What Not to Wear in Italy? 10 Things Italians Always Wear Instead

When it comes to Italian style fashion, one thing is clear – Italians take pride in their appearance and dress to impress.

Unlike the casual, laid-back American approach, Italian fashion is all about looking polished, tailored, and put-together, even for everyday outfits. Think the elevated casual chic of French/Parisian style, but with an unmistakably Italian flair.

If you’re visiting Italy and want to avoid sticking out like a tourist, it’s crucial to understand what not to wear.

Certain American staples that may seem innocuous can be serious fashion faux pas in Italy. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with the Italian wardrobe essentials to pack instead. Let’s dive in!

What is Italian Style Fashion?

At its core, Italian style fashion prioritizes creating looks that boost confidence, stay on-trend, and showcase personality – whether through a pop of color, luxe fabrics, or statement accessories.

Unlike America’s love affair with stretchy athleticwear, Italians prefer more tailored silhouettes that flatter their figures.

It’s all about la bella figura – cutting a beautiful, stylish figure at all times. You won’t catch fashionable Italians running errands in stained sweats and flip-flops.

Their casual outfits are still thoughtfully put-together, an art perfected through generations.

What To Not Wear in Italy?

Blending in with the locals starts with avoiding these seven tourist giveaways that scream “I’m not from here!” Even if they’re accepted America, these casual classics are major fashion faux pas on Italian streets:

1. Socks + Sandals

As any fashionable Italian will tell you, the dreaded calze e sandali (socks and sandals) combo is an immediate marker of unsophisticated American style.

While commonplace in the US, this lazy footwear pairing is extremely frowned upon in Italy. If wearing sandals, bare ankles are a must.

2. Shorts

With the exception of beach or athletic wear, you’ll rarely spot shorts being worn by stylish Italians.

They’re considered too casual and informal for strolling city streets and visiting historic sights.

A flirty mini skirt or chic Bermuda shorts could work, but standard knee-length shorts are a no-go.

3. Sweatpants

Sweats are the sartorial equivalent of wearing pajamas in public for Italians.

These ultra-casual lounge pants don’t align with their philosophy of always looking presentable and put-together when leaving the house.

If you want to fit in, leave the sweats at home.

4. Tank Tops

Much like shorts, tank tops are seen as too casual and informal for typical Italian fashion sensibilities.

While sleeveless tops are acceptable if tailored and chic, the basic ribbed tank is better suited as innerwear than outerwear in Italy.

5. Flip Flops

Those rubber beach flip-flops? Also a deadgive away that you’re not a local. Like tank tops, Italians reserve these super casual shoes for the seaside only.

When exploring cities, aim for more elevated sandal or shoe options.

6. Athleisure

One American trend that hasn’t caught on much with Italians? The athleticwear-as-outerwear athleisure look of leggings, joggers, and hoodies.

These comfortable, sporty pieces are still considered gym-only attire by most fashionable Italians.

7. Giant Hats

This one’s a bit controversial, but those oversized floppy sun hats are often seen as costumey and over-the-top when worn by tourists in Italian cities.

While large-brimmed hats provide great sun protection, more discreet sun hat options may help you blend in better.

What to Wear In Italy Instead? (Clothing)

Now that we’ve covered which American styles to avoid, let’s talk about the closet staples Italians swear by for their signature packing guides.

Whether you’re looking for outfit ideas to dress like a local or build a versatile Italian-inspired travel style wardrobe, start with these:

What to Wear In Italy #1: Long Skirts

Long Skirts

Flowy yet polished long skirts are an absolute must for nailing that quintessential Italian look.

From breezy maxi skirts to tailored midi skirt lengths, they instantly elevate any warm weather outfit. Italians particularly love vibrant animal prints and romantic florals for skirts.

One of the most popular Italian summer looks? A vibrant animal print midi skirt like the Amazon Essentials Pull-On Knit Midi Skirt paired with a simple tank or tee.

For balmier days, a lightweight floral maxi skirt like this chiffon number from EXLURA looks effortlessly chic with a cropped cardigan or white button up shirt.

What to Wear In Italy #2: White Button Up

White Button Up

Speaking of which, no Italian wardrobe is complete without that iconic classic white shirt.

The perfect canvas for standout accessories or a boldly patterned bottom, the humble button-up always looks polished. Tuck it into a sleek pencil skirt or straight-leg jeans for a refined yet unfussy look.

American brand favorites like the Amazon Essentials White Button Up or Old Navy’s “Wear-to-Work” versions make affordable grab-and-go options that transition seamlessly from day to night.

What to Wear In Italy #3: Flowy Trousers

Flowy Trousers

While Americans tend to default to denim, Italians prefer more sophisticated neutral-colored trousers that have a more professional look while still being comfortable.

With their relaxed, wide-legged silhouettes, these soft pants look chic yet uncontricted – perfect for warming temps.

For a versatile linen option, these Tronjori pants have a lightweight, fluid drape that pairs beautifully with tees, tanks, or button-ups.

