Tomato Girls: Not Food, Just Fabulous!

The term tomato girls is really quite ridiculous, but it's a lifestyle and attitude I can get on board with. Here's everything you want to know.

Catherine Zeta-Jones, tutta a famiglia, in Capri last week, was photographed lounging on a yacht. Lounging against white cushions, her caftan, the precise shade of the ocean behind her, was slit up to — there, exposing a length of sleek, tanned thigh. There were huge sunglasses hiding half her face, flip flops flecked with glitter dangling from glossy platinum toes, silver hoops dangling from her ears, and a heavy necklace around her throat. That could be Michael Douglas’s knee on her left; I’ve never studied his knees.

She’s got it down. Dripping casual chic, Italian style.

The Tomato Girls are all over tik tok, padding about in espadrilles or blessedly flat leather sandals, skirts a ‘swish, shoulder-wide hats shading the nose, shoulders, and decolletage. Inspired by Italian movie star style – or movie stars in Italy – Sophia Lauren, Monica Vitti, everyone’s under a Tuscan Sun this summer.

It’s an aesthetic that has nothing to do with tomatoes (though red makes frequent appearances in posts on the subject) and everything to do with the sort of freshness, warmth, and voluptuousness associated with Southern Italy. Who wouldn’t want to be sitting on a patio in Capri, if not a yacht, sipping a Bellini?

It’s also a look that smiles on a little age. Zeta-Jone’s gorgeous get-up needs a little patina, shall we say, to pull off. And the older you are, the more striking you’ll appear.

There are, however, some guidelines for wearing the look with panache

You have to slow down, and move with insouciance – no schlumping. That slow motion is the best way to beat the heat, outside of a taxi or a Vespa, is a given, but you get extra points for style.

Everything’s adrift in slow, floating motion. Soft, long, loose skirts, palazzo pants, tops, and scarves provide delicious camouflage for an abundance of pasta and that extra scoop of gelato. They also disguise a (just guessing) multitude of problems like cellulite, varicose veins, assorted spots, dings, sags, and bumps. Plus, you can flap that fabric around should you need to cool off.

Thankfully, a sliver of a frame and a 24-inch waist are not prerequisites. In fact, depending on the garment, a few extra pounds can be downright sexy.  

Find Your Inner Tomato Girl

I’m loving this voile shirt dress from Frank and Eileen, which can go from beach cover-up to dinner in breezy style. It comes in several colors and patterns and in linen and denim, though they had me with white. Just slide on some sandals and grab a straw tote ($288).  If you have a waist, try cinching it with a classic woven leather belt. This one’s $69.95 at the Gap. Otherwise, let it flow.

Check out this classic sundress in cherry red stripes for wandering the farmer’s market on a Saturday morning. There’s enough going on with the shoulder ties to obscure a bit of beef in the biceps – but if you’re self-conscious, think about adding a little shrug or a scarf wrap. At Nordstrom. $198. 

Faherty Sundress

Is this ever hot! Unless you’re 6 feet tall, this Tropical sundress from Farm Rio at Bloomingdales is a little too long for day – have your tailor take it up to mid-calf length. But for a jolt of joyous color and loose comfort, this dress is hard to beat.  ($255)

FARM Rio Sundress

(More? Check out the maxi dresses gathered earlier this month for these pages. They totally catch the zeitgeist.)

Wrap up a too-bare top with a featherweight cashmere scarf. This one, from Peili, comes in an astonishing 44 colors, measures 90.5″ x 39.4″, and costs just $89. Don’t let it get caught in the Bugatti wheels.

Peili Scarf

Or cover up completely in a caftan that lets you drift elegantly through the day and evening – or about the yacht. The Aragon jacquard caftan at Soft Surroundings has some glitz at the neckline, and gold threads are woven throughout – but don’t let that put you off wearing it to the market, dress it down with a raffia clutch and laced flat sandals. On summer sale, $69, reduced from $200.

Soft surroundings caftan

Neiman Marcus calls them beach pants; I call them palazzos ($145)… perfect for hanging out on the terrace or sashaying about town. Wear them with a tank top, or cover up with the matching big shirt ($145); they’re just so very… swish.

Lost Paradise Palazzo Pants

The sandals. There’s a reason why you see the Birkenstock Gizah from here to Rome and beyond. After a few wearings, the cork footbed molds to your foot like it was made for you.  There is nothing to irritate a bunion; they stay on, you can wear them all day in comfort, and the style is simple and classic. The price ranges from $99.95 for the faux leather (which is just fine) to around $150, give or take, for the ones with the leather straps.

giza birkenstocks

These flat leather slides from Marc Fisher ($69.99) are so sexy if you’re not going anywhere fast – or want to slip them off and play barefoot Contessa.  I have yet to find a pair that stays on; I guess that’s why they’re called slides.  But they look so cool!

Marc Fisher Flats

How about espadrilles? For a slightly different take on the style, these Bendsen Wedges from Vince Camuto at Nordstrom are all tied up in ballerina pink. $110.

Vince Camuto Wedges

A straw tote is absolutely de riguer – sling one over your shoulder, and you’re the full tomato.  J. Crew has a classic in their Market Tote that’s roomy enough for your beach towel – or groceries. ($118). The Squishee Tote II from Eric Javits is woven straw with integrated straw handles and is said to be perfectly squishy for travel. ($227.50)

Then there’s the proper topper. A Borsalino is fantastic with palazzos or floaty shirts and shirt dresses.  You may notice the similarity to the Panama we wrote about last week – but we’re in Italy now, so Borsalino it is. This one’s at Neiman Marcus ($430).  

Borsalino Hat

But there is nothing, nothing, to compare to the big-brimmed sun hat to complete the look. Consider this beautiful cartwheel from the San Diego Hat Company, available from Amazon in 9 colors (including Barbie pink) and priced from $35 to $53, depending on color.

San Diego Hat Company Women's Ultrabraid X-Large Brim Hat

And to peek out from under that brim? Certamente, a cool pair of shades. Take a gander at these from, all priced at under $30 and simply made for la dolce vita.

Peepers sunglasses

Now, just practice saying ciao! A double air kiss, one for each cheek, wouldn’t hurt either.


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