Donald Trump was inaugurated earlier today and the fashion world was focused on who designed the new First couple, especially after a number of designers came out publicly ahead of the inauguration refusing to work with the incoming President and his family.
Ivanka Trump sported an asymmetrical cream-colored coat over slim fit pants by Oscar de la Renta.
American designer Ralph Lauren made the pale blue coatdress that Melania Trump wore. Coat dresses were a big theme of the inauguration, a look that Kate Middleton is known for sporting.
For the better part of two years, face highlighting and contouring has taken over the cosmetics industry. And, it raised the question with us at BellaVitaStyle: Why stop there? Contouring and highlighting your face play up all of your best features while minimalizing the flaws, and shouldn’t the same principles apply to your legs?
On our recent trip to Cuba, we tried out Say Hello to Sexy Legs’s range of leg glow gel and contouring sticks. The brand is great, and gives you glowing legs that instantly make you look more toned and tan. I love that their glow gel, $38, goes on smoothly and hides the appearance of any cellulite and imperfections. I paired this up with flouncy dresses in Cuba before a night out and got lots of compliments.
Their illuminating fluid, $34, gets applied down the center of your leg, from the thigh down towards your feet, to add an extra flash that also makes your legs look more toned and thin. Lastly, there is the piece de resistance, the contour stick $21, which really pulls the entire look together. You use this to accentuate the lines of your muscles and create shadows. Don’t tell my friends, but I used this on our beach day in Cuba, because it made my legs really look great in photos. So, it’s perfect for everything from a day at the beach to a night out on the town.
First lady Michelle Obama’s time in office might be coming to a close soon, but her influence on fashion is here to stay, from bare arms to espousing and promoting indie American designers throughout the Obama’s eight years in office (Think of how she propelled Jason Wu to star status). Below are some of our favorite looks she sported while in office.
We are forever indebted to Michelle for bringing sleeveless dresses mainstream. This caused a stir at the beginning of Barack’s presidency, which sounds silly in retrospect, but Michelle continued to show off her toned arms throughout his presidency.
She is expert at the color blocking trend, wearing bold patterns, geometric shapes and other eye-catching dresses.
The First Lady often turned to floral prints for functions, and somehow struck the right balance.
Michelle had an eye for finding up and coming American designers, wearing Thakoon, Jason Wu and even Self Portrait, and putting designers on the map.
We recently went on a week-long trip to Cuba and I took my outfit planning super seriously. Havana in particular is full of so much color, from the architecture to the restaurants and natural beauty, that I wanted my outfits, and photos, to really fit the theme. So, I spent a month shopping ahead of this trip to find the right mix of boho and frilly and pastel and bold prints. Here are some of my favorite finds and picks if you visit Cuba. (And if you do, make sure to read our Travel Guides ahead of time here and here).
Pretty much everything from the Privacy Please range worked in Cuba. Think flirty wrap dresses and floral prints and pastel coloring. I particularly love the Kimono dress pictured above, $238, with its bright floral print. Would be perfect for salsa class.
This Jarlo dress, on sale for $85 (!) is perfect for a dinner in the abandoned mansion that is La Guarida. Loving the caged skirt and the play on high and low.
I played around a lot with fabric and texture on the trip, looking for lace insets and such. This Yumi Kim dress nails that concept and would look great next to a vintage bubblegum pink car. It’s on sale for $139.
Earlier this week, we brought you our guide to booking a trip to Cuba, especially as an American. You can read it here. Today, we bring you our Cuba Travel Guide, which has day by day itineraries. Read on below to get some ideas for your trip. Our guide is about 60% fun and boozy, 40% cultural, so feel free to mix and match and amend to suit your needs.