Or opt for a more tailored trouser like these SySea pants that can be dressed up or down.

What to Wear In Italy #4: Flowy Dresses

Flowy Dresses

For an easy warm weather one-and-done outfit, floaty floral dresses and breezy maxi dresses are Italian summer must-haves.

From vibrant botanical prints to soft, romantic solids, these breathable designs epitomize effortless Italian style.

Get the look with an ultra-flattering ZESICA Maxi that transitions from touring to dinner with just a shoe swap and statement accessories. Or choose a bold floral dress like this Maggeer Maxi as a standout cocktail option.

What to Wear In Italy #5: Statement Long Coat

No Italian winter wardrobe is complete without at least one showstopping statement coat.

From tailored wool solid color coats to stand-out plaid or patterned designs, luxe outerwear is a point of pride for Italians.

For a real head-turning topper, try a bold plaid coat like this double-breasted Chartou coat that brings just the right amount of drama. On a budget? This recycled wool Everlane “Italian Coat” is as good as the real thing.

What to Wear In Italy Instead? (Bags)

No great outfit is complete without equally chic accessories, and few accessories are as quintessentially Italian as a fab handbag.

When exploring Italy, carry one of these local-approved styles:

What to Wear In Italy #6: Crossbody Bag

For effortless day-to-night versatility, go for a sleek leather crossbody bag in a timeless curved or rectangular shape.

Not only are they endlessly chic, but the hands-free design is perfect for sightseeing on-the-go.

For an investment piece, splurge on the iconic Bromen Square Crossbody made from buttery Italian leather. Or get the look for less with the equally sophisticated Madewell Simple Crossbody.

What to Wear In Italy #7: Rattan Bag

Whether a structured rattan crossbody bag or roomy straw rattan tote bag, woven raffia accessories are la pièce de résistance for achieving that enviable warm-weather Italian style.

These beautiful, artisan-crafted pieces instantly elevate any summer look with an insouciant, vacation-ready vibe.

Go for maximum impact with this circle rattan crossbody for a touch of global flair, or pack this classic rattan tote to carry all your essentials while exploring Italian villages. Their relaxed, bohemian appeal screams “I’m on vacanza!”

What to Wear In Italy Instead? (Shoes)

While stylish sneakers are having a moment in the States, Italians’ approach to shoes remains deliciously old-school.

Sleek flats and elegant heels take center stage – with just the right kiss of embellishment or artisan flair for maximum impact.

What to Wear In Italy #8: Flats

A chic, goes-with-everything flat is as integral to the Italian wardrobe as a little black dress.

Whether buttery ballet flats, effortless loafers, or minimalist slide sandals, Italian flats are all about understated polish.

You can’t go wrong with versatile picks like the iconic Amazon Essentials Ballet Flat in go-with-anything shades like black, nude, or rich burgundy.

Or elevate your look with these impeccably crafted Everlane Italian Leather Flats that showcase quality artisanship.

What to Wear In Italy #9: Embellished Shoes

For dressier occasions or adding a playful punch to everyday looks, Italians love flats and heels adorned with luxe embroidery, sumptuous fabrics, and eye-catching embellishments.

These JiaBinji Jeweled Embellished Flats look ready for a Roman holiday when paired with a vibrant midi dress, while Badgley Mischka’s crystal-adorned pumps make an ultra-glamorous cocktail hour statement piece.

What to Wear In Italy Instead? (Accessories)

To complete those flawlessly curated Italian looks, don’t forget the all-important finishing touch: stylish accessories! Even the simplest outfit can look magnifico with the right statement piece.

What to Wear In Italy #10: Sunglasses

You’d be hard-pressed to spot fashionable Italians without their omnipresent sunglasses.

More than just eye protection from the radiant Mediterranean sun, shades level up any look with that signature Italian panache.

When picking sunglasses, look for quality details like polarized lenses and handmade acetate frames, which Italians adore.

Flattering cat-eye and oversized ’70s-inspired silhouettes like these Ray-Ban shades make for glamorous, camera-ready finishers.

Or try fresh spins on heritage designs, like these sleek New Wayfarers for a modern yet timeless vibe.


What to not wear in Italy?

To recap, here are the top casual American styles that instantly identify you as a tourist when worn on Italian streets:

  • Socks with sandals
  • Shorts
  • Sweatpants
  • Tank tops
  • Flip flops
  • Athleisure wear (leggings, joggers, etc.)
  • Oversized, floppy sun hats

Can you wear shorts in Italy?

While you may see some locals sporting Bermuda shorts at the height of summer, standard knee-length shorts are generally viewed as too casual for typical Italian cities. They’re best reserved for the beach or athletic activities.

Is it OK to wear jeans in Italy?

Denim is certainly more accepted in Italy than some of the other American staples on this list.

Polished Italian style prioritizes dark-wash, tailored jeans like sleek straight-leg or slim-cut boot cuts over baggy, distressed, or ultra-stretchy styles.

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