Sicilian Fashion

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Everyone associates Italy with fashion. Even those who have no idea which shape of shoe heel is "in" this season usually enjoy buying a fashion accessory as a souvenir of their holiday in Italy. Even just spending a day looking at the shop window displays of the top designers can be an entertaining thing to do on holidays in Sicily.

Sicilian fashion designer Domenico Dolce, of the Dolce & Gabbana fashion house, has put Sicily well and truly on the fashion map. He usually takes some aspect of the beauty of his native island as his inspiration each season. Many Sicilians spend a large portion of their income on clothing and accessories, as dressing well is considered highly important in Italian culture.

This is a guest article by Veronica Di Grigoli.

Please find more of her articles in the famous blog The Dangerously Truthful Diary of a Sicilian Housewife.

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Fashion in Palermo

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Palermo has changed a lot as a city over recent years. Our guide to the best fashion shopping areas is far more up to date and extensive than any others we can find online.

We cover not only the most expensive and prestigious shopping streets, but also the fun street markets where you can pick up trendy bargains.

If you base yourself outside Palermo for your holiday, we recommend to use Trenitalia for travelling in to Palermo. This is especially true if you stay in some of the holiday lettings described here.

Map - Fashion in Palermo

La Rinascente department store

La Rinascente offers five floors of designer clothes and handbags, along with some extremely chic kitchen gadgets which you can only find in Italy. It is in Via Roma, at one corner of Piazza San Domenico, alongside the church of the same name and opposite the few touristy stalls left of the once thriving Vucciria market. We particularly love the Obikà rooftop café for its stunning panoramic views of Palermo. The guide books all name Via Roma itself as a shopping street, but many shop premises are now empty and it is no longer so popular among the locals.

Viale Strasburgo

This is probably Palermo's swankiest shopping street. It features, amongst others, the official boutiques of Max Mara (at no. 156) and Marina Rinaldi (no. 133), whose clothes are particularly flattering for the more voluptuous ladies as well as the skinny ones. It is a broad road with very fast-moving traffic, and we think this makes it more suitable for serious shoppers than for tourists who just want to browse.

Via Principe di Belmonte

This small, pedestrianised shopping street has boutiques offering designer clothes and accessories, and a large selection of restaurants and cafés which are nowhere near as expensive as they look. We recommend this spot for relaxed shopping in a beautiful setting. It is also the perfect place for fashionistas to head for as lunchtime draws near!

Via Ruggero Settimo

Via Ruggero Settimo, continuing north from Via Maqueda, is a large and busy shopping street with a variety of clothing and other shops. It is particularly popular among Palermo's younger, trendy population who want quality clothes without going for the most expensive designers.

Via Della Libertà

This road continues northwards from Via Ruggero Settimo and is home to some seriously mouth-watering apparel boutiques, including the Dolce and Gabbana official shop.

Via Volturno

Starting in front of the Teatro Massimo, Via Volturno is a particularly good location for beautiful leather bags hand-stitched in Sicily, shoes and other leather goods.

The Quattro Canti

All four roads leading away from the Quattro Canti, especially Via Maqueda, are fantastic for bargain jewellery including genuine pearl necklaces for as little as eight Euros. Walking south down Via Maqueda will take you to various shops selling ethnic clothing.

Via Squarcialupo

For high class gold and silver jewellery and designer watches, go to Via Squarcialupo, which runs from Piazza San Domenico northwards to Via Cavour.

Via Bandiera street market

Starting opposite Piazza San Domenico, in Via Bandiera (leading from Via Roma) is a major street market selling clothes, bags, shoes, jewellery, ethnic handicrafts and other fun items all at bargain prices. The shops in this road are also fun and cheap, yet many sell good quality items. The market crosses Via Maqueda and continues in Via Sant'Agostino almost all the way to the Teatro Massimo. Be ready to haggle, and be sure to go in the morning if you want to get the best choice of items.

La Coppola Storta

La Coppola Storta is a small chain of shops which sell innovative as well as traditional versions of the classic Sicilian flat cap, the coppola, designed for both women and men. The mission of this ethical business is to transform the headwear which had become associated with the Mafia into a symbol of the redemption of Sicily, and the struggle to shake of biased stereotypes.

Clothing sizes

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When you look around you, you will notice that Sicilians come in all sizes and some of them are, indeed, remarkably large.

It is very surprising, therefore, that many Sicilian clothing shops in the low-to-middle price range have sizes from S (small) to XL (extra large) and that, for women, the "extra large" corresponds to a UK womens' size 12 or a US size 10. The men's clothes are similarly unrealistic. These shops sell clothing imported extremely cheaply which is actually made for the Chinese market.

These shops tend to look cheap and cheerful, but you will often find that classier-looking shops are scarcely more expensive and do stock sizes suitable for northern Europeans.

If you really do need larger sizes, look out for shops offering "taglie comode" (comfortable sizes) for women or "taglie forti" (strong sizes) for men.

A most irritating habit of shops assistants throughout Italy is to tell you that you look much thinner than you really are, and bamboozle you into trying on clothes in sizes much too small for you. We have no idea why they do it. Tripping over in a changing room with a pair of tiny trousers stuck around your knees can ruin the fun of your shopping trip. Ripping them could turn out to be costly.

We recommend that you find your size in our sizing chart and make sure you check labels before bothering to try garments on!

Children's clothes

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Italian baby and children's clothing brands are absolutely beautiful, and impressively stylish compared to the ones you can obtain in other parts of Europe. Italians usually buy clothes for children as complete matching sets, so make sure you look around the shop for the complete outfit. They can make wonderful take-home gifts.

As you might expect, Italian children's shoes – particularly those for the girls – are well made and beautiful.

If you are buying clothes as gifts for children, judge them by looking at the garment rather than relying on age or even height measurements. Every brand has radically different sizes, and some babies' clothes in Italy are so small they look like dolls' clothes!

Fashion against the Mafia

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Be careful about buying fake designer items, as we have heard of tourists getting arrested when taking them out of the country. The high fashion industry brings in a major part of Italy's GDP and they are careful to protect it! You can get away with style imitations, but fake logos are risky.

If the risk of arrest is not enough to convince you, maybe the fact that fake designer accessories and pirated music and movies fund the Mafia will! There is also a circulation of money from the sale of these items which finances the human trafficking in the Mediterranean, which has cost hundreds of lives.

We also recommend steering well clear of pirated CDs and DVDs. The law enforcement system in Sicily takes pirating very seriously, mainly because it funds organised crime. We have also been told that these fakes often have terrible picture and sound quality anyway.

La Coppola Storta is a small chain of shops which sell innovative as well as traditional versions of the classic Sicilian flat cap, the coppola, designed for both women and men. The mission of this ethical business is to transform the headwear which had become associated with the Mafia into a symbol of the redemption of Sicily, and the struggle to shake of biased stereotypes.

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