My Stylist and Me
Get tips on being sexy, crazy, cool from one of my hippest cousins
“Get sexy already.” –Francesca Di Costanzo Liao (a.k.a. Little Fran)
I just might be my cousin Little Fran’s favorite project. She’s four years older than I am, and since I was born, she’s been trying to pretty me up. Her dream was to do hair, and she practiced on me for most of our childhood.
By the time I was 11, she had gotten pretty good at it. You might even say she was a hair artist. For my sixth grade graduation, she was able to detangle the knotty mess atop my head and turn it into a French braid so perfect it looked like a sculpture. With the help of Acqua Net, she even coifed my bangs to stand tall and proud – don’t laugh because you know you did it, too. Besides, I’m from Jersey, where big hair is still the state bird.
If it wasn’t for Little Fran, in fact, I probably would have been a big loser – even more so than I was – all through school. Although my father went to high school in the United States, he was an immigrant and worked three jobs while studying. He hardly paid attention to rites of passage or the cool kids. And my mother, although born in the United States, rarely if ever looks in a mirror, thinks sweats are an appropriate fashion statement for almost any occasion, and never ever wears make up. Bless her heart. I have to dress her when we go out.
In fact, it was Little Fran, who introduced me to slouchy Wigwam socks and the wonders of neon-colored clothes in the 1980s. Back when we spent every day of every summer together in my parent’s basement, she would dress me up to play runway model. She let me know that I’d have to shave my legs and wear a training bra before middle school, when we’d start changing for gym in the girls locker room. She even bought me my first lipstick – Lancome in a pearly rose shade.
When my long-distance romance with Antonio began, and I was traveling to his home in Ischia, Italy for the first time, she was quick to point out that I needed to look hot from the minute I walked off the plane. Little Fran reminded me that the women in Ischia are easy on the eyes and just plain easy in some cases. I had competition – but she was going to make sure I was a winner with her tips: “Show some skin. Wear tight shirts. Don’t be afraid of mini skirts. Panties and bras should match even if you’re the only one seeing them.” Needless to say, she quickly became one of Antonio’s favorite cousins.
A wife and mother, she never gets tired of making me over. Modest, I usually wear swimsuits with coverage – one pieces or a brief bottom or boy shorts paired with a tankini. Appalled, Little Fran ran out and bought me two bikinis before I left for Italy in June 2006. “Get sexy already,” she said to me with such conviction that I was determined to make her proud. I finally got it. The point is that you have to value yourself – inside and out.
I bought new, better fitting clothes that included a strapless shirt, halter top, Capri pants, and the prettiest flats I could find. (I’m still recovering from three knee surgeries that left me unable to put on heels, but I will get there.) Whenever Antonio and I went out for dinner, I was ready with the perfect black cocktail dress or a slinky silk number with a plunging neckline or a cotton dress that worked at the beach or on the town and even stopped just above the knee.
When I recently visited Little Fran’s new house for the first time, I wore a black and white paisley halter dress by Ann Taylor, soft leather sandals, and black DKNY sunglasses. I went for that glamour girl look, and I could tell she was impressed. She was beaming. “You look great,” she said. Her father told me I looked like a movie star. I should. After all, who else in my tax bracket has a personal stylist?
As I begin planning my next trip to Italy for the fall, I wonder how you can be sexy when there’s a chill in the air. Then, I stop worrying. After all, I’m sure Little Fran will tell me just what I need.