I never been one much into fashion myself – I come from Miami where all we really need to go out is a pair of shorts, a t-shirt, flip-flops and a 2 piece …. my experience certainly didn’t include Paris Fashion Week. After college, my next stop was Europe on a student budget – so once again, shopping at Milan Fashion Week was not high on my list.
This little fact never really bothered me or even put me into serious ridicule. My friends and cohorts were in the same situation as myself – we didn’t have the $$ to spend of fashion and we just didn’t keep up with the “Kardashians”.
However, after deciding to prolong my visit to Italy, my new environment (namely my ex-boyfriend) made it quite clear that my lack of knowledge (and my dismal fashion sense) were definitely a hindrance in our relationship.
Nothing made this ever so evident as when I was finally introduced to his “best friend.” It was a bit of a big ordeal, because his friend lived a couple hours away with his new wife and child. And since this was definitely going to be a grown-up evening I was eager to put my best American foot forward. I was prepared to highlight my playful nature and sense of humor.
It was a pleasant evening all the way around – nice people, good food (in Italy when do you not eat well?), stimulating conversation – tons of questions about the USA and the president (who at the time was Regan – I think) – and a few fun moments cuddling the baby.
As we are walking out the door to start our long trek home (thorough woods and over the hills) I made a “humorous” that has haunted me ever since. Teasing my then boyfriend, his wardrobe came up and I told his friends that they should try and convince him to spend a few dollars (the ones he saved not going to a restaurant but eating at their house) and change out his winter coat – to make my point, I showed them how the one he had on had all those little balls that aged wool gathers.
Three adult turned to stare at me as if I had just insulted the Pope himself…grown three heads….and turned a dramatic shade of purple …. all at the same time!
Perhaps I really should have known better. Critic an Italian about their fashion sense … and then wouldn’t you know it? The material that was used to make his coat was the prestigious panno Casentino, prized for the curling tufs of wool on the surface – the very same which I had attempted to ridicule.
It could be that since I was presently residing in the Casentino Valley, a small but very self sufficient area located approximately 45 km southeast of Florence they thought I would automatically know “la vita, morta e miracoli” of the area. For example maybe I should have known that the valley at one time was extremely famous for its wool production, in fact in the 1800’s the sheep count was 86,000 – more than triple the number of residents in this Italian valley. And … yes that’s right, maybe I should have known this was the birth place of the panno Casentino – a resistant and lightweight wool distinguished by these surface curls, the very thing that makes it water-resistant. Not only that, but maybe I should have known that it is well recognized among the Italians as a status symbol!
What I can say is that I now know all this (and so much more) – and even after 20 years, I have not forgotten that evening, the embarrassment and the many qualities of the panno Casentino.
In my attempts to tease this guy I wound up setting myself up to be the last laugh.