classics, op-ed, styleandsubstance, style file

STYLE + SUBSTANCE the return

On why I am relaunching STYLE + SUBSTANCE.


style + substance

I keep thinking at vulnerability as one of the greatest traits of strength in a woman’s life. The more I mumble over the subject in my head, the more I see it happening through life’s daily episodes and I convince myself of its truth.

In dire moments of political and social turmoil, we all long for strength and confidence, as I perceive from many of my readers messages. It’s to honor my small and rich community of exceptional women that I have decided to relaunch the series by inspiring everyone with the same women that inspire me.

Because “empowered women empower women” something I wish I had said first, instead I read it somewhere and I would credit the author if I knew it.

“Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita” the inception of Dante’s Inferno that we all have tattooed in our memories, reminds me of my freshman year, also known as “quarta ginnasio” for my Italian readers.

Back then, I was 15 going on 40, I had a life ahead of me, the world in my pockets, I was invincible, in my head. I was also so many light years distant from my mom’s and the little town where I grew up. My life used to revolve around summer, the season when I would become the butterfly from a year in the cocoon.

I was never instructed, invited, empowered to nurture the best of me, my strengths were never magnified because even with a B+, there was always someone else in my class who had scored an A, right? Which is, according to my friend Gabriella, typical of Italians: we don’t promote ourselves like we were our own marketing team, we are always prone to consider who did it better than us. We don’t cry, we don’t show we are hurt or vulnerable, we swallow pride and accept that there’s always someone better than us.

That’s why I have always been “team summer” and never autumn, the season when nature starts decaying, sad and depressing, leaves die, it’s cold and grey, all elements of that vulnerability that “we don’t show”. Until I found myself living in a place where there was no autumn or winter and all that strength of the summer started fading poorly. Maybe I was as good in the summer as I was in a season that doesn’t exist down here?

“I’m grateful to them, and to my fifth-grade class, because if they hadn’t made me cry, I wouldn’t be able to cry on cue now. [Dabs tears]

If I hadn’t been told I was garbage, I wouldn’t have learned how to show people I’m talented.

And if everyone had always laughed at my jokes, I wouldn’t have figured out how to be so funny. ” says Gabourey Sidibe in Vulture

It’s on the weaker side that you build your strength.

Emotions guide your life, they don’t define it, they are like revolving doors, you smash your face on them once on the way out and chances are you will again on the way in the kitchen. You cry, learn and move on.

“Happiness comes from solving problems” – The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

Everyone wants the perfect and fabulous life, the one that many depict in their social media persona.

Success and the empowerment that derives from it are the product of your pushing through struggles, defy your current status and reach for the stars.

If you do all this with the most exquisite clothing, les jeux son faits, or, as yours truly says it: “Luxury is a state of mind”.

classics, italianstyle, op-ed, style file, style

When your age is in between

Menocore is the new Normcore was declared by The Manrepeller.

Intrigued as to what 'meno' would stand for? 

My Latin and ancient Greek trained mind interpreted it as “less” and got excited that it was a Manrepelling version of minimalism. Alas, it referred to a-50-something year old woman that who doesn’t care what other people think and just wants to be supremely comfortable.”

So: sure, that’s what you do when you are not a Millennial and you are lucky enough to have reached a point in your life when you own your style, you know what looks good on you and what doesn’t without having to fit into a description or a trend or a social media post. In other words, th art of not giving a f^&*

At this point, the description of what is “menocore” went on and all that liberty and freedom above was bypassed by a need of fitting into a definition.

Pero, why? (one of the fine things I have learned in Miami)

Here’s what Menocore dressing is according to The Manrepeller:

-      billowy pants sporting elasticized waist bands (in Stromboli or Panarea that’s all you wear; in the book's chapter "Borrow from the boys" I describe how )

-      head-to-toe ecru (chic in my books)


-      well-loved market bags (like the shoppers that you use instead of using plastic bags at the supermarket? Like Ikea or Balenciaga?)

