Did I mention Mecca in my last post? I think I have a lot of them. But really, I think you'd agree that Italy is at least one of the fashion Meccas. The thing I like about Italian fashion - at least what I understand about it - is that there aren't any pretentions about it. It's the ultimate cool. And it doesn't bother to tell us. It just knows.
So when we decided to drive through northern Italy one November, I was, well, excited. Italy. Italian design. Italian wine. Italian leather. The shoes. The food. Oooh! the shoes. Sigh.
We arrived via the Swiss-Italian Alps (we'd driven from Germany). We came in just east of Milan, so we didn't stop there. We stopped in some fabulous little towns - Bergamo, Verona - but by the time we settled in from the day's drive and took a decadent nap, the shops were all closed. I consoled myself with horsemeat ragu and the reds of the region.
Then we got to Venice. Alright, so it's not on the list of the Big Fashion Shows, like Paris, Milan, or NY, but tucked inbetween the canals and bridges were All of Them. Giovanni, Giorgio...the windows were full of the most beautiful things I'd ever seen. Silk, leather, wool, draped over mannekins and artfully but lazily arranged.
"Let's go in," my fiancé urged.
It was all I could do to shake my head: No.
I was petrified. It was Fashion. With a capital "F." All the coolness and beauty I never had growing up were right there in my reach. All I had to do was walk in the door, take a look around, and pick out a Furla purse. It wasn't hard. And I had a man at my side urging me - one who wanted me to shop and spend a little money in Italy. He wanted me to have beautiful things. What more could a girl want?
How 'bout the courage to go in the store? I couldn't go in. I was absolutely petrified. In the face of such great beauty, I froze. Dead in my tracks. He was so upset with me. We wandered the paths of Venice, gazing in the windows, but I couldn't go in. Part of it was the size thing. I don't fit in Italian-cut clothes (I'm of Germanic stock), usually, and I didn't want the looks of derision I assumed I'd get from the salespeople. But I couldn't even go in to look at shoes or leather.
I still haven't heard the end of it. Whenever I lament an Italian-designed piece here (because they're waaaaaaaay out of my budget), he reminds me that I could've had several for the same price. He tells my friends the story. But in the end, he helped me. He went back to Verona on business and for Christmas that year, he presented me with something better than the Little Blue Box: A blue felt Furla bag. It didn't need any wrapping. Inside was the most beautiful black leather bag. Sigh. It's one of my most prized possessions.
And it's happened again. When my mommy, sis, and I went up to NYC to visit wedding dresses just off Madison Ave (I love saying that - I know, I know, it's so not "in" to be excited about that, but c'mon). We'd had a lovely afternoon of a private appointment and lunched in a bistro nearby (there's just something so "it" about sharing a mid-afternoon bottle of wine with your mom and baby sister). And then we wandered down Madison and over to 5th. Oscar de la Renta had opened up their showroom not terribly long before (I think I read about the opening in InStyle, maybe?). SUCH pretty windows. And the clothes hang perfectly spaced an inch apart on the racks. We were standing outside, looking in. Mom & Sis wanted to go in. I froze again. Couldn't do it. Couldn't go in. It took my mom (whom we've only recently brought into the world of style) just marching around the corner to the door. And walking in.
So I'm not really sure what's so scary about it. And I'm better than I used to be - at least I made it inside of Oscar. And it wasn't so scary. Uh huh.