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Italian Fashion - What are they Wearing to the Opera?

Judith Ayotte Greenwood

As we discovered early last spring, it is very difficult to report on what people are wearing when it is cold, because they cover up so thoroughly from October to April, or even beyond. So I thought I'd better go ask them.

For this column, every so often, I will get either an Italian or an expatriate to show us what she or he would wear to the various venues about which I am asked. They will cover a broad middle spectrum of types, finances, interests, ages and shapes. (I don't know anyone to ask at the poorest of poor levels nor at the higher level where one would never wear the same Armani suit twice.)

This month I have asked the question that I am most often asked, "What do I wear to the opera?" I asked the friend you see in these photos, who is neither young nor old. She can afford to have what she wants. She is a professional who has developed some new techniques and lectures around the world about them. In other words, she is affluent, educated and savvy, like a great many of you. Unlike many of us, she cares very little for clothes. They are thought about only if they can do something extra for her or if she knows someone will be hurt or pleased by her choices.

Her answer was, "It depends. It depends on which seats I am in, who I am going with and what else is planned for the evening." She's right, of course. Pretty Woman notwithstanding, it is not necessary to be begowned and bejeweled for the opera and it is absolutely correct to walk there or take a cab (you do not need a private jet nor a limousine).

With that in mind I restated the question and made it several.

"What do you wear to a gala evening to which you have been invited to share someone's box and then have supper in a top restaurant?"

This is her choice:

Fashion for the opera

This red dress consists of a sheer layer over a solid layer. The dotted silk velvet stole is held in place by a gold harlequin mask. She is wearing a coral choker and a large diamond ring on her index finger.

The next question was, "What would you wear to La Scala if you had orchestra seats and were dining with friends at their home or a small restaurant after?"

And she put on this ethnic ensemble:

Fashion for the opera

It is an embroidered caftan and matching stole that she bought recently when delivering an address to a Turkish medical conference. She is also wearing a bold amber necklace bought at the same time. Her only other accessory is a cigarette.

And then, "What would you wear to the opera if you were at Milan on business and just happened to get a ticket?

The answer is what she wore to present her current paper at the conference:

Fashion for the opera

"Wow!" I exclaimed, "why so much exposed skin for presenting a paper when you wear such high necklines socially?" "Because making my face bigger to an audience gives me more force, more power." Who knew? There is yet another precious amber necklace in the décolletage, this one from Poland. The lapel of the Elena Miro jacket has been embroidered in grays by her Polish friend to make it unique.

Which led me to the question which would be most useful to me: "What would you wear to the opera if you had an ordinary seat among your friends and you were all going to a little trattoria or someone's flat afterwards?"

Hey, presto! Out comes something fun to add to the sober pants and top from before:

Fashion for the opera

It is precisely the same outfit as before, but the jacket has been removed and replaced by a fun, fringed sweater.

She threw in as an extra what she would wear to an official dinner following the conference.

Fashion for the opera

Note, please, that the glasses stay when it is official.

I know this lovely person very well, and I know that it is true when she says she doesn't really care about clothes. I was knocked over at how adept she was at pulling something from the closet and the jewelry box for every circumstance. She knows how, she just doesn't do it!


Slow Travel Photos: See large versions of these photos.

What to Wear in Europe: Dressing for visiting churches and for traveling.

Select Italy: Purchase tickets to the Opera.

Judith offers fashion tours and cooking - www.judithgreenwood.com. Read more from Judith on Think on It: Philosophy from an Umbrian Farmer. Some of the photos were done at Atena in Città di Castello.

© Judith Ayotte Greenwood, 2007

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