Etiquette concerning which occasions are considered appropriate for displaying decorations of merit varies by culture. In Europe, decorations are generally reserved for very formal, white tie events. It is customary to wear only the ribbon to black tie events. In North America, the wearing of decorations is usually specified on the invitation. If unspecified some general guidelines can be followed based upon the dress code.
There are twenty-seven different orders that award Italian decorations. The Ordine della Stella della Solidarietà (the Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity), the Ordine al Merito del Lavoro (Order of the Merit of Labor), the Ordine Militare d’Italia (Military Order of Italy) and the Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana (the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic) are some of the most prominent orders. The Order of Merit of the Italian Republic consists of five honorary degrees: Cavaliere (Knight), Ufficiale (Official), Commendatore (Commander), Grande Ufficiale (Grand Official), and Cavaliere di Gran Croce (Knight of the Grand Cross).
The rosetta (rosette) is a small pin placed on the lapel of the suit jacket for any occasion.
For black tie events, the nastrino (ribbon) may be worn on the lapel. The fascia (band) is worn around the neck for very special events. The placca (plaque) is secured with a thick pin and is worn on very special occasions. Finally, and most rarely, those who receive the honor of Cavaliere di Gran Croce decorato di Gran Cordone wear a collare (collar) around the neck.
Official decorations and ribbons of merit should be worn for all white tie occasions and most black tie and morning dress events. White tie dress has largely been replaced in modern society on both sides of the Atlantic by black tie, but is still requested for very formal events.
For such ultra formal events, the sash with badge should be worn over the appropriate shoulder or may be replaced by a shortened riband. Sashes should be over the waistcoat and under the tailcoat. Up to four stars may be displayed on the left breast of the tailcoat. One neck badge may be suspended on a miniature ribbon just below the bow tie and miniature badges of orders, decorations and medals are worn on a metal bar on the coat’s left lapel.
For black tie events, which include private and public dinners, dances and parties, one star is worn on the left breast of the jacket and one neck badge on a miniature ribbon is displayed below the bow tie. As in white tie dress code, miniature badges of orders, decorations and medals are worn on a metal bar on the left lapel of the coat. Traditionally, black tie events take place after six o’clock or after sundown during the winter months.
Formal events which take place before six o’clock follow a morning dress code. These events are rare and the dress code should be indicated on the invitation. For morning dress events four stars may be worn on the left breast of the jacket, one neck badge on a full-width ribbon may be worn under the shirt collar and full size badges are displayed on the left lapel. Additionally at morning dress events, two miniature medals may be adorned. In general, displays of decorations should be limited to those which represent the highest, most prestigious honors. No more than six medals should be worn at once.
Cavaliere di Gran Croce
Placca (plaque) to be worn on very special occasions with thick pin.
Nastro da collo (neck ribbon) worn around the neck for special occasions.
Nastrino (ribbon) worn to black tie events.
Fiocco di nastrino (ribbon bow) worn to black tie events.
Worn in lapel for all occasions.