Photo:The Style Stalker; Christian Vierig/Getty Images
Though it feels like I've been back in the New York mentality for about six months, I was, in fact, lounging on a striped-towel-clad beach bed on a somewhat hidden and hard-to-reach cove in San Fruttuoso, Italy, just a few weeks ago. Days later, while my tan faded, I enjoyed midday Campari sodas and taralli crackers between shopping in Milan. It's easy to forget what it felt like to experience pure, uninterrupted bliss now that I'm back in my real world. One thing I can't seem to get out of my head, though, are the clothes I saw while I was away—not in the stores but on the people.
From the Sciura ladies in their cashmere T-shirts, vintage brooches, and structured pocketbooks that I stopped and stared at more than I ever have with a celebrity to the obvious fashion people I spotted grabbing espresso between meetings in the Illy courtyard near the Via Montenapoleone fashion district, the outfits I set my eyes on during my 10-day trip have been burned into my mental data bank to forever haunt me with their chicness and all-around effortless elegance. Everything was beautiful, from the Prada kitten-heel pumps that I saw everywhere but couldn't find in all of Europe (literally, the entire continent was sold out, according to one Prada salesperson) to the lightweight vintage outerwear that the masses transitioned into when the sun went down.
In my experience, the best way to stop obsessing over something is to talk about it—get it off my chest. That's how I ended up here. Below, read all about the items I saw the chicest women in Italy wear on repeat, from voluminous skirts to evening outerwear.
Photo:The Style Stalker
It's no wonder than I saw A-line, voluminous skirts on every block of Milan as well as down by the docks in Portofino and Santa Margherita Ligure when you consider the fact that Miuccia Prada is the reason they're so in with the fashion crowd. That being said, I have no doubt that the utterly refined Sciura crowd was wearing them a fair bit before Prada's F/W 23 collection was released, making them an industry-wide hit.
As prevalent as fully sheer garments have been on the Milan runways over the last few seasons, I didn't spot many on the actual, non-fashion-month streets. What I did see, though, were sheer items worn in a more modest way, styled with long shirts or oversize jackets that allowed the transparent fabrics to peek through without overpowering the overall outfit. Leave it to chic Italian women to finally find a way to make wearing a naked dress or skirt feel approachable.
Photo:David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images
As you can see in this photo of strategic consultant and author Helen Nonini, nothing makes an outfit look more put together and expensive than an evening coat. The elegant piece of outerwear is almost entirely worn for its pretty looks as opposed to anything practical, but the resulting cold doesn't matter, not when your outfit looks this good. More and more, "ladylike" coats are breaking into mainstream fashion. Though, they've always been a dime a dozen among Italy's most stylish residents.
Photo:Christian Vierig/Getty Images
Despite only living in Italy for a short time, former New Yorker Jenny Walton's adapted to the Milanese style guide with ease and elegance. Always in a mix of Prada, Marni, and vintage, the artist and all-around fashion darling knows what it takes to fit in with the city's best dressed residents. And one thing she and everyone else I saw in Milan always have on hand is a jewel-tone knit, which can be easily styled alongside a pencil skirt, A-line skirt, cropped trouser, or pair of classic jeans. If it's a cardigan, it can also make a great date for a ladylike dress and some point-toe flats or kitten heels.
Whereas Paris tends to have a more muted color palette, apart from the occasional pop of red, Milan is a kaleidoscope of vibrant shades, from blue to pink to orange. But while some go for the head-to-toe monochromatic way of styling colorful wardrobe items, most that I noticed started with their footwear, pairing eye-catching stilettos or wedges with more hushed apparel.
Lace can easily err on the not-so-tasteful side, but nothing convinced me of its power when it's done right than my time exploring Italy and seeing how the women there style the sheer, romantic material. Here's all the proof you need: Italian actress Chiara Baschetti wearing a maxi-length lace dress with spaghetti straps and high-waisted briefs underneath. The outfit isn't complex at all, yet it appears to be utterly refined and impressive.
I had never really thought of it, but perhaps one way Italian women go without ever being seen in frumpy, loungewear-esque attire is by hiding it all underneath a floor-sweeping maxi trench coat. I saw styles like the one above on Giulia Tordini, the founder of an Italian jewelry brand called Leda Madera, on countless occasions in Milan and didn't think anything of it other than that they looked easy and elegant. Now I'm realizing that maybe they had a practical purpose outside of aesthetics all along.