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  • 5 Style Dos and Don'ts from Italy
    Take your cues for fall from the fashion capital of the world
    Our Paesani

    by Francesca Di Meglio

    The crisp air flowing through my bedroom right now is a sign that fall is arriving. That means it's time to pull out the warmer gear - from sweaters to scarves. I've always had a hard time being stylish while piling on the layers for the colder season. But turning to my fashion-forward friends and relatives (especially my boyfriend) in Italy helps keep my cool even in the cold. I thought I'd let you in on some of my style secrets. Here goes:

    White socks are only for the gym. My Italian friends frown upon the American fascination with kitsch socks with lots of colorful designs and our willingness to wear white socks under anything. My boyfriend only wears black socks under slacks or even jeans. He even has black sweat socks for working out. (I prefer the white ones for exercising because the dyes used for black can be irritating to the skin when you sweat.) Nowadays, I'm reformed, however. I've ditched those socks with the dogs and cats on them. And I only wear black socks under long pants - even denim.

    It's a cinch to look smart. Pick up a nice, long scarf - maybe even one of those affordable ones you can buy on the street in many cities (including New York). Fold it in half and drape it around your neck. Then, put the fringed side through the loop made from folding the scarf in half. Finally pull the fringed side through and cinch close to the neck as desired. You'll look like a European professor in a matter of seconds. In fact, if you care a copy of Dante under your arm, people will be convinced of it. And you'll be warm, to boot.

    Don't be afraid of color. Italians - especially those in the South - are willing to wear something other than black - from aquamarine to bright orange. Even men wear hot pink - especially in the form of a polo.

    The key to using splashes of color in your wardrobe is refraining from over doing it. In other words, if you pick a red scarf, wear it with a black shirt. Pair the fuchsia sweater with simple jeans. Or incorporate color into your accessories. My boyfriend Antonio thought I dressed too much like a librarian, so he gifted me a watch with a red leather strap. Italians are always looking to make a statement with their clothes and color is one way to do it.

    Bulky is not sexy. Young, hip Italians always layer their clothes in the colder seasons. But they do not ever let their clothes overwhelm their frame. The key is picking finer items that fit your shape. Wear an undershirt (think Jockey), a white cotton button-down shirt, and a thin black cashmere sweater. Many Italians even wear those padded vests - but never the really thick puffy ones. They prefer the quilted kind, which do not bulk you up.

    Never have a bad hair day. I personally have never been one to use product in my fine, limp hair. I always thought it would make it worse. But my boyfriend Antonio is a maniac about his luscious curly locks - as are most Italians. He doesn't even let me run my fingers through his hair for fear of frizz. And when it's cold out - no matter how frigid - he refuses to wear a hat.

    His solution? For starters he uses gel to maintain his curl and avoid frizz. And he swaps a hat for ear muffs - a specially made kind that molds to the form of his ear and has an unobtrusive strap that hangs on the lower part of his skull, near his neck, instead of on top of his head. We found them in a souvenir shop in New York City on a particularly cold day, when a blizzard was heading toward us last February. As a result of all this work, the hair gods smile kindly on Antonio - even in the lowest of temperatures.

    For more information on Di Meglio, visit her Web site at www.francescadimeglio.com.

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