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Everyone knows Italy is the IT place for beauty and style.
Iconic brands such as Gucci, Prada and Versace got their start here. It is home to THE fashion capital, Milan. The country itself is even shaped to resemble a classic piece of every girl's wardrobe, a boot.
As a young woman in their twenties from Knoxville, Tennessee, studying abroad in Florence, Italy, I found myself doubting if I could ever meet Italian beauty standards.
Beauty standards are meant to be a reflection of the environment and the people who encompass it. They often coincide with the weather, accessibility, and traditions of the place and are passed down through generations.
Here are the standards I have observed after my first month abroad:
The first rule to follow is quality over quantity.
In a world of twenty-second videos and fast fashion, the idea of longevity is actually something I have come to appreciate. The Made in Italy tag is to be associated with high-quality pieces.
The brand is an investment into a piece that will outlive even our own lifetime and therefore can be passed down. A high-quality coat and bag are a must here in Italy.
The second rule to follow is that Italian fashion is intended for women of all ages.
Italian women of all ages tend to dress elegant and polished. A skill that is likely passed on from their mothers and grandmothers. In Italian culture, family is prioritized over other indulgences such as work and friends. The elderly show extreme dedication to their children and grandchildren because it is the expectation that in turn they will be taken care of later on in life (Cultural Atlas). This cultural phenomenon bleeds into the clothes they wear.
The third rule to follow is the minimalist approach.
Social media along with fast fashion has created a desire for statement clothing. The perfect Instagramable look which will likely be sold to Plato's closet for a fraction of the cost after being worn once. Italians tend to focus on building curated looks. Investing in high-quality basics, like a pair of slacks or the perfect white T-shirt that can be worn a million different ways.
The fourth rule to follow is that comfort is a secondary concern.
Italians dress with intent and their clothing reflects this. For example, if you are dressed in athletic clothing it is expected that your intent is to go to the gym not class. This is not to say Italian fashion is uncomfortable because, for example, a silk blouse and pair of linen trousers are just as comfortable as your sweatsuit from Alo.
The fifth rule to follow is accessorize.
There is beauty in the details. Accessories are an important part of a person's individuality here in Italy. A fun pair of sunglasses or a bright red lip can completely elevate a look. Belts, bags and boots are where you make your statement.
Beauty standards often have a negative connotation as it is a term that has been linked to the idea of fitting in. In reality, they are cultural phenomenons that reflect the world around us.