“You’re in a city full of well dressed assholes.” The first time mom visited me in Milan she understood why I had been growing my hair out and crying to her on the phone. “Please let me take you shopping.”
I’m from Croatia, but I grew up in North Carolina. Both of those are “practical” places where heels are for weddings and students wear pajamas to class (actually only American students do that and shame on y’all). I spent my adolescence identifying with the “punks” (laugh all you want but back then Chapel Hill had loads of punk shows and an “edgy” heroin problem), so while I did sport some hot looks (plaid skirt + pig tails = original) I only ever did so in hopes of fitting into “the scene” or provoking my piano teacher.
In college, I lived in jeans and T-shirts, sometimes Ben Sherman button-downs for special occasions, like keg parties. I definitely wasn’t ready for Milan.
I moved here in 2008 for an Erasmus program meant to last one semester, but after two months I called mom from a gelato place (pasticcio, FTW) and said I had to stay. I realized this meant leaving ASU for good and starting my studies from scratch, in Italian, which in retrospect was a cray-cray idea but whatever, I’ve been here ever since.
Why did I stay? You've read "Eat Pray Love," right? Well, it’s nothing like that.
I didn’t stay for the men or the food; in fact, I stayed in spite of them. You think Italian Stallions are a real thing? Italian men are only infamous because they have a special way of being assholes that no other nationality can touch. (Trust me, I’ve tried them all). I know Madonna wore that shirt proclaiming that “Italians Do It Better” but surely she was referring to the Italian Man’s unmatchable ability to lie. I didn’t care for the food either, because, you know, Body Issues, etc.
No, I stayed for the ladies. Or, the female-fueled inspiration I never felt anywhere else. Women here not only have unprecedented skills when it comes to looking #fabulous but they also just Kill It In General and I guess being around that energy stirred something in me, or something.
I don’t know if it’s because they were Born This Way or because looking fierce is an Italian Woman’s way of compensating for the fact that her husband is having an affair with a study abroad student from North Carolina. I don’t understand how none of them feel temperature or pain when it’s in the Name Of Fashion. Either way, Italian Signoras are Chic To Death, even in the Dead Of Winter. Here’s how I’ve learned to stay hot and look warm during this season, like them.
1. Iconic Beauty
Nothing protects your skin from windburn like a full face of Sophia Loren meets Donatella Versace meets Anna Dello Russo makeup! So cover your bad self in swooping eyeliner and paint your lips way beyond your lip line (I don’t even know where mine is anymore) and you’ll be set for whatever the world blows at you. Lancome’s Hypnose makes your eyelashes look like spiders and I’d give up 10 years of my life to get a lifetime supply of Mac’s Russian Red lipstick, just saying.
2. Tacky Bling
Who cares if your fingers are frostbitten as long as they’re covered in rings? I got these for 20 bucks at Zara. They warm my heart when nothing else can. Electric cigarettes are chic winter accessories because you don’t have to go out in the snow to smoke them. They’re also great for your social life/personal brand/narcissism, as nothing screams, “LOOK AT ME!” like, “I may or may not be smoking indoors.”
You need a tough ‘tude if you’re going to master freezing your culo off with class. Look generally pissed off, as if your pasta just overcooked or your boyfriend just cheated on you, because it probably has and he definitely did. If your fiery personality doesn’t heat your parts, that entire bottle of Limoncello you drowned your sadness in for breakfast surely will. And if all else fails, nothing fights the cold like cursing! “Vaffanculo,” “Cazzo,” or just a loud, “Focaccia!” will do!
You have to wear heels all the time, sorry. Yes, even if it’s snowing! Especially if it’s snowing! Platforms (like the Top Shop platforms seen here) will raise you above the brown melting mess that is Snow In The City. You didn’t fall, you laid down dramatically.
I don’t know if this is so much of an Italian thing as it is a Tea-Went-Insane-While-Living-In-Italy thing but I just wear wigs all the time now. They keep my head warm and make me look fly so they’re basically an upgrade from hats and who cares about hats, anyway?
Italians wear real fur. If you tell them that’s wrong they react in the same way as if you say you’re vegetarian, meaning they’ll yell at you and throw scalding tomato sauce at your face. (I’m kidding, they won’t, but yeah, they will.)
For those of y’all with a conscience, faux fur works just as well as real fur does and Italians will just assume it’s legit because why wouldn’t it be? I got a faux black fur coat from H&M for like 50 euros two years ago and it still works like a dream, especially when I dream in it via falling asleep in it because I don’t have central heating. Just remember, a Real Italian Babe doesn’t even go to the grocery store without her [faux] fur, and she goes to the grocery store a lot.
What do you wear under your heavy fur, fake bling, caked-on mask and frozen stilettos? Next to nothing. The only clothes you should wear are party clothes because your life is one big pizza party! Ciao!