Personal Style in a Small Town: Moda Italiana

As most of you will have gathered by now, Highland Fashionista is very much about the cultivation and curation of personal style, no matter where on the globe you may happen to reside. That is why it is my distinct pleasure this Monday to offer you a guest posting by Tamsin Hickson of Tamsin resides in Le Marche in central Italy, and paints an absolutely beautiful picture of coming into her own, style-wise, amongst the olive trees. 

When the Highland Fashionista generously said that she would love to hear my stories of living in a small town and how it has affected my fashion choices,  I was delighted. Italy, small town life,  and clothes are three of my favourite subjects (apart from my sons, of course).  But when I sat down to write, I was assailed by so many ideas that it was hard to know where to begin. After jotting down various ideas,  I realized that only two words came to mind, sex and style.

I was 41 when I moved here, and back home in the UK I’d begun to feel invisible. The Italian man’s interest in women is justly infamous world over, and the range of emotions this attention can inspire does not include feeling invisible. In our town of 4,500 inhabitants, we have a delightful elderly lady with a bright shiny bald head who walks into town every day to do her shopping, dressed smartly and with a colourful handbag tucked over her arm. She is watched and greeted with admiration by the long line of men who occupy the benches on the leafy main road: there is no giving up on oneself here, hair or no hair, young or old. After my sons were born I’d opted for a one piece swimsuit, but after several years of feeling cloned with the octogenarian ladies on the beach I’ve gone back to bikinis.

It’s liberating to live in a country with a sensual edge, surrounded by people who take obvious pleasure in the physical, no matter what shape or size they are, and I’ve learnt to celebrate my femininity, although not always in the local way. My closely cropped blonde hair is going white and I recently discovered that I’ve become an icon for women of a certain age in our town. Our very loud postlady, proudly displaying a similar cropped cut in a new radical white, called me over to join her loud conversation about her new hair style in our narrow cobbled main street. If Tamsin can go white, so can the rest of us!” she cried, tucking her arm through mine to show me off to two bemused elderly ladies with regulation nut brown helmet hair.

And then there is the famous Italian sense of style. My own style could best be described as Desigual meets Issey Miyake, both designers rarely seen in rural Central Italy but in the last nine years I’ve learnt to be braver about being different. I’ve become more brazen in following my own passions, dressing with an increasing sense of fun, reveling in the sumptuousness of my favourite fabrics. I now have a large collection of leather trousers and jackets bought from local factory outlets which I wear with long leather boots or wedge heeled suede shoes in the winter. I enjoy every opportunity to dress up, at times shocking my Italian husband to his conventional core. His interest in clothes is typically Italian, he can identify and name tailoring details as well as iron any item of clothing without a stray crease; skills at odds with his burly masculine appearance and complete lack of vanity.

Which brings me to my red wedding dress. When my husband and I decided to risk all and venture into the married state once again, four years ago, I had lots of vague fantasies and only one certainty, it had to be deep red. Our local dressmaker did her best and although I began to suspect halfway through our wedding day that the outfit my dress most reminded me of us was my father’s PhD gown, people still talk about the amazing red dress I wore, the romance of the day and the elegance of our getaway car. 

You can find Tamsin Hickson's beautiful blog at


  1. I'm so happy to see Tamsin's dress here! with the shoes, so tall and wow. belissima! great to hear the story too. ;)


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