February 21, 2024 | Rome, Italy

Feathering the birds

By |2018-03-21T19:48:55+01:00February 29th, 2016|Lifestyle Archive|
A battle has been raging in Britain about which clothes should stay in the house and which can go to school or the grocery.

here’s a row raging at home about whether it’s appropriate to wear pajamas outside the house. It all started because Kate Chisolm, the headmistress of Skerne Park Academy in Darlington, wrote to parents suggesting that it might be a nice idea if they got dressed before dropping off their children (that also meant shoes instead of slippers). Dress in “appropriate day wear,” she suggested. The resulting furor has been savage.

The right of British women to dress appallingly may have taken a bashing but remains intact.

Can you imagine such a debate in Italy? I can’t.

Instead, I picture the scornful looks I’d incur if I left the house so… unprepared. I feel I have to shower and get dressed just to drop off my children for trips that leave at 4 a.m. It doesn’t matter that I’ll head to bed again afterwards.

Yet the headmistress makes a good point. “We want children to know what it’s like in the outside world,” said Chisolm. Making an effort to adjust appearance based on living among others tells the world we care, and that we’re aware others exist.

Sadly, I can’t compete with Italian women. Some are jaw-droppingly well groomed. I’ve always loathed hairdressers, I hate the taste of lipstick, and I don’t have the time or money for regular trips to the beauty parlor.

But what Italy has taught me is that unless you want to feel uncomfortable you just can’t appear in a vest top, no matter how hot it is. Nor are wellies considered appropriate footwear. Sunday is not a day for lounging around in your bed clothes but to get your hair done, don your best clothes, and proudly strut around the market, after which you gather shoulder-to-shoulder at your favorite restaurant for a fabulous nosh up. I rather envy the arrangement.

I spent this Sunday trying to work out how to pluck and gut a large chicken, a gift from a gracious neighbor. I managed to remove most of feathers with the help of several boiling kettles of water, but getting the innards out proved more difficult. By the time I’d finished the chicken looked more like the victim of some terrible accident than anything you’d want to put in an oven and cook. I am proud to say, however, that I was dressed for the occasion. The dead chicken did not have to deal with an unkempt woman wearing pajamas.

At times, the Italian obsession with the bella figura can be intimidating if not a little foolish. But the message it sends to the world about personal appearance is a positive one. I hope they never plum for the British pajama option. It’s just sloppy. Ask any dead chicken.

About the Author:

Lucy Brignall's "The Farm" column appeared between 2012 and 2016.