-      loose tops with bold prints (Hawaiian shirts?)

-      exposed bras (honestly, us over-50 love free nipples)


-      clunky sandals (Marni or Prada you mean?) or sneakers (All Stars for sure)

-      loose ponytails secured with scrunchies (please refer to the last chapter of the book: “Some things you never do” no matter what age)

-      a porcelain bowl of freshly-cut pineapple sitting on rumpled white bedsheets (we eat in porcelain plates, don’t use SOLO cups or plastic nothing and bedsheets are hand-embroidered linen)

-      jewelry that looked like something a kid might make in art class (yes, you don’t wear those cookie-cutter parures of bijoux they sell at the mall, and said jewelry is usually mixed with 24 karats gold family heirloom jewelry)

-      unapologetic sun protection for unapologetic sun protection’s sake (we don’t wear sunprotection, remember? We are over-50 and wrinkles we have already. Tourists wear unapologetic sunprotection)

-      tarnished gold barrettes (we don’t own cheap pharmacy stuff, do we look like we live in a dorm?)

-      sequins just for the fun of it (if not us, who?)

My first time being hurt by something The Manrepeller publishes, I guess I felt called into the conversation because of “that certain age” or “older”. 

The article redeemed itself when they realized they had hit the “ageism” button and specified:

“the movement […]  pays long-overdue homage to an age bracket that is often ignored by the fashion industry.” So basically is Millennials and Gen Y on one side and Iris Apfel on the other side, middle-aged women have no saying and menocore is what is for us.

Why do we need to categorize and be put in a class, like “no you go in A and your friend goes in B, you may meet at recess or for lunch, but not together for this year”.  Then you know where is the problem? We need to define everything in this country, “normcore” “menocore” “office attire” “cocktail attire”.

I wrote a book in which I described “Italian style” and what it means in 10 chapters because there isn’t one single definition that serves to describe what it takes to adopt the Italian way. And, no there are no trendy or pretty adjectives to be used, we may eat pineapple, but also a great pasta and a red Chianti, and we know a good one from a bad one, we don’t ask for Cabernet or Chardonnay, we look at the wine list. It’s a timeless, comfortable in your own skin attitude, simple, slow, sophisticated, and, by all means, we never buy stuff one size smaller.

classics, op-ed, style file

Are you living a luxurious life?

Is luxury a concept that went bankrupt in the year 2000? You know when people in 999 thought the world was going to end and nobody would ever see 1000?

A luxe life can be made of cars, travel, possessions like real estate, jewelry, furs, cars, boats and airplanes, art and travels, it’s normally something tangible, visible, show-off-able. All of the glitz and glamour, the richesse that was expected of the Hollywood stars is now in the hands of celebrities and influencers.

For what I am concerned, luxury is a state of mind.

You don’t need to have a floor dedicated to your closet, to always look impeccable, as long as whatever you wear is chosen with the mind, the heart and a good dose of taste and style. “Buy less, choose well, make it last.” Vivienne Westwood said it back in 2014 in a statement interview about capitalism, consumerism and sustaining her war against fracking.

You don’t need to have a chef, why not just be your own chef? When the ingredients are impeccable (that’s where you don’t settle) no need to EXTRA anything: a simple bowl of fresh pasta, butter and Parmigiano is comfort for the senses, when’s time for artichokes or truffles add them.

Flying private is a luxury, however a peaceful sailing on a small boat, fish and eat your catch, and get lost in an inhabited island with no Wi-Fi is even more of a luxury.

Haute Couture is a 1%er reality, something that we can profusely dream on, however the alternative is not that fast fashion “I would like but I can’t” attitude. How about a talented dress maker? You’ll wear pieces inspired by the catwalks yet made to measure, you’ll choose your fabric, print and accessories and will go through a privileged experience that encompasses all the senses.

What's not luxury?