Morning: The best way to get a feel for Havana is by getting a car tour in a classic 1950s convertible. Trust us on this one, it was a definite highlight of the trip. You can arrange and book this ahead of time, or you can hire cars in Old Havana right near the Iberostar Parque Central. This should cost around $40/hour and two hours is perfect. The car will bring you to each of Havana’s neighborhoods (see our neighborhood breakdown in the post linked above) and should come with a tour guide. During the tour, ask to see the famous Plaza de la Revolucion in Vedado. Ask them to bring you to Vedado’s famous ice cream parlor, Coppelia. You will also see Mirimar’s mansions and other iconic parts of Cuba along the way. By the end of the tour you will have a great feel for Havana and its history and feel well situated.
After, do a Hemingway-inspired bar hopping tour. Hemingway was a fixture in Havana, having written some of his most famous works there. Added bonus: the guy knew how to drink. Start at Floridita, where daiquiris were invented and they taste better and unlike anything else you have ever tasted. There is a live salsa band playing music as you sip on daiquiris. We wound up staying here for way more drinks than we anticipated.
Next, walk down Obispo street which is bustling with shops and bars and live music. Walk a bit until you get to La Bodeguita del Medio, which was Hemingway’s favorite bar for Mojitos. A famous saying of his is on the wall behind the bar: “My mojito in the Bodeguita del Medio and my daiquiri in the Floridita.” So, you know, this counts as being cultural.
After you finish your mojito, keep walking down Obispo until you reach the famous Hotel Ambos Mundos. Their rooftop is to die for and has wonderful views of Havana and the sunset. Order pina coladas in a pineapple and take in the view. The food here is also great if you’re feeling hungry. On the way up to the rooftop or on the way down, take a tour for $2 to see the room in the hotel that Hemingway lived in for ten years. His fishing poles and type writer are still in the room. Havana’s famous plazas are walking distance to Ambos Mundos, so check the four of them out before or after you are here.
Pre-dinner drinks: Head to the famous Hotel Nacional where old Hollywood and diplomats stay. The hotel has 50s glam everywhere you turn. Sit out back on the patio and order a pina collada. It was the best we’ve ever had. (Pro tip: it’s also a great spot for late-night Cuban sandwiches and also has a wonderful cigar shop with Cohibas, Montecristos and other offerings at great prices)
Dinner: Head on over to La Guarida in Centro Habana for dinner. It is in a stately crumbling mansion that is beautiful. It’s also Havana’s best and most famous restaurant. That means, the second you book your airfare, start calling and emailing La Guarida to try and get a reservation for around 9:30pm or 10 p.m. Ask for a table on their rooftop, but if they only have indoor tables, take it. The food is delicious and you really can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. You can book a table at La Guarida by clicking the link above. Other places will require phone calls and hounding to make a reservation, so be prepared.
Drinks: Go to Buena Vista Social Club, Casa de la Musica (there are two locations both with live music) or Havana’s jazz club.
During the day we suggest a mix of culture with some pool hopping. Start with the Museo de la Revolucion in Old Havana, which retells the history of the revolution (but from Fidel’s perspective). Next, walk next door to the Museo de Belles Arts, which is a mix of modern Cuban art, classic portraits and other exhibitions. You can do both museums in two hours.
Next, take advantage of Havana’s beautiful rooftops. We swam in the rooftop pool of Iberostar Parque Central and The Hotel Saratoga. If you’d rather explore during the day, Grab a sunset drink at Hotel Saratoga.
Salsa — one of the highlights of the trip was salsa lessons at La Casa del Son. Make a reservation ahead of time. Lessons are around $10/hour. We learned SO much and had so many laughs and even tried to go back for lessons another day but they were booked.
