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Suru11 Jan 17th, 2010 11:07 PM

I don't want to look like a slob
I'm sure this topic has been asked a gazillion times, and I have searched and looked at the threads, but I am still confused as to what to wear in Italy. We are spending 4 days in Venice and 4 days in Rome. Most posters say "smart casual" which in California where I live could mean jeans and a black (in leiu of white) t-shirt. What exactly is meant by "smart casual?" Are jeans acceptable or should we bring nicer trouser-type pants? What about tennis shoes, are they ok? We want to pack light with just a carry-on so I also want to pack smart and not look like a slob. Thanks in advance for your help.

travelgourmet Jan 17th, 2010 11:28 PM

Jeans are fine. T-shirts are fine. Sneakers are fine too. Others say different, but I have absolutely no idea why. For the most part, most people in Europe dress pretty much like most people in the US. Very few people actually care what you wear, anyway.

For sight-seeing, I usually just wear something casual and comfortable, which can include a t-shirt and even shorts. Going out to dinner, both myself and the wife wear what we would wear in the US. For me, that means jeans, a button-down, maybe a sweater, and something a step up from sneakers. If the place is really fancy, I might sub in a blazer for the sweater, but almost always stick with jeans. The wife will wear jeans sometimes, other times a casual skirt or dress.

janisj Jan 17th, 2010 11:37 PM

Anything is fine -- But WHEN are you traveling?

If it is in summer, you won't want any jeans. Way too hot. Light/gauzy skirts and capris are more in order. Not for style. but for comfort/practicality.

MiaMom Jan 18th, 2010 01:49 AM

For day you will want something lighter than jeans. Yes you will look like a tourist but so will the other thousands of tourists there. If you don't want to stick out as the Americans try to move away from the bright white socks bright white t-shirt combination.
For evening jeans and black t-shirt is fine but maybe with a darker (leather type) but still comfortable shoes. For less casual night out change t-shirt for a dress shirt.

patrickjkerr Jan 18th, 2010 02:23 AM

jeans are ok (ish) but sloppy.

wear a pair of trousers, smarter and probably cooler in the summer.
a t shirt is definately not smart casual in italy (i live in milan) get a polo shirt and a pair of trousers.

if you own any sandles burn them and get a pair of loafers.white socks are ok if you are playing tennis or jogging otherwise no.

i was in california and the californians were generaly well dressed.

have a good time in italy

quokka Jan 18th, 2010 03:51 AM

You are visiting two cities that are overrun with tourists from all over the world. In the streets, no one cares what you wear as long as it is decent, i.e. covers the parts of the body that ought to be covered, clean resp. doesn't smell, and intact. You will be recognized as non-locals anyway.
Visits to, for example, upscale restaurants or opera performances or shopping in snobbish designer stores are a different story, though.

sacc Jan 18th, 2010 07:43 AM

Suru, perhaps it's easier to think about what you would pack if you were visiting a major city in the U.S. If you were planning to visit museums and good restaurants in New York City, would you be comfortable wearing tennis shoes or jeans? If yes, then that's what you should pack.

I think it's true that no one is going to confuse a visitor with the locals. I travel to Italy often and I don't flatter myself that anyone would mistake me for a local. But I also show some respect for myself, and for my hosts (for I'm a guest in Italy) by dressing well. I don't look good in jeans so I don't wear them. I wear smart casual, scarves to dress up a T-shirt, decent shoes, and no backpack.

To quote David Sedaris I don't want to look as though I've arrived in Europe to mow its lawns.

lukehead Jan 18th, 2010 08:00 AM

People wear jeans all over the world. People look normal in jeans all over the world.

However, you said you wanted to pack light and carry-on. Jeans are not light nor do the pack "small". If a spill sould happen or if they get stinky (and they do), they are not so easy to care for without washing machine/dryer access, which as a tourist will probably not be convenient.

