Athleisure Abroad: The Difference Between University Fashion in Italy Versus the States

I’m the first to admit it- I love athleisure. Ever since its rebirth in late 2017, I have been a big supporter of sporting trendy pieces of athletic wear in and out of the gym. I especially prefer flaunting a cute athleisure look on campus at my home university of California State University San Bernardino. If you’ve been there, San Bernardino gets some pretty gnarly winds, even on the hottest of days, so comfort is key when walking from class to class.

In my weeks abroad, and I have noticed a vast difference in the way that students dress in the States versus how they dress abroad, specifically Italy. Athleisure is definitely not as popular in Italy, I truly only notice native Italians wearing athletic wear when they are either in the gym or outside on a run. Of course, considering Italy is one of the biggest fashion countries in the world and houses some of the most recognized designers and brands in the world (Gucci, Prada, Valentino, etc.), this does not necessarily come as a shock to me. 

So what would one wear to class in the U.S.? Well I’ll just paint the picture of what I would usually wear. Usually my days on campus in California were pretty long, particularly because I have had on-campus jobs that require me to get to campus much earlier than when my classes start or stay much later. Because of this, I always try to dress for comfort over anything else. Typically, I would wear plain black leggings, preferably by the brand Zella, with either a t-shirt sporting my sorority’s name or with the name of a music festival I recently attended. Birkenstocks are also a staple for me, especially if it’s warm outside, or some Nike Air Force One’s if I want to spice it up a bit. 

Being that I am studying fashion marketing and merchandising at the Florence University of the Arts, I am doing my best to separate myself from my ways back home of “bumming it”, per se, with wearing leggings and my sorority sweatshirts and Birkenstocks every day. Instead, I am pre-planning outfits to wear to class, which usually I would only do on special occasions back home. In doing so, I have definitely noticed a difference in my confidence throughout the day when I wear an outfit that I have pre-planned, even if it’s just some jeans with a graphic tee, blazer thrown over top and some sneakers. This is a very simple outfit that literally anybody can put together, and one that has a ton of variations depending on the wash of your denim or the print and/or color of your t-shirt.

Above, I am wearing leggings (yes, leggings can be pants) by the brand Sanctuary with a vintage belt from the 70’s draped over the waist. This belt is by far one of my favorite accessories I own because the craftsmanship is something that couldn’t be matched today. When I first saw it, I knew I couldn’t pass it up because of its originality and chicness. However, it took me a solid year to actually try styling it.

I’ve never been a big accessories girl because I always feel I look too overdone with too much going on. As Coco Chanel said “before you leave the house, look in the mirror and remove one accessory”. Now, I find that I wear this belt more and more, and that it goes with a lot more than I had thought previously. On top, I wore a cropped graphic tee from Brandy Melville and a long, camel colored coat from MissGuided to keep warm. Now, since I was going to class and shopping afterwards, I wanted to keep my footwear simple, so I chose Adidas Sam Smith’s, which I just purchased before embarking on my 5-month journey with ISA. To be quite honest, I’m not sure why I hadn’t bought them sooner because they go with absolutely everything!

Although I have been in Florence for a few weeks now, it is still so unreal to me that I am able to call this place home for first half of 2020. I am so looking forward to soaking in the beauty of the city, its people, the food and wine, and learning more about Italian fashion which I will be able to use in my career journey. 


Mary Shammas is a student at California State University, San Bernardino. She is an ISA Featured Blogger and studied abroad with ISA in Florence, Italy.

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