your bag if it doesn’t! I was just peaking around Carpisa (an affordable shop) in Termini Train Station yesterday and they had some really cute handbags for about 30 euros…

Natural beauty? Pile on the Makeup? Either goes…

Women in Italy seem to be really split on the makeup debate. They either shun makeup and go 100% natural beauty or they pile on the makeup (but in nudes and classic shades). I would say that anything goes except for really loud and wild colors…

Linking To:
Fry Sauce & Grits
Prototype Mama


I’m a writer, new mom and foodie. I love sharing what I know while making others feel beautiful. On this blog, I share my healthy lifestyle, simple meals, fitness tips and experiences.

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Kara Bout It