Re tennis shoes: A caveat - I rarely travel with tennis shoes. This fall I did take a pair of good looking (that means not glaring white) ones on a trip to Germany. They were comfortable, light weight and HORRIBLE for walking on uneaven cobblestones, rain slick paths and steep hills. Happy to have had good sturdy shoes meant for walking. Happy feet make for happy travels.

travelgourmet Jan 18th, 2010 08:20 AM

<i>Visits to, for example, upscale restaurants or opera performances or shopping in snobbish designer stores are a different story, though.</i>

I don't think this is really the case any more. I wouldn't wear a t-shirt to an upscale restaurant or the opera, but I certainly wear jeans. And I'm not the only one either. As for snobbish department stores... Most quality department stores generally treat everyone as a valued customer.

bobthenavigator Jan 18th, 2010 08:45 AM

Wear what you would wear for a shopping day in Santa Barbara.

Palenque Jan 18th, 2010 09:13 AM

I just returned from an Amsterdam overrun with Italians, most of whom would be called 'slobs' from their pedestrian attire

danon Jan 18th, 2010 09:50 AM

Yes, I have seen locals in jeans from Barcelona to Cannes,
from Rome to Paris.
Some look great : nice fit, nice figure, the right top or jacket; some look like slobs .
My husband ( tall and slim) looks good in jeans ,he wears them with a button down shirt and a sports jacket( some younger Europeans wear jeans to fancy restaurants, but I have not seen older people wearing them to the Opera ) .
I find jeans uncomfortable : hot, heavy to carry etc... so I prefer other outfits (especially in the summer)

nytraveler Jan 18th, 2010 09:58 AM

You need to decide on what type of trip you want. If it's a casuale trip you can wear jeans and tee shirts. You just need to be sure the latter don;t have low necks or tiny sleeves - or you will have trouble getting into the Vatican and possibly other major churches.

However, that it not how europeans dress if they plan on eating in elegant restaurants. If you plan on upscale restaurants you will have to have some less casual clothing - at a minimum collared shirts and real pants for men and a cute dress or nice pants outfit for a woman. Also, real shoes for both.

nytraveler Jan 18th, 2010 10:00 AM

And sorry - I don;t know anyplace where plain old tee shirts and regular jeans with sneakers are smart casual. Smart casuale can involve jeans (designer) but it would also mean a pretty blouse and nice sandals or pumps for a woman and a real/quality shirt and shoes for a man.

What you're describing is "heading to the mall" not "smart casual".

Gina817 Jan 18th, 2010 10:51 AM

You won't look like a slob! I'll share my experiences:

- Another vote for "jeans are heavy!" They will not help you in trying to pack lightly. They also take forever to dry if you end up hand washing anything.

- Try to find versatile and comfortable shoes. I found a great pair of Naots that were super comfy and looked pretty good with dresses and dress pants.

- I am not sure if you are male or female. If you are female traveling in the warmer months, try some casual dresses. You can wear them during the day and then dress them up in the evening. I'd often add leggings and a sweater for evening to dress it up a bit and because it was cooler at night.

- Scarves! Almost every female had on a scarf. They also allow you to change up your outfits a little bit. When I wore a scarf, people would come up to me speaking in Italian. Quite funny!

- My observation was most people wore very neutral colors. A lot of black.

- My purse was completely touristy but I didn't mind. It's best to have something lightweight and secure.

Good luck!

travelgourmet Jan 18th, 2010 11:10 AM

<i>However, that it not how europeans dress if they plan on eating in elegant restaurants. If you plan on upscale restaurants you will have to have some less casual clothing - at a minimum collared shirts and real pants for men and a cute dress or nice pants outfit for a woman. Also, real shoes for both.</i>

I don't find this true at all... I have eaten at multiple Michelin-Starred restaurants in Europe in jeans. NEVER have I felt out of place. Planning on hitting 3 starred restaurants this weekend and will only be packing jeans.

gruezi Jan 18th, 2010 11:43 AM

Sounds like travelgourmet looks good in jeans! I don't and I never wear them - plus I think I'm hitting the age when it's time to be done with jeans.

Tourists get away with a lot. Locals just spend more time on their outfit and look smarter. And women don't ever wear sneakers. Have not seen this once.