Dinner: Head to El Cocinero near Miramar for dinner. Make a reservation ahead of time and sit on their roof which is strung with lights. The drinks here are delicious and the food is even better. Bring some Cuban cigars to smoke while you wait on the food. Everything we ordered was amazing, especially the special lobster. The rooftop is super chic and sexy, and gives you the perfect vibe for what is set to be your wildest night, since Havana’s Fabrica de Arte is right next door. (To make a reservation at El Cocinero, email: email@example.com)
Drinks: Head to Fabrica de Arte, an amazing space right next to El Cocinero that is part bar, art exhibit, live music etc. I’ve never been to anything like it, and the vibe is so fun and amazing. Everywhere you look is sensory overload because the art is beautiful and the music is great and upbeat. Go early (around 9pm) as the line extends around the block. Be prepared to wait in line, or you can do what we did and pay off the bouncer. This is THE place to go in all of Cuba and it is only open Thursday–Sunday, so make sure to plan and earlyish dinner at El Cocinero one of those nights so that you can do both on the same night to be efficient.
Head to the beach. Either arrange for a car ahead of time, or hire a taxi to bring you to Playa del Este, which is about a 35 minute cab ride from Old Havana. Ask to be brought to Santa Maria beach where the water is turquoise, the sand is soft, and everything is dirt cheap. We drank pina coladas out of pineapples for $3 each and renting our sunbeds were just $2. Ask your driver to come back and pick you up at a certain time, because getting a cab home can be challenging. We had a big cab for all of us and it was about $40 each way. There are also buses that go to the beach that are cheaper.
Depending on what time you get back, head to one of the rooftop bars you didn’t get to check out the day before for sunset.
Dinner: We loved both El Atelier in Vedado and Los Naranjos, also in Vedado. Both are Paladares — or restaurants run by Cuban locals out of their homes. But neither are quaint. They are housed in stately mansions with eclectic artwork and finishings that make you feel both elite and cozy.
Los Naranjos is in a beautiful setting. First, you walk through an entrance blooming with exotic palm trees and plants. The interior has gilded mirrors, glistening chandeliers and high ceilings with crown molding. We sat on their terrace (sensing a theme yet?), but the inside was just as beautiful. All of our food was delicious and they have nice bottles of wine and champagne, too. This restaurant dripped with opulence and the food was great.
Atelier is known for its flavors. There is a food scarcity in Cuba and one of the common knocks against the food is that it can be bland. Atelier’s owners stock up on spices when they make trips to the U.S. so the food is full of flavor. I had the absolute best ropa vieja here. Get it even to share for the table. The menus are handwritten and they have great offerings. We sat on their terrace, because obviously.
Drinks: Head to Cafe Bar Madrigal nearby for live salsa and great drinks. Or, head to Serai, a high-end club in the neighborhood.
If you have more than three nights in Cuba, consider leaving Havana and checking out Vinales (two hours by car and doable in a day trip) or Trinidad (four hours each way and better to do over night for one or two days).
If you decide to stay in Havana longer, we spent a day in Vedado, where we booked lunch at Cafe Laurent on its terrace and then walked over to the 50s ice cream parlor, Coppelia. We loved both. You can also do the Canon Ceremony which happens each night at 9pm where a cannonball is shot into the sea. (You can take a cab there or pay less than a dollar to go by boat). We also recommend doing a sunset walk along the Malecon.
Having recently spent a week in Cuba I’ve decided to put together a travel guide because the interest in traveling to the island from friends, family and readers has been overwhelming. This post will focus on booking your trip, since I’ve fielded tons of questions on how to go about doing so. We’ve also written a second part that focuses on our itinerary to Havana and, our fashion guide of what to wear in Cuba.
First, the practical tips for booking a trip. We had a lot of anxiety booking this trip since Cuba is technically off limits to U.S. travelers looking to explore the island for tourism. But, don’t let that deter you as the Visa process is extremely easy. As American citizens you will need to have one of twelve approved reasons to visit Cuba in order to get a visa. These include a work visa, journalism, etc. If you’re going for tourism purposes, choose the “People to people/education” option on all of your documentation, from when you are booking airfare, to when you are buying your visa to get into the country. You don’t need to actually get the Visa until the morning of your flight and it’s easy peasy.
