Italy: Business Dress
Dressing well is a priority here. Your clothing will be perceived as a reflection of your social standing and relative success, as well as your competence as a businessperson.
Generally, dress tends to be on the formal side for both men and women, whether in business or social situations. Aim for clothing choices that are both tasteful and stylish. Italians enjoy designer clothes and often invest in big name brands.
An Italian would never wear scuffed, unshined or unfashionable shoes. If in doubt, wear the best pair of shoes you possess.
While you should make every effort to look your best, you'll probably find it difficult to “out style” the Italians, especially the Milanese. To most Italians, Milan is considered to be the center of the fashion and design world.
Men should wear expensive, sophisticated ties and well-cut dark suits. Italian men do not wear short-sleeved shirts to work even in the summer. Likewise they always wear knee length socks as revealing bare leg above short socks is not considered elegant!
Men often wear accessories such as cuff links, tie clips, and stylish watches.
Choose only quality fabrics, such as lightweight wools and silks.
Women are advised to dress simply and with elegance. Accessorizing is also widely practiced here.
The most commonly worn colours are darker, subdued shades. Brighter colours should be reserved for accessories.
Italian businesswomen usually wear more makeup and jewellery than American women.
It is usual for women not to wear stockings in the summer.
Perfumes and colognes are frequently used by both men and women.
When you receive an invitation stating “informal” dress, don't assume that you'll be welcome arriving in a t-shirt and sweatpants. For a social gathering, informal more often than not means tastefully coordinated clothes, sometimes including a jacket and tie for men.
An invitation stating “formal” dress usually means formal evening wear, which is very dressy by American and northern European standards. Italians use the word “smoking” to indicate black tie/tuxedo. These events are fairly rare in Italy. If in doubt, it is always better to ask – it is not considered poor manners to double check.
Shorts are unacceptable in public [they are reserved only for foreign tourists or the gym]. You will not be admitted into a church wearing shorts, a sundress or even a sleeveless top so when sightseeing or if invited to any religious ceremony (e.g. wedding or baptism) it is normal for a man to wear a suit and a women to cover up (e.g. with a jacket) in the church.
On the street, jeans and sneakers can be acceptable leisure wear [especially for young people]. This attire is not considered suitable in any business context except maybe the fashion or IT industry.
Summers can be very hot and humid, while winters are damp and cool in the south and can be very cold in the north.