I live in Europe, came here from CT and our whole family dresses up a bit more for just about everything now including going to the grocery. This means jeans for 3 of the 4 of us, but paired up with dressier shoes, tops etc. My husband lost the khakis and polo country club look and replaced with dress jeans, a nice oxford shirt and a blazer or sweater. Never, ever wears shorts anymore and no more cotton polo shirts.

It IS different but perhaps not in very touristy places.


travelgourmet Jan 18th, 2010 12:00 PM

<i>Sounds like travelgourmet looks good in jeans!</i>

At the very least, I look no worse in them than I do in slacks...

I think the issue is what you hit upon later. I pair the jeans with nice shoes and a nice shirt. Maybe a sweater or a blazer. I wouldn't wear jeans and sneakers to the opera, but jeans with decent shoes and a blazer is fine, and preferable to slacks that you don't feel comfortable in. The days of dressing up for dinner are over. Be comfortable. For many that means jeans.

colduphere Jan 18th, 2010 01:36 PM

The image on my laptop is a picture taken last summer in front of the Coliseum. I can see my delightful family with approximately 10,000 people right behind them. Tourists no doubt, wearing every piece of relaxed clothing you can imagine.

Every day, I stare at the young blonde woman in cut off jeans standing just behind my wife. I think she is smiling at me.

scatcat Jan 18th, 2010 01:46 PM


The question is "did you smile back"?

colduphere Jan 18th, 2010 02:44 PM

scatcat - I only noticed her smiling when I looked at the pictures back in Canada. :(( I am getting too old to miss oportunities like that.

2010 Jan 18th, 2010 02:53 PM

This September, I took a pair of summer-weight denim jeans to Italy. Felt I could go anywhere in them, casual during the day & dressed up in the evening --- added chunky jewelry or a colourful scarf, and wore my silver ecco flats. Personally, I think jeans are more versatile than a trouser. But keep them in a figure-flattering style & a darker wash.

I hand-washed my jeans & hung them to dry. They were ready to wear the next morning. No ironing required. Easy!

Tiggy22 Jan 18th, 2010 03:29 PM

I totally concur with Gina817. I have experienced that I have been treated better when I am not "dressed as a tourist" - stereotypically, that is. My boyfriend in Venice and friends in Rome who work extensively in tourism have shared with me how the locals there view the tourists and I can tell you that you will be treated better by the locals if you are dressed well (not like you are headed for the gym or a quick run to the mall) and if you TRY to speak the language. Just my two cents...

Suru11 Jan 18th, 2010 03:30 PM

Oh, thank you so much for so many replies. I don't think anyone will confuse me with a local so I wasn't trying to pass for one. My main concern was to show respect toward my hosts and their culture and dress accordingly. We are traveling in March which will be cool so I think we will bring a few pairs of nice jeans (I'm lucky that I still look good in them LOL) and a few pairs of dressier pants. Scarves are a great idea too. I will have my hubby leave the t-shirts at home and we will both get some good walking shoes. Thanks again for all the wonderful advice.

alihutch Jan 18th, 2010 03:57 PM

Never wear a blazer with unstylish!

NYCFoodSnob Jan 18th, 2010 04:30 PM

The provocative title, "I don't want to look like a slob," doesn't engender much hope. If one has to ask, chances are one has little talent for style. Here's hoping you were having fun with words. Learning style before a trip to Italy is much like trying to learn Italian a week before you board the plane. Inept clothing choices (and a bad Italian accent) will not ruin your trip. Unlike the French, an Italian will still smile at the sight of an American "slob." On the other hand, if you know how dress with an elegant, understated eye and you have great taste in shoes and haircuts, all the European style mavens will smile, wink and offer you a respectable nod. Having great taste and knowing how to dress well, no matter where you are, has its perks and rewards.

genio67 Jan 18th, 2010 05:21 PM

You can take a look at GQ or Esquire (assuming you are a man)to get a sense of how to dress nicely without too much effort. There are always plenty of jeans/shoes/ blazer combos and more casual styles with sneakers as well. Personally, I think you are always better off with darker jeans or slacks over light colored khakis. Not sure where you live if you have access to Italian GQ, but that would certainly give you a really good sense of Italian style.

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