Carolina Cominelli, 25, sitting on a doorstep, wearing a black-and white vintage outfit

Vintage Life in Rome

Movies, art, and family heritage made Carolina Cominelli, 25, a vintage soul. Now she lives in her dream city, blending past fashion with contemporary life.

  • Liisa Jokinen

  • Feb 20, 2024

“I was born and raised amidst the mountains of Lombardy and Lake Iseo. Six months ago, I decided to leave everything behind to try living in the city of my dreams: Rome. I love Rome because of its galleries, palaces, museums, and parks. In Rome, all this creates a mystical atmosphere where you can get lost every day. I love wandering and getting lost around the city. Now, I am surrounded by art every day. I believe that in such a magnificent city I have to dress appropriately.

The seeds that have now blossomed and exploded in my style were sown in my childhood. I think they were planted by genetics. I am a daughter of two art lovers and my aunt is also a creative, stylish spirit known for her colorful scarves, her coats, and her unique way of decorating by adding delicate flowers on everything.

In this soil, the seeds began to germinate watered by black-and-white movies. While my parents watched, I was enchanted by the style of movie stars. My favorites are the ones with Grace Kelly and Marilyn Monroe. I remember being dazzled by their beauty. As far as Italian films are concerned, I grew up with Alberto Sordi and Sophia Loren. Gradually, this passion became more and more amplified and I became interested in fashion, too, especially from 1860 to 1960.

I entered the world of second-hand as soon as I was born! I wore secondhand clothes more out of necessity than passion. Having two cousins slightly older than me, they gave me everything they didn’t wear from the very beginning. For me, it has always been the norm to wear clothes that someone has used before.

I remember the joy mixed with curiosity when bags full of their clothes arrived at my home and I tried them on, anticipating the moment when I would wear them myself. It’s this kind of joy that still accompanies me now when I walk into a vintage store.

I like to mix elements of past eras. I especially love the 50s and 30s, and also the Rococo and Belle Epoque styles. Of the Rococo, I love the bows, corsets, collars, pearls, fans and rich fabrics. Of Belle Epoque, I like hats, feathers, lace. Of the 1930s I like the silk elegance, hairstyles, and makeup. Of the 1950s I love the dresses and skirts, of the 1960s the makeup and shoes.

It would be a dream to be able to wear only original vintage clothes but these are very delicate garments, sometimes the sizes can be difficult to get right and rightly so, the prices can be too high for me. So sometimes I wear contemporary clothes, too, mixing them into my style.

I think the high pricing of vintage garments is justified because the items are one-of-a-kind. Fortunately, the size can sometimes be readjusted and the wear and tear can tell the story of the garment. Don’t let a small rip or hole hold you back. Everything can be fixed!

It is extraordinary to wear and give new life and style to clothes from past eras. By wearing vintage and secondhand, you understand that you can and must express yourself through your uniqueness. You can wear anything you want, free from the dictates of fast fashion and brands. You are the style. And that’s the best lesson I’ve learned.

My personal style involves skirts, lots of skirts. I love wearing them. And corsets, bows, polka dots, and flowers. My biggest love of all is hats. I just adore them. Especially early 1900s-style straw hats and veiled hats.

My style is like a spring meadow, where the flowers represent all the icons that have inspired me: Dita von Teese, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Marchesa Casati, Marie Antoinette, Madame de Pompadour, and the beautiful girls portrayed by the Impressionist painters at the end of 19th century.

Currently, I am looking to expand my wardrobe with corsets and more Rococo vibes.

My favorite places to shop vintage in Rome are the Humana Vintage stores and Porta Portese flea market which I visit at least once a month. I also love to find little hidden vintage gems in Roma – the secret is to just wander the streets of Rome and enter every single shop that inspires you.

The best way to start taking your first steps in the world of vintage and secondhand is to open the closet of your mother and your aunts, and if you are lucky enough, even of your grandmothers. Never underestimate the potential that these garments we already have at home, available at no cost, can offer us!

Many times, my ’living’ in the past era clashes with today’s reality. Sometimes I forget my cell phone at home and I don’t even have wifi at home because I just don’t need it. I guess I am atypical girl living in 2024. But that’s okay. I love what I’ve become, and that’s also thanks to the power of vintage.”

Follow Carolina on Instagram @carolinacominelli