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Italy, as is very well known, is home to some of the greatest clothes designers in the world, Armani, Versace and Dolce and Gabbana to name but a few. I am no dedicated follower of fashion, but I do like clothes. I'm not mad about them, but looking good sometimes, makes me feel better about myself. Italians are very good at this looking good thing and could possibly teach the world a thing or too, if only all those non-Italians could make head or tail of the rules which govern good dress sense here. I'm going to attempt to explain how it works, at least with regard to colours. Back in the UK, I never really paid any attention to mixing and matching colours and to be honest had a limited wardrobe, partly due to the fact that I could not find good quality interesting clothes at down to earth prices. I remember coming across Malboro Classics in London many years ago and being happy that I could find jeans in colours other than the ubiquitous blue, albeit many shades of blue, but blue nonetheless. Jeans are in the main, blue, apart from good old black 501s, which used to be a favourite of mine. Blue is not a bad colour, but it's nice to stand out from the madding crowd sometimes.

Anyway, back to the Italian colour code. In general, one should wear no more than two, or possibly three colours, now by colours, Italians mean primary ones, not shades of, er, blue, for example. However, it gets a little bit more complex, seeing at it is not considered acceptable to mix certain colours. Black and blue should never be see in public together, so keep those bruises hidden everybody. With regard to the other acceptable and not so acceptable colour combinations, I have to plead ignorance. It has been explained to me, well, my other half did have a go, but I found the whole thing so mind bogglingly complex, that I had forgotten all the rules within a few minutes. Now, I simply cheat, and ask whether the clothes I'm wearing would make me stand out from the crowd and be labelled as an obvious foreignor or take a wild chance and dress as I feel like. In which case I can get things sort of right, if I try. You can wear, as I said previously, up to three colours. Though two, I am reliably informed is more likely to create the required effect. To get things, sort of , OK, I follow the simple rule of choosing clothes with three colours, not exactly knowing whether these colours can really be displayed together and then find other garments with a different shade of one of the three main colours. As a rule this seems to work, although If I want the effect to be truly Italian, I do check with my, Italian, better half, before making any public appearances, such as going down to the supermarket, or the bar, places where appearance can make the world of difference, er, not. (Well, that is not exactly right with regard to the bar, where one does want to be seen looking one's best because you never know just who you might meet).

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I have noticed that lots of younger women here like to play it safe and go around dressed predominantly in black or grey, with a few dashes of white. They do look good, and I like black, but its not exactly the most vibrant colour in the universe. Colours here are often, dare I say this, a little drab and not really very attractive. The black dressed woman thing does indicate a slight lack of originality, though, or maybe they too have problems getting their heads round which colours create the right symbiotic relationship.

There it is, hopefully I've explained the rules with regard to colours in a reasonably comprehensible fashion. As for the colours which can and are definately not allowed to be seen in close proximity to one another, I apologise for my ignorance. Should a reader who happens across this entry know more than myself on this subject, I would be more than happy to listen. Might even learn something too. You never know.

One final anecdote before I bring this text to its end. Once one Italian told me how a friend of her family, who I think was a professor at a university, or an lawyer or something, went out for a quick walk dressed in, of all things jeans and a tee-shirt. This happened in Venice, by the way, but I'm not sure how long ago and things may be different now, but I would not bank on this seeing as things change at an almost inexcoreably slow pace here. Now you will be asking me to get to the point, and I will, sorry about the dithering. Well, this chap was stopped by some friend or acquaintance who had a distinctly concerned look on his face. The jeans and tee shirt chap was asked how things were going and upon giving the reply that everything was just fine, was greeted by a look of relief. It transpired that the way in which he was dressed, jeans etc, had given the impression that he had fallen on very hard times, poor thing. This is how much clothes matter here, although it has to be said that any one of us may question why a normally well dressed friend turns up looking relatively scruffy one day, but we would probably suspect that he or she had been up to something in the house or garden which did not merit good clothes. I'm not sure that, UK or even US people would some so swiftly to the conclusion that financial or other bad fortune was the cause for a lack of sartorial elegance.

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