Cutting bella figura: Irony, crisis, and secondhand clothes in South Italy

Stavroula Pipyrou*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


Ravaged by financial austerity, people in Reggio Calabria, South Italy, are deeply concerned about their ability to maintain a bella figura (beautiful appearance). The introduction of secondhand clothes markets in 2010 was met with high emotions, bringing to the surface anxieties about the smothering social pressures to display a certain appearance and status in public. In troublesome encounters with secondhand clothes donated from northern Europe, actors adopt an ironic outlook, oscillating between fundamental categories of inclusion and exclusion, such as bella figura and secondhand citizenship, that conflate global flows of charity with colonization. Secondhand clothes are a possible solution to maintaining bella figura but only by means of delicate waste management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)532-546
Number of pages15
JournalAmerican Ethnologist
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 14 Aug 2014


  • Secondhand clothes
  • Italy
  • Irony
  • Crisis
  • Charity


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