Thursday, September 18, 2008

Made In China

One of my favorite things about a trip to Italy is the shopping. OK, I can’t say favorite really. I’m not much of a shopper girl and my favorite things are more intangible:

Raindrops on Tuscan sunflowers and whiskers on…old men sitting in piazzas, bright copper coffee makers and warm welcome greetings. But that said I do like coming home with a few select items that are several years ahead of American fashion.

Back when I lived in Italy shopping was careless. I could pick up a dressy shirt for $6, a knit sweater for $15. The prices were decidedly Old Navy. In the years after when I would visit Italy, I’d always get my friend to take me to the Italian equivalent of Payless Shoes. I’d come home with five pairs of amazing, fashion forward, Italian leather shoes for $100.

Then one day a new plan for the future was revealed: the Euro. I heard the death knell of fabulous Italian shopping sprees. I was there for the 2001 change over and it wasn’t pretty. Prices went up overnight to compete with the rest of the continent.

And now, seven years later, I wistfully long for the days of separate currency and my beloved Lira the way my parents yearned for past realities like the roller-skate-waitress diner and afternoon stick-ball games. Golden times lost forever.

Still, the cache of bringing back those fashion-forward Italian goodies is strong. No one can dress like the impeccable Italians. No one can design like they can. So this trip I held fast to my boorish Euros and carefully bargain hunted.

Not finding anything within reach of my budget on my own, I asked my friend to take me to the Italian Payless again. Alas, even there, a mere pair of strappy sandals amounted to $140. There was no way. I was glad I’d shopped as much as I had before the Euro and the tanking of the dollar since it appears those sprees are lost to me forever. I am stuck with mere American clothes.

On our last day in Italy, I passed a purse kiosk in an American-style mall. There I found a fabulous turquoise bag. It was cute, a little audacious, pretty hip and best of all: very affordable. I brought it to the cashier as my one shopping conquest of the trip. Of course being a kiosk, the purse sure as heck wasn’t designer. I checked the label: Made in China. I hesitated. China is not exactly design cache capital of the world. Then I figured what the heck? I had no other wardrobe items to show for my trip and I decided the key was this: it may have been Made in China but my purse was Bought in Italy. Given the economy, that in itself is a fashion victory. Just like old times.

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