Luxury is not mass, is not cheap perfumes or knock-off bags, aspirational new-money, is not shining logoed belts, key-chains and shoes.

style file, style, op-ed

It's a Fashion Revolution

April is the month in which the activities around slow fashion and sustainable practices take center stage and culminates with Fashion Revolution day on the 24th.

It's also the month of Vivienne Westwood's birthday whose quote became a motto of any sustainable aficionado.

Buy less,
choose well,
make it last
— Dame Vivienne

Why a revolution?

Because we all love fashion but has come the time when looking good also has to mean feel good about what you are wearing.

It means knowing that what you have purchased has been imagined, designed, cut, sewn, steamed, embroidered, produced and finished in fair and transparent conditions. Fashion is still an industry that values ideas, people, without forgetting about the environment and profit.

The production chain of the fashion industry has reached that far exceeds the limit: one of the heaviest environmental impact in the world after oil industry. And this is because coal mining is almost at its extinction.  


It’s a campaign launched in the UK three years ago and its worldwide impact has prompted the creation of a Transparency Index, that is, a list of global fashion brands that disclose name and address of all the facilities where their garments are produced. It’s an empowerment movement for garment workers, sustainable companies, for designers and creatives, students, who have an extra chance to become visible.

Why did all this start?

Do you remember in 2013 the collapse of a building in Bangladesh that killed 1134 people and left 2500 injured remained in history as the Rana Plaza tragedy?  They were garment workers left to work in conditions so inhumane that could be compared to slavery, forced to live in the same unhealthy establishments. Those were the guys that would sew the $10 H&M jeans or $15 Zara T-shirts.

Why us?

It’s our duty, it’s not “them” anymore, we can’t allow blind ignorance “they are all the same, they all pollute, I go for the cheapest, I won’t make a difference alone”. The same way we need to know where our food comes from, that it’s not injected with poisonous ingredients to make it look uniform, shiny and plump, we have the right to know who made our clothes, if the materials are produced under best practice rules, if labor laws are respected and fair trade applied.

I strongly believe that in 2017 we ought to be active citizens, not just citizens that are governed by some out there entity, responsible consumers and conscientious entrepreneurs. Community builders, if we really need to label ourselves, is another of those roles that we ought to take as parents, if we want to hand our children a healthy future.

In my vision, it’s a revolution to bring things back to how they were.

We have too much, we don’t need to produce more, we must waste less.

The parameters of the affluent society are o v e r . Economic growth has created a need for more with less, less time, less creativity, less money, less protection, and less quality. Fast, everything is fast, shopping compulsion leaves you craving for more, you cannot just be, you have to have, own, throw and buy. We are led by the carrot like donkeys and what loses in the game is the environment, because economic growth and environmental protection are two opposite forces. 

The Fashion Revolution has its ways of leading towards transparency, there are events all through the week of April 24th and one in Miami too. Take it to the comments if you will be attending. I will.

To see how sustainable is sexy and chic, GO HERE

classics, italianstyle, style file, op-ed

When a man asks for style advice, what do you think I do?

"The Cheat Sheet of Italian Style" is not published yet, but I found out it can help the guys too, who don’t have it that easy as we think.

A friend, Ed, posted the following challenge in a closed Facebook group.

“Ok ... here's a challenge for you folks.

Back in the day, about a hundred years ago, I used to LUV wearing a suit and tie to work.

Now that I work from home? I have two uniforms: Summer, cargo shorts and a polo. Winter, jeans and a heavy flannel (or hoodie).

So what I need from you good people is convincing that I need to dress better... say like this dude, my Insta bud” accompanied by a picture featuring a rainbow circle of what looked a bunch of lace up, brogues, loafers.

First of all: Ed is a professional, owns several businesses, is the only member of the group I have personally met and, even if we differ in our opinion for cargo pants (gulp) is a man of style. Don’t mess up with his wristband watches collection though, and, for his own delight and many more hopefully, there’s a chapter in the book titled “Borrow from the boys” which will be highly entertaining.