The morning of your flight, get to the airport a little earlier than you normally would and follow the signs for your airline’s Cuban visa entry. You will wait in a small line, fill out a form, pay $50 and voila, you’re good to go, no questions asked. It is literally as simple as that. Just don’t lose the visas, since you need one to get on the airplane, and you need one to leave Cuba. On your return into the U.S. customs is super easy. They hardly ask any questions about the reason for your travel and I even got my passport stamped when we were in Cuba.
In terms of where to stay and where to go, be aware that booking things in Cuba is much more difficult than other places, so give yourself a longer lead time. For one, there is hardly any internet on the island, so communicating with people there is much more complicated. We stayed in a hotel only because it was a last minute trip. When I go back, I will be using Airbnb or staying at a casa particular– a very common way to stay in Cuba. You essentially stay in a local person’s home and they will either rent it out to you in full or stay with you and cook you breakfast. It is the best way to learn about their culture. Plus, hotel stays aid the Cuban government which has oppressed its people. We liked the idea of staying with locals or doing Airbnb and helping the Cuban people. Also, both options are super cheap at between $20 and $60 each night. (Hotels are much, much more expensive. Hotel Nacional, which is the nicest, could be $400+/night. Mid-range hotels are more than $100/night)
Be aware that communicating with Airbnbs and casa particulars while trying to book takes a lot longer time than it would in the U.S. And, you’ll have the frustrating experience of finding great Airbnbs which show up as available on the website, only to contact the owner and learn they have already been booked. Because of lack of internet, it takes the owners longer to mark the homes as booked. Even so, I suggest doing all of your booking yourself. Travel agents will make life easier, but what could be a really inexpensive trip will balloon into a $5,000 trip (seriously. They even charge more than $100 for the visas above)
Getting around Cuba can be challenging, especially without the aid of Google Maps, which won’t work on your phone. I highly suggest coming up with a rough itinerary of museums, restaurants, hotels and other sights you want to see while in Cuba and dropping pins on your Google Maps prior to leaving the U.S. Pre-dropping pins will allow you to navigate where you need to go while you are there. I’d suggest pinning anything you may consider doing just to be safe.
Pack anything you may need while on your trip, since shopping while there isn’t really an option. We packed Tylenol, bug spray, stomach medicine, sunscreen, etc.
Take out money in advance because U.S. Credit cards don’t work in Cuba at all. When you take out your money, take out Euros as there is a 10% tax to convert U.S. dollars into Cuba’s local currency. Take out as much as you think you need and more because you can’t access ATMs. If you book an Airbnb, tours and other activities in advance, you will likely pay by credit card ahead of time, which is great. But some places require cash the day of, so keep that in mind. For a frame of reference for how much things cost, our most expensive dinner which had a ton of food and booze in Havana’s best restaurant only came to $40/head with a tip. Cab rides within Havana are around $5. Cabs to and from the airport will cost you around $20 each way.
Now, here are our suggestions for Havana. We didn’t make it to the countryside, but Vinales (two hours away from Havana and doable in a day trip. Havana Journeys tour group came highly recommended) and Trinidad (four hours away from Havana and more of a night or two trip) are supposed to be great. If you plan on doing either trip, spend three to four nights in Havana first.
Havana is wonderful and colorful and full of life and music. There are a few main sections of it: Old Havana, Centro Habana, Vedado and Mirimar. Old Havana (or Habana Viejo) is where we spent most of our time as it is the most iconic part of town, packed with restaurants, bars, live music and historic monuments and museums. It is also the most walkable part. (You can visit the other parts of Havana mentioned during a car tour, which we highly suggest and get into in our next guide)
Centro Habana is where the locals live. It is more gritty and spread out. There are fewer monuments and museums and such to visit. My favorite restaurant — La Guarida — is here, so it is definitely worth visiting.
Vedado is an upper class part of town that is green and leafy and full of mansions that must have been beautiful in their day before the city went into disrepair. It is an interesting blend of grand architecture and crumbling disarray. There are beautiful restaurants in palatial manors in this area, we will suggest them below.
