Thursday, 12 September 2013

How to dress like the Milanese

Where I come from clothes are practical items for keeping you warm and dry. People may spend half the year in wellie boots or more than that if the weather is bad as the countryside turns into a sea of mud with a few tarmac interludes. Umbrellas are useless out of town when you are exposed to the wind so people use waterproof raincoats and even waterproof hats and trousers. Since things are casual, getting dressed up is seen as something to be savoured and so happens when you go to the pub in the evening, to church on Sunday or out for dinner.

For men, this means you either do jeans-black shirt-black shoes, or chinos-blue shirt-brown shoes. I once saw my neighbours in negotiation on the drive because all three brothers had opted for the second choice and someone needed to go and change.

For women, on the other hand, this means jeans-sparkly top-probably heels or little dress- probably heels. Both  are accompanied with more makeup than usual.

In short there is a clear distinction between normal clothes and 'going out' clothes.

The Sartorialist's blog is a good place to go if you want to feel inadequately dressed or like an inadequate photographer.

Here in city centre of Milan it couldn't really be more different. Casual Friday has been embraced by quite a lot of companies, but as far as I can tell involves looking very smart without a tie. Even in the non ultra smart work places people seem to spend most of their time in a state of perpetual smart casual. Going out in the evening people seem to actually dress down if they have time to change, though still it's hardly dressing down by English standards.

The consequence of this is that I always feel shabby, except in August when the place is full of tourists and people are back from their holidays and drop their standards a bit because they want to flash some suntanned flesh. Even in July in 35c and more girls will go out in jeans rather than wear more casual summer wear.

Can you guess where this was taken? Find out here.

Here are a few observations and things I've learnt since moving to Milan about getting dressed, but be warned, emulating Milanese style can be quite exhausting and expensive! The attention to detail is endless.

You still want to know how to dress like the Milanese? Well ok, the first thing you need is a full length mirror....

1. Check your shoes. Are they clean? Are they immaculately polished? Have you carefully maintained your trainers' brand new white?

2. Oh, it's Summer, so you're wearing sandals. I hope you cut your nails (seriously, I have witnessed people comment on this and seen it written into a contract). Also, flip flops are for the swimming pool or home. Men don't wear sandals all together and neither do they wear shorts in town.

3. Your legs. Are they tanned? Then it's ok to get them out, but probably only from July- early September. Oh and they must be perfectly hairless. Some of my students, male and female, also wax their arms!

4. Your clothes need to be spotlessly clean. Not even a tiny grease spot or toothpaste splash is permitted.

5. Iron your clothes. All of them. Starch your shirts. (Pay someone else to do it if you want to be really Milanese).

6. Natural fabrics too. Silk ties, gentlemen. In winter it's all about 100% wool (preferably cashmere and most certainly bobble-free) and in summer it's all about 100% cotton or linen. Leather shoes and bags only, unless it is Luis Vuitton in which case that is apparently OK.

7. I've talked about weather appropriate dressing vs calendar dressing before, here, and ever changing fashion trends, here and here, which are always useful to bear in mind, but up to a point because if you take a coat you have to wear it and not throw it over your bag or tie it round your waist and the past years have seen everyone wearing shiny bin bag puffa jackets which are hideous, proving that even the Italians can get it wrong wrong wrong.

8. Now check the whole ensemble. The type of neutral palette you choose depends on the season but remember don't mix black leather with brown. A refuses to wear black socks with brown shoes even and wouldn't be seen dead with the mismatching belt at work. He also feels uncomfortable wearing his black leather gloves when he's wearing brown shoes and prefers to have cold hands. For women, bags also need to be matched to the outfit (I try to get round this by using an orange bag which doesn't go with anything and I hope therefore makes it a statement piece!) Oh and do carry a handbag no matter how heavy it is. Someone told me that they felt duty bound to inform a new foreign colleague with a rucksack that "ladies carry purses."

On a side note men should only fasten 1 button on their jacket and 3 buttons on their jacket cuffs leaving the fourth undone to subtly prove to the world that their suit is bespoke.

9. Also your hair. When I came here I just assumed the women had superior follicles but then my hair dresser told me some women never wash it themselves and always pay for it to be blowdried professionally. This means that unless you wish to spend a lot of money you will never quite cut the mustard.

10. Are your labels tucked in? You have a loose thread, fetch the scissors! Ok now you may go, but I can't guarantee that you won't fail someone else's scrutinous gaze.


Grace said...

I am not at all sure that the 'loafers with no socks' is a good look for him. Especially with white trousers that might be just a tiny tad too short. But then what does a country bumpkin like me know? The comments on Sartorial seemed very favourable, they really liked that aspect of his style.
The girl is looking good though.

Laruchka said...

Yes, you may have a point, but it's very important not to confuse Milanese style with fashion. His trousers are deliberately that length because thats a nod to the latest trends, not because it's Milanese style!

Andy Ferrario said...

I was looking for a post which talked about the Milanese way of dressino and bumped into your lovely blog. Do you have an e-mail adress where I can write to you?

Thank you in advance xx

Laruchka said...

Hi Andy, feel free to write to me at