A Narrow escape from the Fashion Police

In Italy, it is against the law to emerge in public with bad hair. Italians remain housebound on bad hair days.

In the summer, having white skin is also considered a serious fashion gaffe. There is simply no excuse. Strangers repeatedly threaten to report phosphorescent Celtic people like me to the fashion police.

Sometimes gangs of vigilantes take the law into their own hands and organise lynch-mobbings. Only the other day, I was walking along the sea front in my village when I was intercepted by four women plus an uncountable number of children, dragged onto the beach, and forced to lie there until they felt my skin must surely have changed colour a bit.

Wearing unfashionable clothes is another serious crime in Italy. Unless you are capable of preserving old clothes intact for many years, it is also impossible. Non-trendy clothes are simply not available in the shops. I suppose shopkeepers want to protect frumpy people from themselves.

This summer, for example, when you buy new shoes they will be pole-dancerish sandals with flowers on. If you want to wear something more comfortable, well you can’t, so there.

Last summer I actually flew to England to buy some flat-heeled summer footwear.

“In Italy, even the nuns wear sexier sandals than those” commented my English nephew.

The best place to ensure compliance with the only laws Italians actually take seriously is, of course, the shopping centre. They have very few of them in Sicily, but the ones they do have are the bees’ knees.

I decided to visit Sicily’s largest, the “Outlet Village” in Dittaino. If you happen to like designer gear and ice cream equally, it is paradise.

Before going, I had to prepare myself. I had some grey hairs, which I am led to believe are nowadays called “wisdom highlights”. So my first step was to go to the hairdresser and have myself dumbed down.

Next I applied the fake suntan cream I had ordered online after the lynch mobbing. It smelt of curry, which made me really hungry. Do they give it the tikka masala smell to inpsire you subliminally to achieve darker skin?

The whole of the Dittaino outlet village is purpose built. The upper storeys are just for decoration, and to provide shade from the sun as your husband lugs your trendy shopping around.


“Ah yes, I’ve been thinking we could do with a new car. Or two.”

The Ferrari shop.


Here I am in the semi darkness, hoping to buy a pair of shoes which I can actually walk in. I ended up with an ice cream instead. I am such a failure!


Ready to go home.

Goodbye Gucci. Very nice to see you, Versace. It was fun, Fendi. Do come again, Dolce and Gabanna.


38 Comments Add yours

  1. onomatopoeicbliss says:

    Shop till you drop. I’ll be over at the Ferrari shop. In an ice cream coma.


    1. To be honest, the only things I wanted to buy were that car, and all the ice cream – just like you!


  2. They have Clarks in Spain. Phew 🙂


    1. I have been wondering if I could arrange an airlift for needy Sicilian women?


      1. …and I did arrive with a whole bag full of M&S knickers, just in case…

        Coz I can’t be doing with those string things, I really can’t!


      2. Ha ha!
        I stocked up on big girls’ knickers last time I was in Blighty, too. Trouble is, I am growing out of them now, what with all my botched attempts at shoe shopping which turn into ice-cream festivals.


  3. What is it with shoes these days. Here in Barcelona if you want comfort you can only get the oat ugly shoes on earth, otherwise they are 20cm stilettos with flowers all over them too, there doesn’t seem to be an intermediate solution. Shoemakers must only be men… Your post made me laugh (as usual), thanks for cheering my Monday morning 🙂


    1. I think we should force men to wear the shoes they design, and then they’d learn!
      I am sometimes tempted to wear men’s shoes, I really am, but I just don’t want people to think I am a militant lesbian. And I think hubby might register complaints. He wasn’t too happy when I stole his pyjamas.


      1. I agree! See if they’ll be able to walk in them or not! I know my Mr H would definitely register complaints if I wore men’s shoes. He is French, so it seems the most appropriate thing for me are supposed to be high heels…


      2. Ah yes, the French men are just as fussy as the Italians when it comes to sexy shoes and fancy clothes. I hear they are also less forgiving about fat bits, too.
        Are pasta and ice-creams forbidden?


  4. Expat Eye says:

    I love the idea of saving frumpy people from themselves 😉 Italy sounds a bit like here – except with more class 😉


    1. Didn’t realise the Latvians were hardcore fashionistas. Wow!
      I am still frankly in shock over that scary leopard head scarf you posted some time ago…


      1. Expat Eye says:

        It’s more about being ridiculously done up all the time – hair, nails, make-up… half the time I look like I’ve been dragged through a bush backwards so I stand out a bit 😉


      2. When I worked in a big bank in London, one of my colleagues commented he thought I was “cool” the way I always wore expensive suits but still managed to look as if I had slept the night on a beach.
        So I am guessing we both “stand out” in the same way.
        I think it is caused by a troublesome medical condition called Celtic Hair. It doesn’t care what hair style its owner wants: it has its own ideas.


  5. I love your sense of humor and spot on observations. I always wonder how they do the cobble stones and high heels. I remember the season of purple. Every store window, every passerby – I felt like it was perpetually holy week. It puts a smile on my face, though, to look at people who take extra minutes to spruce themselves up into a walking piece of art.


    1. I still cannot bear purple after the Year of Purple! I get a little spasm when I see it and I wonder how long the trauma will last!!!

      The Italian way to do ankle-breaking footwear on cobblestones is of course massive wedges. I could probably glue all my wedge heels together and construct a small house! 🙂


  6. Izzy says:

    Hmm, Gloucestershire seems to provide only the exact opposite experience. No ice cream and there are only really frumpy shoes as far as I can see. However, as I have dodgy ankles and ought to be on a diet, perhaps it’s for the best…..


    1. Well, I have dodgy knees and ought to be on a diet too, really. I need to spend the summer in Gloucestershire again to get myself in order!


