Columnist Alexis Sachdev gives tips on how to maintain the Italian street style she saw in Rome.
The European woman is an elusive specimen who has spiked American curiosity for decades. The names are household: Sophia Loren and Brigitte Badot. These buxom beauties were real women with mysterious sparkles in their eyes and un certain je ne sais quoi in their appearances.
The ‘60s waifs – Audrey Hepburn, Twiggy, Edie Sedgwick – and wholesome blond bombshells such as Jessica Simpson or Pam Anderson, never left men with their jaws dropped and tongues panting.
It’s not just in the looks, though. European women are known for their decadence, rich wardrobes and even richer husbands since Marie Antoinette. Of course, they prefer tiramisu over cake.
I traveled to Rome for two weeks and returned fascinated and mesmerized by the European women’s style. Their daily outfit consists of a chic, black-designer dress paired with knee-high leather boots, a designer bag, oversized sunglasses and a luxurious-mink fur coat; of course, an espresso in one hand and a cigarette in the other.
Upon returning, I vowed to dress like them, thinking such a task would be easy to undertake. Just because there’s a Zara on every street corner in Rome and Florence means nothing when you return to the United States.
But, for those of you looking to redesign and restock your armoire, here are the best stores to find European influences right here in Philadelphia.
Most of the streets in Italy – like Philadelphia – are cobblestone and very difficult to walk on. OK, most of the streets in Italy are cobblestone, whereas most of the streets in Philadelphia are just torn up. Either way, walking in fabulous shoes can be a pain.
And, like Italians, Philadelphians walk everywhere. Unfortunately, we are not afforded the luxury of New Yorkers with a beautiful and expansive subway system.
For those of you who hate wearing sneakers except to the gym and to concerts, rejoice!
For heels, I recommend either Marc Fisher or Charles David. Granted, both brands run a bit pricey, but your investment will pay off. As Mark wrote last week, quality will hurt your pocketbook but will last longer.
Marc Fisher is available at Macy’s at 1300 Market St., and you can usually snag a pair for a pretty decent price during a sale. Charles David has a separate boutique at the King of Prussia Mall. The prices are slightly higher, but many of the shoes are made in Italy and are of great quality.
Boots are a great addition to every wardrobe, especially in the winter, and a leather boot will last you for several seasons (unlike the imitation leather I bought from Buffalo Exchange which failed me three weeks later).
Steve Madden, at 1723 Walnut St., carries leather and suede boots at reasonable prices and often has in-store sales.
Bus Stop, at 750 S. Fourth St., is an undiscovered gem in the heart of Fabric Row. This little boutique carries a variety of shoes from equally undiscovered, high-end designers. At Bus Stop, you can find everything from runway-worthy heels to curb-stomping combat boots.
I confess: I wear a lot of black – every single day I’m wearing black as a major component of my wardrobe. I started to worry about my lack of color before traveling abroad, but Italian women reminded me black is a classic and an always-in-style color.
But the color of your ensemble is not as important as the fit and cut. Women in Italy wear clothing that complements their bodies, without letting the girls run free.
Instead, the girls are locked and loaded, a respectable hemline is in place and, alas, no whale tails! They have truly mastered the difference between a subtle sex appeal and looking like a street-walker.
Granted, American and Italian Zara are completely different, but the store on our side of the Atlantic Ocean is still great for quality, with well-fitting items at a reasonable price-range. At 1715 Walnut St., this Spanish brand sells classic and trendy items with a slight sex appeal. Think Penélope Cruz.
If you’re starting an internship or a job this semester, Zara sells great suit separates with skirt and pant options.
Of course, simple and classic pieces can be pretty boring, which European women most certainly are not. Next time you’re in Northern Liberties, venture down to Danni’s Boutique at 1040 N. Second St. for eclectic, vintage-inspired jewelry and clothing.
Once you finish at Danni’s, you can make a Roman holiday of your adventure and find a cute hipster with a Vespa to ride around the city with.
Alexis Sachdev can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.