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What to wear in Venice
When we want “to see something without equal, the romantically different,” where should we go? Thomas Mann’s nameless protagonist asks in Death in Venice, but to a place that bears the “unfamiliar and the unrelated.”
Venice is many things. It is romantic and it is crowded. It is bold and it bears “the blinding composition of fantastic architecture.” Its marble sparkles in the sunlight and the canal rots in the heat of summer days.
Deciding what to wear in Venice depends on how you want to look while walking on bridges and swaying through the canal. Inspired by the romantic and morbid traits found in Mann’s short story, and the beauty of Venice itself, here are five things you can wear in Venice to look like a dream.
Jewelry – “Jewelry, a hot bath, and rest have often made a difference,” Mann’s protagonist says, as he looks to find rest in Venice. From statement necklaces that shimmer with the light of the moon to bold earrings worn with your hair pulled back and colored lips, jewelry always does help in turning us into an Italian dream.
Black – There is something eternally morbid about Mann’s stories and the gondola in Death in Venice is no exception, as it is described as a ride, “reminiscent of death itself…fanciful at times and which is so strangely black like normally coffins are.” I have always loved wearing black and this only gives me another excuse on not question what to wear in Venice in terms of color. So I shall stick to donning black, looking funereal and enigmatic.
Long skirts – Skimming through Daphne du Maurier’s pages of Echoes from the Macabre, I once came across a passage she wrote about how Venice is sinking. “The whole city is slowly dying,” she wrote, and far beneath the water and the architecture there is “a lost underworld of stone.” I always imagine women floating in the dingy waters of the canal, whenever I recall this passage, with their long skirts billowing and holding them up, as if they were Venetian Ophelias.
Dramatic coats – Everybody thinks Venice belongs to lovers but like Mann, I have always thought this place belongs to the loners. “Solitude produces originality, bold & astonishing beauty, poetry,” Mann writes. “But solitude also produces perverseness, the disproportionate, the absurd, and the forbidden.” With our coat collars raised up and dramatic shoulders hiding our body from the world, a coat is the staple winter piece in Venice that will allow us to roam around in perfect solitude.
Hats – Hiding our eyes under our hats, this style accessory adds to the drama of Venice, especially when we finally raise our eyes from under the brim and witness the grandeur in its entirety —when we get to cruise through “the dull labyrinth of the canals, below delicate marble balconies surrounded by lion sculptures, around slippery corners, along sorrowful palace facades,” Mann writes.
Deciding what to wear in Venice is a question that goes beyond a style statement. It is about choosing to look like this unique European spot — looking romantic and enigmatic, dark and rich, historic and utterly timeless.