At 56-years-old, former fashion model Pia Cross still turns heads. If she’s not wearing make-up, Pia will simply don a fabulous pair of sunglasses, add a slick of lipstick and head out. “My hair is very important though and I do like it short but if it’s not right, I don’t feel 100%,” she says, adding that she’s particularly happy with her hair stylist, Luda from Victor Picardo in Praia do Carvoeiro, a small town in the Algarve, where Pia lives with her elderly mother and 12-year-old daughter.
“A good pair of sunglasses are important as well, especially when you’re not wearing much make-up,” she smiles. “And I do accessorise a lot.”
Pia has a penchant for a good handbag, and has collected a few Louis Vuittons over the past 30 years, one of which was bought on Bond Street in London during her 50th birthday celebrations. Another, she tells me with a wicked grin, she got for a steal on ebay – “and it’s certainly not a fake”, she adds. “I do like to use them on special occasions, plus they’re a good investment. I might sell them eventually or I might pass them on to the girls. Pia has three daughters. Her youngest, Luisa. Almost 18-year-old Alexis and 20-year-old Amelia.
Pia believes your style can go a long way with a good pair of quality shoes and a handbag. One of her current favourite handbag brands is Radley which she buys online. “They’re very good cross over bags,” she says.
When she was eighteen, while Pia was modelling, her flatmates sent off an application to British Airways on her behalf – for a joke. “You can imagine my surprise when I was invited in for an interview! My speaking six languages clearly had a lot to do with it.”
Pia went on to work for the airline, where she met her husband and got to travel the world, working for the company for 18 years and obtaining the rank of Purser.
“We used to spend an awful lot of time in the departure lounges where I could satisfy my love for fashion. On one occasion, Amelia, who was quite young at the time, exclaimed, ‘Oh God, you’re not going to look at another handbag are you?'”
Just before Pia gave up work with BA, she was chosen to model Paul Costelloe’s landmark uniform (below) which would go on to be worn for the next eight years. “I was practically mobbed wherever we went,” Pia says. “BA staff in every country wanted to see, and feel, the uniform. It was fun though.”
“I always wanted to be involved in the creative side of fashion, but that wasn’t meant to be so I’m creative in other ways now. I love photography and I still like to knit, crochet and embroider. I will happily change the look of an outfit by altering it in some way.”
It’s Pia’s eldest daughter, Amelia, who is following her own (and her Mum’s!) dream of fashion design, currently studying bespoke fashion at the London College of Fashion and working part-time for Mulberry.
As for Pia’s own sense of style, she does struggle to find decent pieces here in the Algarve, shoes especially.
“There is nowhere here to buy great shoes, so at the end of the day, I’ll buy them online. But I have enough,” she smiles. (Can a woman ever have enough?!) “I haven’t bought much here over the past few years but I am back and forth from the UK so I tend to shop more there. I do like Hobbs. Their products are classic and they fit well.”
Here though, she has bought the odd item. Like this pretty white lace top (below) from Lefties, which looks surprisingly more expensive, or the odd shirt from Zara. Occasionally she might find something in Primark but not often (she’s usually forced in there with her youngest daughter).
“As long as an item doesn’t look cheap, it can be worn with other pieces to give it a different look,” she says.
As for evening wear, Pia loves the classic Little Black Dress.
“It always goes down well. But there’s not much demand for dressy clothes over here,” she says, and I do agree. “It’s tricky because so many people tend to under-dress here and I don’t like to.”
So Pia’s beautiful evening outfits never fail to go down well, usually getting that wow effect every woman wants. “But I don’t dress for anybody else. I dress for myself.”
And I agree that is so important with style.
Pia has always looked after her skin, cleansing and moisturising morning and night.
“When I was worked for BA, this was so important because flying can really dry out your skin. But I don’t tend to use expensive products. And as for make-up, I have a mixture of good products with less expensive ones. I love Estee Lauder’s lipsticks and Chanel’s eye-shadows as they last a long time. Alternatively, Kiko is quite good.”
So Pia’s advice for a stylish look?
Choose quality over quantity, mix and match more expensive items with cheaper ones and always make sure your hair looks fabulous. Oh, and don’t forget your sunglasses.