Posted by: 4initalia | February 11, 2009


This morning, I went shopping for clothes. I needed just a bathing suit, so of course I wouldn’t buy anything else. Deep, low chuckle: I’m in Italy, I have a charge card that works, and I’m breathing.

Giovanna offered to take me to a shop she knows that carries everything. This is important because in Italy, stores actually sell clothes appropriate to the season. It’s winter, so there are no bathing suits in the shops, there are winter clothes in the shops. Excruciatingly gorgeous winter clothes. The lines are chic and precise, the tailoring is exquisite, the fabric buttery and soft. A jacket: fine plum wool, designed to flatter and flaunt, paired with an elegant pencil skirt. Perfection. I have no money, so I usually walk by store windows, leave a puddle of drool, and move on.

But I need a bathing suit, so here we go. Buying a bathing suit is about as much fun for women as circumcision is for men, but men don’t have to go through that every few years. In Italy, all of the women are built like Sophia Loren, and I am built like Billy Mummy in his “Lost in Space” period. Finding anything that fits me here will be more demoralizing than usual. The two bathing suits that I found after an endless search are nestled comfortably in my drawer, in Colorado.

Giovanna drives a great distance, to a shop that from the outside looks like a warehouse. Inside, it is a treasure chest. Sheets, dresses, suits, in colors and fabrics that make me want to touch them all. We find the bathing suits – they’re in three waist high cardboard boxes. Giovanna and I dig through and pull some out for me to try on, and the shop owner, her friend, comes over to help.

“Piccolina….” (very small) she muses, staring at what is left of my chest after two children. She tosses out some of our selections, looks at my chest again. “Piccolina….” More rummaging, more chest assesment. “Si, si, piccolina….” ALRIGHT already. If she moves on to “piccolisima” I’m going to scream.

She asks if I want a bikini. “No,” I say, and I blame that on the children. But really, together they weighed less than 15 pounds; the stretch marks were the result of never letting my jaws rest for the duration of either pregnancy. It was fun while it lasted, but you shouldn’t try that at home. After the kids were born, I used my maternity underwear as fitted sheets for my king-sized bed.

I grab a handfull of likely prospects, and head upstairs to a narrow closet with a mirror. The closet is lined with stacks of soft robes in every color. I want to sleep in them all. But I must be brave, try these on. No really, we’re talking piccolisima, no question. But I find two that have the proper combination of underwire, figure flattering shape and a small attached flaregun to direct attention elsewhere. I’m all set for the beach, now all I need is a plastic surgeon, a personal trainer, and a tanning salon.

And then Giovanna shows me the dresses. Long gowns, a nude one like the one that Marilyn used to beguile the young president. I don’t think Michelle would put up with that kind of thing from someone Monroesque. Although I’d love to do my part to bring cheer to the White House, I’m not sure I want them to hurt themselves laughing.

And then she pulls out a black dress. A long, black dress. With beading in all the right places. Spaghetti straps. Okay, it’s a gown. And I don’t need a gown. A person who stands for three hours a night chopping vegetables does not need a gown, I need a set of ginsu knives and a Costco distributorship. Giovanna laughs: “Try it on!” And I do. And it’s gorgeous. And I buy it, to the murmured assent of the lovely ladies in the shop. The women in the store laughed with me – women are wonderful. We talked about the dress, and they complimented me on my Italian. “I understand the language of clothes” I replied. When we get home, Giovanna’s sister hems the dress for me. It will be ready for our trip to Tennerife.

What a perfect experience. To find the perfect dress, in ten minutes, is heaven. To laugh with Italian women is a perfect thing. If anyone says one mean thing about Italy today, it’s going to get ugly. Now all I need is a yacht with a dance floor and tickets to the opera.


  1. When do we get to see a picture of you in the dress?

    You are restoring my faith in modern writing.

  2. piccoloisima indeed! My body hasn’t seen or felt a bathing suits and so I envy you – the bathing suits, AND the dress, and theopportunity to actually WEAR them somewhere!!! Can I live vicariously through you, please? đŸ™‚

  3. I simply must agree with Cheryl – your writing is unique, lovely, lilting and humourous!

    Bellisimo! (Can you tell I don’t yet speak Italian?!)

    And, yes, please post a picture of the dress. Every woman needs a gown that looks spectacular on her and turns heads when she walks by! I am happy you found such a dress.

    • Hi Terese –

      I’m so glad you like the blog – I had such a lovely time experiencing Italy, and then capturing it!!

      I haven’t had a chance to wear the dress – hmmmn, I need to reorganize my life to make this happen. When I bought the dress, I was knee-deep in laundry every day, and in produce at night, just trying to keep up with clothing and feeding my husband and kids. But I neeeeeeded a fabulous dress – and I can’t wait to wear it. Then, I will post a photo. Sigh…..

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: