Italian ‘Decoro’ – A cultural cornerstone

One of the first things I noticed when I moved to Italy was definitely how people dressed very differently. Being from Ireland where it is a normal sight to see people walking to the shops in their pyjamas, I was quite taken back by never seeing something like this over here. People are always well-dressed. I don’t mean that people look like they just got off a catwalk, living up to their reputation of being one of the fashion capitals of the world, but more in the sense that people are always dressed well.


fashion in italy - Dictionary definition of decorum


It’s normal to see people dressed in scarves and long black coats regardless of the temperature because people (especially people from Rome and Milan) dress by season and not by weather. While this seems quite strange its a part of the culture I’ve come to enjoy adapting to. While we have a similar concept of “Decorum”, Italians live it. I asked my Italian room-mate about it to get a better insight into it.

“One of the first things my mom taught me, when I was a kid and first demanded to pick my own clothes, is to be appropriately dressed for the occasion, and to make sure my clothes were clean and had no holes. I cannot think of something that would horrify my mom more than knowing that I’m going around with a stained/ruined/old-looking shirt, let alone if I am going to an exam dressed like that. Even though my mom is a very pragmatic person that dressed me with my older cousin’s clothes (boys clothes) for most of my childhood, she transmitted the importance of having ‘decoro’ to her children.

Decoro is something that I regard as an important part of my culture, especially since we Italians are renowned for aesthetics and fashion. I would define it as the ability of being appropriate for the situation and behaving accordingly, and being dressed for the occasion is also part of decoro. It is a precious way to show that you respect the situation and the person in front of you.”

Whether its showing up to exams in your Sunday best, or deciding to wear a blouse to aperitivo instead of a funny print t-shirt, decoro is definitely a part of Italian culture you can spot easily. At the minimum I feel that its preparing me to dress nicely for the future I want to build as a respected doctor.

fashion in italy - people standing in a line