Italy’s traditional costumes are very diverse as the country has been divided much longer than it has been united (it is just over 130 years since the Savoy took over the papal states in 1870). All the forms of regional costume found in Italy have developed from the peasant dress used in the Middle Ages. Italian peasants wore practical clothing for their daily activities. The men wore simple trousers and shirts, while the women wore blouses and skirts, sometimes with a bodice and apron. Peasant women also wore hats that covered their heads with a square, flat section that curved or angled down to cover the back of the head and the neck. The flat top helped the women carry baskets to market.
The poorer people wore clothing in cheaper fabrics such as wool, coloured with inexpensive dyes (black or grey). The clothes worn by wealthy Italian women looked like peasant garb, but they used richer fabrics like silk and velvet. The rich also could afford more colourful dyes. The hats of peasant women with the produce they carried (e.g. fruit and flowers) were modified into hats with artificial flowers, etc. worn by rich women. Upper-class Italian women also tended to wear more jewellery than the poorer ones. On festival days, however, even the peasant women wore elaborately decorated clothes which were often passed down the generations from mother to daughter. The themes used for the embroidery were often either associated with harvest festivals (food and nature) or Christian themes for the church festivals.
In general, Italian women’s traditional costumes in modern times include colourful embroidered skirts and bodices over light-weight chemises or blouses, with embroidered or lace aprons. Often the women wear elaborate hats, shawls or scarves on their heads. Lace is frequently used to decorate their clothes. Italian men’s traditional clothing tends to be simpler, but it is still decorated with embroidery and metal buttons and pins. The men wear trousers, shirts, jackets, waistcoats and different styles of hats depending on the region.
Source(s) of information
http://people.howstuffworks.com/culture-traditions/national-traditions/italian-tradition5.htm (accessed 22 February 2012) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italy (accessed 6 October 2012)