The second part of the trichotomy is the Renaissance, with its opulent jewel-like tones and gilt-laden architecture favored by the new bourgeoisie. The Renaissance brought into the fashion mix the use of accessories such as detachable collars, cuffs, and more advanced cosmetics.
The principal characteristic of the Renaissance female dress was its fullness. Just recall all the enormous, hooped skirts that made women look like walking cowbells. Men’s fashion, on the contrary, except for the upper garment, was usually tight and very scanty. You can see the multiple layers of fabric in the portraits of people as you visit any of the dozens of museums in Rome. The images of this age may suggest that people wore dark heavy layers, but Roman fashion in the renaissance was lavish when considered within the context of the fifteenth century. Gowns were particularly colorful as they were dyed into vibrant jewel tones. Sleeves symbolized wealth and status and were detachable so they could be redesigned with gold thread, jewels, and even pearls. However, Renaissance beauty was not skin deep. To be considered beautiful (and fashionable), people had also to be virtuous. This concept is essential since it still has an impact today in Modern Rome.
The final part of the trichotomy is the utilitarian, modern European Union. Italy is a resolute member of this alliance that rhapsodizes uniformity and structure. Modern Italian fashion, following European norms, has a sedate aesthetic that revels in its practicality. Contemporary Roman style is mostly about elegance. Not too colorful. Not too outlandish. Instead, simple elegance in mostly subdued color combinations. Of course, there are exceptions in modern Italian fashion, such as the clown circus-like atmosphere of the latest season at the house of Moschino, but Romans do not blindly follow trends. They never have in thousands of years.
I considered this trichotomy as I lumbered like a wild-eyed wildebeest through the cobbled streets. Admittedly, fashion in Rome has evolved these past few thousand years, but like a precocious child, it has nabbed the most intriguing bits from the stern ancients, renaissance burghers, and contemporary ascetics. Consequently, I became obsessed with identifying the modern Roman natives littered among the crowds. In no time at all, I realized how laughably simple it was. Romans glide through the press of tourists and Italian hicks from lesser cities like smooth-skinned sharks. They have a lithesome, knowing walk and tilt to their heads. From their stance, you can almost hear the Romans quietly declaring to the rest of the herd: “You will never be one of us.”