  7. MarlisB says:

    Unlike my amazing and stylish Mama, I never developed and eye for fashion and am therefore a moving fashion disaster. With bad feet, trendy shoes NEVER appear in my shoe closet. Comfort is a must. Loved your post.

    BTW, how is the book project coming along?


    1. Book project going well, thanks for asking!

      Just this morning I sent off the manuscript of “Sicilian Card Games” (Italian language edition) to the publisher. We are still deciding whether this publisher will do a short print run of the English edition, or whether to look for another publisher which might feel it could shift a larger volume.

      My travel-novel in Sicily is still at the “nearly finished” stage as I put it on hold to get the card games done. I need to tackle that one next…


      1. MarlisB says:

        You don’t believe in rest, do you? 😉


  8. T. Franke says:

    The upper storeys are just for decoration?! Unbelievable, in Germany the parking places are in the upper stores! 🙂


    1. How do you get the cars up there? Doesn’t it mean everyhing is inside in artificial light?
      This was all open air, so you could have fresh air but not too much sun. And no electric light.
      Very unweltfreundlich, I would say. 🙂


  9. Sally says:

    Well at least you got some ice cream out of it. Want me to mail you some comfortable shoes from here? I can include some non-curry scented tanning lotion as well if you like :p


    1. That would be great!
      I can’t post ice-cream but I could airlift you a supply of the most amazing cakes you’ll ever have seen in exchange, if you’re interested??? 😀


      1. Sally says:

        Hahaha! Sure, why not :p


  10. Great post! I love your comment on having white skin in the summertime! A friend of mine would never tan while over there and also was mocked by the sunkissed tan Italians.-Whitney


    1. I have recently made a great discovery. I point out my blue eyes (which Italians regard as highly prestigious) and tell them you can’t have everything – it’s blue eyes or dark skin, not both!
      It almost always seems to leave them speechless.


      1. ahaha! That is true!!


  11. I love the outlet village. Next time let’s meet there. Though you have a better shot than I at buying anything. Last time, the only thing that fit me were the designer sunglasses. Lol.


    1. OK, it’s a deal. 🙂
      I remember you proposing that last time, but I knew Hubby would not go for it. Then his colleagues told him about all the food places and he suddenly became very interested!!!

      And I agree about the sizes. Sicilian are not small people. Indeed many of them are noticeably larger than me. So why do so many shopkeepers only stock clothing fit for Indonesian midgets, then moan about the economic crisis when they find nobody buys it?


  12. barbedwords says:

    Ha ha, love it. I actually got pointed at in the supermarket last week, as I’d dared to wear a skirt showing my lily white legs, the likes of which the Italians had never seen before! Mind you, a friend has informed me that the real Italian aristocracy don’t tan to distinguish themselves from the lower classes 🙂


    1. Oh that’s wonderful! I had no idea!
      From now on I shall refuse to go beaching with the riff raff, and maintain my aristocratic legs as white as possible 🙂


  13. ramblinann says:

    This helps explain my need to bake in the sun. Thankfully I inherited my father’s Italian skin, not my mom’s Irish. I have learned I will never be able to live there however. Fashion just isn’t my thing. Heels are definitely a no no if I plan on walking without having to hold on to something. I would like the ice cream and a Ferrari though. 🙂


    1. I didn’t know your father was italian…. or maybe I just forgot??
      I was so glad when I realised my son had his dad’s Italian skin instead of mine! When he was a baby I used to cover him in sun block and then discover I was burned by the time I was ready to cover myself. Then one day his dad brought him back from the beach brown as a nut and I learned Daddy didn’t even bother putting cream on him at all.
      So after that I didn’t bother either!


      1. ramblinann says:

        Yes, my grandparents came from Bari. Giulia and Giuseppe were their names. My dad was born here in the US, his name was Graziano. My ex husband was very light skinned so we ended up with two kids that burn and two that turn brown. :-O


  14. beba says:

    My American-born Sicilian mom had dark olive skin. But she was the only one in her family to have such dark skin, so she didn’t really like it. When sun hit her she turned nut brown like your son. But her dad had red hair and her mom very light olive skin, as did her sibs. When I was little she couldn’t get over how “pale” (very light olive) I was and was constantly sending me out to play in the sun to “get some color”. But I just burned instead and there was no real sunscreen back then. Longish story short – I now have a collection of random age spots on my face and arms that would cost a fortune to undo. Instead, I spend my money on concealers, ha-ha. Oh, and cataracts are developing – because UV causes those too. The old actual-glass sunglasses, which we mostly never were given anyway (because they were GLASS) did not block UV – they were just for show and to cut the glare. (At least modern Italians are big on sunglasses!)


    1. Ann and Beba,

      Those families with some darker kids and some lighter ones seem to be the norm in Sicily… but of course, over here it’s always the dark ones who are admired. It’s not just an aesthetic thing. I exaggerated for comic effect in my article, but mainly, people realise that having natural protection from the sun is much much safer.

      I’m sorry to hear abut your cataracts Biba. My mother had those and got them removed surgically. She said it was wonderful afterwards, she could see so much better (obviously) and all the colours were so much brighter.
      I’ve heard about those phoney sunglasses, and I remember warnings about them in England when I was a kid. I am rather paranoid here in Sicily – the land of designer rip-offs and Health & Safety Violations – that I might buy some unsafe sunglasses without realising.

      As for the age spots, I have them on my hands and almost completely made them go away using a moisturiser by L’Oreal. I just bought it as a night face cream and didn’t expect it to remove age spots, but it really did. I don’t get them on my face, though, as it is always covered in SPF60 – I look like a Geisha!!!!!


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