Signorina in Sheffield #1 – Of naked women and the principles of Constitution


So here I am, an Italian gal in the land of Shakespeare. My name is Marta, I’m from Turin (North West. Yes guys, Juventus) and I am a post grad student at University of Sheffield.
I arrived in England mid-September. Perfectly fitting the stereotype, what shocked me the most so far has been the cold. Every time I put my nose out of the door, I have to conjure a clothing ceremony: wool socks, wool tights (above the wool socks), thick jeans, undershirt, shirt, sweater, jacket, grandma’s handmade scarf, gloves. Basically, my idea of bringing Italian fashion to the North is the Michelin Man.
However, what really strikes me is not the temperature in itself. I come from a pretty cold place by Italian standards so I am used to temperatures almost half as cold as it gets here. But when I go out at night, dragging my body under layers and layers of heavy material, and I get passed by herds of girls in high heels (high heels while drunk should be awarded. Seriously. It must be as requiring as an Olympic discipline in terms of coaching) I have to stop and stare at them like they were resurged dodos. They wear nothing but dresses as tiny as coasters, shrunk to the point it is the underwear that matches the shoes. How the heck do they do that? I ask myself while trying to adjust the scarf so that it covers my nose better. If I went out like that, they would find me in a crystallized position in year 3000 or so.
Now, to tell you the truth, every single Italian I ever met, from whatever gender, experience or background, has noticed this English habit and made some jokes about it. My friend Alessandro, who is from Turin as well, spent 6 months in Leicester; he told me that for the first month it was a feast for his eyes, but soon after he started to only notice the girls who were dressed with the amount of material to make a tie, but that would’ve needed a parachute to actually cover up. “Cellulite is not a medal for valor” he commented with the typical modern Italian gentleman’s aplomb.
He undoubtedly has a point in that: it is bad taste. In style terms, it is appalling. But the real question is: is this the ultimate consequence of being a fashion victim, or is it freedom over your body?
First of all, it’s good to acknowledge the freak is Giselle Bunsen and not you. If you are not afraid to show all that fat modern society condemns as a crime, good. Secondly, in Italy a girl could never get away dressed like that, whether sexy skinny of fat. That kind of outfit would be the license for men to scream from the top of their lungs everything they have in mind, whistle, harass her. And not only the drunken, generally embarrassing ones: normal people who wouldn’t consider themselves vulgar or misogynist, but who still think they are allowed to object loudly the way a woman is walking down the street, if that woman is showing too much. Men like my friend Alessandro.
In fact, even more than bikini-clad girls in the middle of a freezing winter, what really surprises me is that British men keep talking, drinking and caring for their own business while these girls pass by. In my world, they are supposed to at least turn their head and start giggling. I’m not reducing gender problems to dressing policy of course, but it’s indicative that here in Britain they don’t feel allowed to make any public remarks on the way women dress, no matter how gaudy.
In Italy a woman can dress like that only to appear on tv, where cameras and eyes are meant to be all over her body. On television, far from real life, bodies are plastic perfect and nakedness suddenly becomes sartorial freedom. There is no having fun, no light thinking in that kind of outfit. It is a business, a modern form of aseptic prostitution. She dresses to be seen, and to be seen by men.
Italians laugh at chubby English girls strutting in the streets, but in Italy nakedness is a very well paid job. As a good example, one of our showgirls was appointed Minister for Equal Opportunities by Berlusconi’s government. With boobs like those, many analysts commented, it was no wonder.



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