A LOCAL FRIEND tells me that Venetians are much less ostentatious about dress than other Italians. But compared to New York, where Black and Simple is the default position, the streets look pretty flamboyant.

  • FUR AND LOTS OF IT (full coats and hats, ocelot scarves, fluffy boas). Haven’t people here heard of animal rights? The two mink-garbed women pictured below apparently have not, yet the dog trotting alongside them suggests an affection for four-legged creatures.
  • THICK EYELINER. Deep eye shadow. Visible lip pencil. Women who once modeled themselves on Sophia, Gina, and all those Italian bombshells of the ’50s and ’60s see absolutely no reason to change. And they seem to have passed on the art of more-is-more makeup to their daughters.
  • AN EXCESS OF COORDINATION. Remember what I wrote a few weeks ago about how too-matched clothes make you look older? Matching here seems to be a civic disease for the 40-and-over crowd. I saw a lady with such severe osteoporosis that she was bent double. But damn it, her hose matched her shoes matched her coat matched her animal-print hat (all brown).
  • JEWELRY OVERKILL. God forbid you should wear a single “statement” piece, as fashion mavens at home advise. Ladies heap on necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and rings with such abandon that you can hear them coming several streets away.
  • A LOT OF SCARF. No woman’s neck goes unswathed. And almost every man wears a big, vivid muffler (silk scarves in more clement weather). Although under-30s of both genders mostly wear jeans, the international uniform, the mature Italian gentleman has a handsome, possibly cashmere topcoat; a wardrobe of scarves and natty Borsalinos; and good leather shoes. No wonder Italy boasts more and better men’s clothing stores than women’s.
  • UNABASHED ECCENTRICITY. The person who really wants to stand out is free to indulge in his or her own personal extravaganza. (Carnevale is still weeks away. These are not costumes.) For example: Elaborately swirled ropes and coils of hair (on a man). Black velvet frock coat layered over scarlet satin vest (on a man). Red pants, wickedly pointy shoes, a high puffy beret with a pom-pom (on a … get the picture? I find that males are as show-offy as females, or more so).


What I see here is for the most part the opposite of what I do at home, where all is understated. I find it inspiring. Although I’m not about to wear fur (do I need to explain why?), and my version of makeup is far more subdued than theirs (a little makes a person look younger; a lot does the reverse), I must confess that Venetian style urges me to go for more—color, personality, visibility.

What the hell? I bought dangly earrings. I bought red gloves. I put on lipstick and mascara and went out in broad daylight. (See below for a look at the new, Italianate me.) From now on Venice will be my personal fashion laboratory, an experiment in dressing dangerously.