Inside Rittenhouse’s Best New Makeup Boutique

Plus: the best bronzer ever.


Monica Virga (inset) and a sampling of her cosmetics line. | Makeup photograph by Kori Livingston.

Monica Virga is exactly what you’d think a celeb makeup artist from Milan would be: dewy olive skin, glossy dark hair, quirky glasses, dressed all in black. Her postage-stamp-size studio/shop is on South 20th Street, a hop-skip from Philly’s other ultra-chic Euro expat, Bela Shehu. Though I was expecting a slick lacquered space, all Italian modernism, Virga’s shabby-chic shop is far more inviting: lace curtains, repurposed bookshelves for displays, a tiny crystal chandelier, a snuffling bulldog.

Virga moved here from Italy in December (“for love,” she says; her now-husband lives in Bucks County) and opened her eponymous shop that same month. In Italy, she was a sought-after makeup artist, dividing her time between brides (lots of them; she worked with nearly 1,000 brides last year alone — you do the math), celebs (Ashley Greene, Bar Refaeli) and fashion shows, jetting from Milan to LA to New York. Now, her work is still divided: one part fashion, one part bridal/special event makeup ($50 for special events; $150 for bridal makeup), and — this is what excites me most — one part beauty boutique. 


Clockwise from top left: Monica Virga Cosmetics; Monica in her studio (check out the shoes!); some of the makeup offerings. | Photos by Emily Goulet.

Her makeup line, though small in comparison to beauty behemoths like MAC and Makeup For Ever, is impressive in its breadth: brushes, eyeshadow, lipstick, lip gloss, foundation (spray and cream compact), powder, blush, eye/lip/brow pencils, primer, BB cream, concealer, mascara. The prices are great — $16 for the lipsticks and the lip glosses; $32 for the foundation; $18 for the eyeshadows, $14 for a big brush — and the quality is top-notch (everything is made in Italy). Virga’s eyeshadows are rich in pigment (you’d pay at least $24 for comparable ones), and the lipsticks go on smooth and stay on even after a cup of coffee.

The real winner here, though, is the Terracotta spray-on bronzer ($45). Virga spritzed a bit of it on a retractable kabuki brush ($10; see it above) and swiped it thoroughly over my entire face. I left with a bronzed glow — no foundation needed! — and returned to work to a flurry of compliments (“You look so tan!” “Were you on vacation?” “You look very glow-y”). I’ve used it every day since; it’s become a permanent addition to my makeup bag.

Shop the collection online, or visit the store in person to try out the products (and get a taste of Virga’s magic). Whatever you do, add that bronzer to your list.

The Details: Monica Virga Cosmetics, 413 South 20th Street, Rittenhouse, 267-237-1508.