Lessons I Learned from Sophia Loren

Whenever I am feeling frustrated with my wardrobe or makeup, I turn to these timeless basics, from an Academy Award winning woman of style, grace, and substance.
Publish date:
December 26, 2013
Sophia Loren, glamour, lessons, wisdom

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“Everything you see, I owe to spaghetti” is one of my favorite Sophia Loren quotes. She is the very embodiment of the Italian stereotypical temptress, right down to her nearly lifelong romance with her husband Carlo Ponti.

Unapologetically sexy, she challenged Italian society’s modesty culture just by walking on the screen.

Upon arriving in Rome after growing up poor in war torn Naples, she was called Sophia Lazzaro, because her beauty could resurrect the dead man Lazarus. Often called the Italian Marilyn Monroe for her bodacious curves, she is no size 2, and that is the sexiest part about her. This woman was a master of acting, fashion, and shimmying to the beat of her own tambourine.

Despite being one of the most gorgeous women in the world, family was of utmost importance to this woman, as she took a lengthy break from acting to raise her children, endearingly fulfilling the role of the traditional Italian woman. Sometimes when I sit down to watch an old movie, let’s say anything earlier than 1965, and it leaves a bad taste in my mouth, especially if it is from Italy. This is often reiterated when discussing mid-century films with my girlfriends.

The romances don’t always seem romantic from our post-Beyonce views of marriage, equality, and the status of women’s rights today. But in comes not only a stunning, curvy, tall, visually LOUD woman like Sophia, and out goes that metallic aftertaste of pre-feminist film. Her roles were oft centered around the roles of marriage, or matrimonio, and she always hit it out of the park.

Sophia was not only smokin’, she was sharp as a tack. She was not only a good wife, but a good mother. She was not only a great mother, she had a great career. Sophia not only had a great career, she had a lifelong one.

Her roles were breakthroughs, playing facetious femme fatale Filumena in Matrimonio all’Italiana, she showed her foil and frequent co-star Marcello Mastroianni what was really happening in his life while his eyes were closed. Sophia Loren became the first woman in a foreign language film to win an Oscar. It was also the very first Academy Award presented for a foreign language performance. "Two Women" was the film, and a just barely 26-year old Sophia agreed to play a mother with a teenaged daughter, instead of the teenaged daughter, not allowing herself to be typecast or exploited for her age or beauty.

Instead of feeling let down by the art of times past and cultures distant, the proud, poignant roles of this woman have uplifted my spirit, as well as provided creative inspiration. Out of over 52 movie roles, a mere 6-10 or so are on Netflix and Hulu, and 2 of them are from 1990 or later. That is a bit of a shame, considering the huge catalog that spanned a career in Hollywood films as well as Cinecitta, the Italian version of tinsel town.

Luckily, some of the more renowned films are available for streaming, but unfortunately not "Two Women." Though it is easy to find on some of my favorite, ahem, illicit free movie streaming websites.

If you want some babe 101 training, watch her movies. The clothing, the makeup, the underwear! Also a very real reminder that World War II was crazy, and that we haven’t had that kind of invasion or battle on American soil in almost 150 years.

From allied bombing to bombshelling on the big screen, this woman is now almost 80 and looking great. If you are a film buff, you have seen her good friend Marcello’s role of Guido in "8½" directed by Federico Fellini. She appears with him in the 90s fashion insider comedy "Pret a Porter," also known as Ready to Wear, where she still killed it with comedy and a lingerie set.

Her signature looks include lots of cleavage, big hair, and a cat eye. All of these sound great to me, and are easy to throw together when you want to feel a bit more done up.

Big hair can mean a variety of things. Use that as you may! Whether short or long, thick or thin, curly or straight, all hair could use a bit more volume from time to time. Start by "roughing up" the roots with your fingertips. This will encourage hair to stand up in the follicle a bit more and increase blood flow to the scalp. You can use a root lifting spray, or even a bit of cheap gel in the roots of damp hair before styling to also help this process.

Most of Sophia’s styles seem to be roller set, which can also be tailored to your hair’s needs. For some of us the closest we can get to a roller set is a blowout, and others a curling iron, but try velcro rollers for root lift, you don’t have to wrap the ends in them! Just literally stick them in the roots in sections!

An exposed decolleté is much more socially acceptable now than in Sophia’s heyday of the 50s and 60s. Back then, it was especially frowned upon for a married woman. Sophia describes herself as the type to politely tell off rude commenters, a very valuable skill when gallivanting through any city with skin showing.

But the lesson is this: Don’t be afraid to dress a certain way if you feel comfortable. It is your right, and you look great. No matter what body type you have, or if you are 18 or 58, exposed shoulders are showstoppers. It will be 2018 in less time than has passed since 1958, so do not be shamed into covering up for anyone else’s sake. Being sexy and showing it is not and should not be offensive.

A simple cat eye takes much time to master, but once you do, just a few minutes to apply. One thing that has helped me in the past to achieve the perfect cat eye was cream eyeliner. Pencils are great when sharp, but they don’t stay pointy forever, and seem rather wasteful to me. Eyeliner pots to the rescue!

Personally when I am doing a cat eye, it is to really get gussied up. So one pot of eyeliner, kept tightly closed, lasts years. I take out a tiny portion with a clean brush and re-dab from my hand. Smashbox Jet Set is phenominal and long lasting.

I find that a stiff angled brush gets the best lines, and cream formulas wipe off AND smudge easier for smoky eye looks. Apply a contrasting color like taupe, brown, or blue into the outer corner of the eye and ⅓ of the way across the brow bone before applying eyeliner, this also makes hooded eyelids pop.

Whenever I am feeling frustrated with my wardrobe or makeup, I turn to these timeless basics, from an Academy Award winning woman of style, grace, and substance. And I remember that in all of the madness, some never stopped being a fierce and unapologetic source of female energy in its many forms.