Mirimar is the Beverly Hills of Havana. It is where the local celebrities, friends of Fidel and the like live. It is beautiful and spacious. It’s a good spot for dinner, but you likely won’t want to spend all your time here.
Before you go, I highly suggest reading Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea.” It’s a short read and Hemingway is such a fixture in Havana. You get a great feel for Havana’s culture and people through the book. Netflix also has a documentary that was a good primer called “The Forgotten Revolution” that is worth watching.
Stay tuned later this week for our Day by Day itineraries!
One of our favorite trends this winter is the cold shoulder — strategic cut outs on your shoulder and arms that are sexy but not too revealing. Here are some of our favorite ways to get in on the trend:
I personally own this Sweet Romeo waffle sweater and it’s the best way to get in on the red — it’s black, has a great shape and can be worn with pretty much anything. Oh, and it’s just $19.
If you want to take the look into the evening, The Outnet has you covered with their Bailey 44 could shoulder top, which cinches in at the waist and pairs nicely with skinny pants or even a pencil skirt. Comes in blue and black, also, for $55.
This dress pairs all of my favorite trends: midi length, cold shoulder and has a great profile. It’s $278.
Manhattan has become home to the latest and greatest fitness classes that attract cult followings. For those with gym burnout, there are no shortage of options to kickstart your routine and try something new. Luckily, we’ve spent the last month trying them out and coming up with our favorites. Here’s the skinny on our favorite classes. With most of them, the more classes you buy upfront, the cheaper they are on a per class basis. Added bonus: In the summer, many of the classes are offered in the Hamptons.
Barry’s Bootcamp The Skinny: This class is a mix of treadmill exercises and floor exercises that are high intensity and will leave you drenched in your own sweat (in a good way). You alternate between the treadmill where you will jog, sprint and take your incline to crazy heights while your instructor gives you directions on how fast to run or at what incline. I’m not a big fan of running, but it is amazing how quickly the running parts fly by.
Refine Method The Skinny: Step into the West Village’s Refine Method into a beautiful boutique studio with room for just twelve students. (For those uptown, there are also studios on the Upper West and Upper East sides). Refine Method is a wonderful blend of cardio and strength exercises that are done non-stop for 45 minutes, meaning that you are burning calories the entire class. I’ve been to two classes and here’s a mix of some of the exercises you can find yourself doing: jumping rope, kettle bell swings, squats, kettle bell rows, box steps, etc. Because the class sizes are so small, the instructors spend a ton of personal time working on perfecting your form and even make a concerted effort to know everyone’s names.
Cost: $34 a class, but for new members, you get a class free after paying for your first one.
Bar Method The Skinny: Tucked on Soho’s Sprint Street is Bar Method, a kick-ass workout that targets your thighs, butt, arms and core inside of one hour. I attended on a recent Saturday afternoon and took a mixed class with Chelsea. I loved how Chelsea coached the class through each motion, and spent time with us individually on our form, ensuring we got the most out of the workout. I noticed that Bar Method differs a bit from other classes in that you hold poses longer, which means that toward the end of an exercise, your legs are literally shaking as you try to keep your form. We did a mix of weights, pushups, barre work and stretching that leaves you feeling limber and strong. There is also a midtown location in Manhattan.
Swerve Fitness The Skinny: I’m a huge fan of spin classes and think they are a great way to pack a lot of calorie burning into a session, so I wasn’t sure how Swerve Fitness could improve upon a standard spin class or Soul Cycle. But, since trying my first class, I’m now a believer. In a Swerve class, you’ll do all of the standard drills you do in a typical class, from hills to sprints to arm weights. The difference is that the class is split into three teams — red, blue and green, and your intensity during the class and during timed sprints is scored, awarding your team points. The effect is that you find yourself working extra hard not to let your team down, digging in and sprinting where you otherwise might have given up. I left the class drenched in sweat. After, you get an email with your calorie burn, rank in the class and rank on your team.
