The Budget Babe | Affordable Fashion & Style Blog

TBB's World Traveler Reports: Armani, Versace and Gnomes, Oh My!

The Budget Babe's International Shopping Advisor Fifi LaMode returns from a jaunt in Italy, only to turn all our conceptions about la moda upside down! —TBB

by Fifi LaMode
Let's shop in Italy. After all, Milan's the fashion capital of the world, right?

Let's see what the locals are wearing. Oops—white pants with red underwear? Is this a joke, a fashion statement, or just plain bad taste? Must be an exception, right? Nope, there goes another one. Here's a lady with a huge over-sized Prada bag. There's another one, same bag. And another. Are they real? We're talking $3,000 bags here. What are the odds of 3 people wearing the same exact REAL Prada in the same street at the same time? You do the math.

This shop looks like Urban Outfitters, but it's called Love Therapy. Weird, but there's a fast food restaurant in Manila called Chicken in a Bikini, so don't judge a shop by its name. But everything has gnomes on it—t-shirts, purses, accessories. Bizarre.

Store called Mercedes-Benz Spot. Nice salesman. Apologizes that his English is not better. I tell him his English is better than my Italian and he looks like George Clooney so he could be talking Swahili and it wouldn't matter. The staff is so sweet and nice that I buy a gift for my daughter, the only thing in the store under $100—a tiny stuffed teddy bear with a Merc logo for 15 euros. Ok, it's a 50-cent bear, made in China—maybe not such a good deal. Swept up in the moment.
Moving along, I try on a T-shirt, feel like a sausage, and tell the lady it's way too small. Shocked, she asks, "So you are NOT buying it?" She turns away with a glare of disgust because I wasted 30 seconds of her time when she could have been, what? Looking at her soap opera magazine.

Things are not what they seem. Some great stuff in the boutiques, not on the street. No matter how well dressed you are, you are looked upon almost with pity, as Italians believe they are the only ones with any fashion sense. If that means being a slave to every trend on the runways, flashy junk jewelry (think of all those little kids who imitated Madonna in the mid-80's), an obsession with labels (real or fake), and entirely too many polyester scarves for our liking, then yes, they have it all over us. We have been in awe of Italian fashion for far too long. Shopping here is a disappointment. Sure you can get 6000 Eu Armani jackets on sale for 1500 Eu in the Milan "outlets," but The Budget Babe's readers don't want to spend over 2K on one article of clothing, do we?

What to buy then? Our favorite is Murano glass jewelry. It's unique and pretty, prices vary with quality. The shops in Venice by the Rialto bridge have large selections for all ages, and you get something a little bit out of the ordinary.

For clothing, rather than shopping in Florence and Milan, go to lovely Verona, with it's varied selection of stores, competitively-priced (for northern Italy) and a minimum of Attitude.

I'm still trying to figure out what gnomes have to do with Love Therapy. —FLM

Fifi LaMode and her roaming fashion spy recently returned from Milano after having bought absolutely NOTHING (and immediately hauled her little American butt over to Bloomie's for the summer sale)!

Get more travel advice for the jetsetting budget babe here. >>
Loves it! I think its great to get a reality check about the world we live in, makes us appreciate where we are at so much more instead of always dreaming of that "European shopping illusion"! Thanks Budget Babe and Fifi for keeping it real!
#1 Anonymous on 2007-07-25 14:06 (Reply)
instead of focusing on overseas designers, let's check out our own oscar de la renta. in addition to designing gorgeous clothes for women for decades (this man really adores women - you can tell by how pretty he makes them look), he's got a pret-a-porter line available at macy's. smart budget babes will wait for the sales, however.
and let's not forget our new york city born-and-bred Ralph Lauren. People world-wide recognize his signature prep-chic timeless styles.
#1.1 maggie z on 2007-07-25 14:57 (Reply)
Happy Birthday Budget Babe!!!
#2 Lil sis! on 2007-07-25 14:13 (Reply)
Thanks!! So this is what 21 feels like... ;-)
#2.1 The Budget Babe on 2007-07-25 14:57 (Reply)
Bonne Anniversaire, Budget Babe
- Fifi :-)
#3 Fifi LaMode on 2007-07-25 14:59 (Reply)
I love your blog! I have some similar tips at http//

check it out! :-)
#4 Carrie (Homepage) on 2008-12-02 19:16 (Reply)
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