When I was packing to come to Rome I brought a pretty small, very specific amount of clothing. Rome is such a cool place that I thought I could just buy everything I needed. While this is partially true, I simply did not bring enough clothing to last me 5 months in Italy. It was kind of tough to find stuff that I liked at the unfamiliar stores. Part of the reason I brought so few things is that I didn’t quite know how to dress or what to bring for such a long period of time.
The style of dress in Italy is really different than the way that people dress in the States. The way people dress in Rome is definitely a lot more formal than the USA, but it’s not just that. People do occasionally dress casually but in a different way. There are a lot fewer sneakers, t-shirts, sweatshirts, baseball hats. I live by an Italian university and even students going to school are dressed quite nicely, not a t-shirt in sight. Their version of casual dress usually involves jeans and a tailored jacket. It’s hard to pin Roman fashion into one category because the city is so diplomatic that it’s hard to tell who is Roman and who isn’t. Generally, people are dressed really well as if they have somewhere to be. They wear a lot of black, but not exclusively. You’ll also find a lot of fun colorful outfits.
Someone once told me that the shoes are the best way to distinguish a native from a tourist. Italian people have some pretty great shoes. I’ve noticed a lot of the younger people wear doc marten type boots. A lot of women wear heels which is a miracle on those cobblestone streets. You will absolutely be doing tons of walking whether you visit, study, or live in Rome, so the most significant component of your footwear should be comfort. I got myself a cute pair of black booties after I arrived in the winter and they’re my new favorite shoes.
Outerwear is totally discretionary. The only important thing to know is that Romans dress for the season, not the weather. In the 60-degree January days when we first arrived they were bundled up head to toe. Just now, at the end of March, they are beginning to shed their layers and dress for the springtime. This is not to say you should feel compelled to wear a wool coat in 60-degree weather, but don’t be startled when everyone else is.
I’ve loved being in Rome and seeing how the people dress. I have adopted a lot of cool pieces throughout my travels that I’m excited to bring home. I like fashion so seeing and trying the trends in Rome are really fun for me. If you’re not into it—don’t worry about it. While it is a fashionable city, Rome is full of so many different kinds of people. Unless you are visiting the Vatican, no one is going to care much what you’re wearing. Let’s be real: not many people are gonna be looking at what you’re wearing with all the architecture and food to be seen in Rome. My advice is to dress in whatever way makes you feel good. If that fits the Roman style, that’s great. If it does not, maybe you’ll inspire someone to try what you’re doing.