Cost: Classes are $30 each, but for new riders, you get an extra one for free.
Pure Barre The Skinny: This popular chain of barre classes is in a bunch of major cities, and is perfect for people who travel often and are looking for a cohesive class on the road. I recently took a class at their Columbus Circle location in Manhattan and was impressed. First, Pure hands down has the best music of any barre class I’ve been to, and that kept me motivated and tucking even when I thought I was out of tucks. I loved the barre work in particular, and my trainer really worked us hard, through a series of leg exercises that had all of our legs trembling. I sweat more in this class than in the other classes I’ve tried, which is also a plus. Would highly recommend it. Bonus: they have a few locations throughout NYC.
SoulCycle The Skinny: If you’re looking for an intense, but zen, spin class, then Soul is it. Some liken the enthusiasm its participants have to a cult, but the class is equal parts a good workout and a fun girls club where instructors are super motivational and play great music. They were also one of the first spin classes to incorporate hand weights, and don’t be fooled, even the three pounders provide a tough workout.
Kore The Skinny: This interval class combines kettle bells, planks, dance, cardio, strength and other activities into a high-energy workout. I went on a Saturday, and beware, it’s very crowded on the weekends, and had Tim Anderson as my instructor. Tim has worked with Madonna in the past and has a dance background, which was evident in his class, which combined lengthening and toning moves with cardio and some dance-inspired bits. You are moving non-stop – I actually don’t even remember having water – but I say that in a good way because you really push yourself. We did squats, planks, sit ups, core exercises etc. The music was amazing and Tim was super fun. This isn’t a class for people looking for personal attention on form, but is definitely fun and a hard workout.
Cost: $35/class. New users get two for price of one.
Physique 57 The Skinny: I never understood the hype around barre workouts, until I tried Physique 57. This workout combines hand weights and a ballet bar to seriously give your legs, abs and arms a major workout. I had a difficult time just making it through the warm up, which was a series of exercises using five-pound weights. The class is extremely challenging, but you can feel your muscles working the entire time as you squat and pulse and lift. Great for those looking to tone up.
Cost: $36/class, but newbies get two for the price of one. Also is on Classpass.
Cyc The Skinny: This high-intensity spin class with two locations (Astor Place and Hell’s Kitchen) is as fun as it is challenging. The studio is brightly-colored and spotless, and the class is really well choreographed to music that makes you want to move and keep up with the beat. (Shout out to our instructor for playing a dance remix of Britney Spears “Hit Me Baby One More Time”) The class has a mix of sprints, tap backs, and hills interspersed with hand weights that will have your arms wanting to wall off. I left the class dripping in sweat and totally energized for the weekend.
Cost: $28 for one class
Row House The Skinny: This workout centers around, you guessed it, rowing machines. During the 50 minute class, you spend the majority on an erg machine, rowing at different speeds and intensities. The rowing is broken up by a few sets of floor exercises, such as planks, squats, lunges, etc. This is one of those routines where learning the right form may take a few classes. While it’s a workout, it’s lower intensity than a spin class or some of the other classes described here. You won’t leave dripping sweat, but you will feel sore the next day (speaking from experience!).
Cost: $25/class for a three pack.
Tone House The Skinny: Where do I even start with this workout? I went into Tone House having read the reviews that it is “New York’s hardest workout” and mistakenly thought that was clever marketing/hype. Boy was I wrong. I consider myself on shape and I exercise five days a week, but this class majorly kicked my ass. You start out with a “warm up” of sprints over hurdles. By the end you are winded and feel like you could vomit. It only gets harder from there.
December is always the month where you think ‘where did the time go?’ We, at BellaVitaStyle, are thinking the same thing. 2016 is coming to an end. But before we spring into 2017, we must celebrate. Hence, our top picks for your upcoming New Year’s Eve party… let’s sparkle together x
This Zhivago Informant dress is what I’ll be ringing the New Year in. It’s $396.