The Facebook group he is the administrator for is composed of men and women, all independent consultants who write, that is copywriters of a new generation, the ones that are entrepreneurs first, they come from and live all around the globe, and I think it’s enough to describe the kaleidoscopic congregation of highly prolific minds.

Which brings me to my first point: walk out of your comfort zone.

It’s easy for me to talk about style and fashion and the empowering experience that is discovering one’s style when I talk (and write) from the standpoint of a “professor”. I know, I see where you are making the mistakes, I correct, you pass the test, prize? Your own contentment, happiness, fulfillment, growth and one more person distinctly dressed in the world.

But the lively conversation that ensued catapulted me out of my realm: it was like preparation for the SAT (and yes, I have a Junior in the house, so the analogy comes spontaneous), rough territory, mine fields. I am humbled by the experience and I have to share my takeaway.

The concept that stood out was: I work from home, I don’t need to dress-up and that makes me happy because the years of corporate dressing are gone. The peak was “dressing up slows me down and depresses me”, a brazen statement to hear that I am still trying to dissect it and attempt to understand.

Corporate attire

In the book I describe in details what happened when I was handed my first Employee Handbook that listed in HR jargon what I had to wear. My first encounter with “corporate attire” resulted in 6 of the most miserable months my heart recalls. “Do you mean I am “the girl that does Facebook” because I am wearing a black taffeta full skirt by Oscar de la Renta to work? Didn’t you ask me for “black”? So but then if I’d wear a black ill-fitting sheath dress from ____ (I blank out, but it’s some bridge collection from Macy’s) I am “the girl from marketing”? I leave it as is, I still get fired up about it and the book will do.  


Truth is: there’s no dressing-up for _____ insert what you want, church, office. The only dressing up is when you are attending a gala that requires couture level and sartorial knowledge or when you play dress-up as a child wearing what your parents wear for galas.

Dress for.

I am going to break another news, the concept of dressing for _____  is a major fail that brings the self-esteem levels lower down the drain, besides creating an insurmountable divide between Italian style and American style. B O Y I said it, but it’s true, just look in the streets and in the metro.

Only person one should dress for is oneself. 

The cliché

The undertone of many comments was the cliché of style and fashion as shallow which is so … shallow, I don’t really know where it comes from, maybe usual male dominated corporate America that sees a woman or a man caring for their appearance, clothing, accessories, new seasons, colors, fabrics, collars as frivolous.


I just have a quick annotation: many of the colleagues of the group own a business, have a website, have profile pictures all “dressed-up” according to their standards, because the rest of the time they live in comfort “exercise clothes” and “scruffy looks”. When they need to meet a prospect client they simply put the “interview suit” on. I find it an alarming divide.  First, truth is, when you dress up for an occasion in which you want to impress, like a networking event or an interview or a meeting with a prospect, good chances are you’ll be sniffed miles away. Second, we are not college students going for the first interview with a Calvin Klein suit charged on the department store card and returned the following day, that is not what you expect from a professional.

To put it in different words, the ones of the founder of the group, “Even when I'm only on the phone with them,[the clients] I can't imagine having a serious conversation if I was in raggedy sweats.”

Metrosexual, who?

There seemed to be some misunderstanding as to what metrosexual means, which is, by the way, one of those words so 2011 that is not used anymore, unless you want to corner someone. And, to give so humorous respite to this opinionated piece, I’d like to invite everyone to laugh their belly out with “Fuck yeah menswear”. Style is an individual language, the first and primordial one, boxing it in to definitions and titles has been attempted forever, some of them resisted the gods of the weather, like prep or sprezzatura, some of them like metrosexual or normcore got weathered down.

Hell yeah, it was a trip down a lane I had never walked before, hard to digest, but more so convinced that my ten struts to the Italian way make sense even for whom is not Italian.