Meet Nichole Ciotti of Vanilla Extract

The fashion world loves its classifying monikers: classic, feminine, downtown edge, or the more recent creative trend hybrids: athleisure, normcore and health-goth.


This sort of broad codification helps us all articulate, identify and understand the key traits attributed to different style genres. Leather jackets typically fall under downtown edge, grey marle and white sneakers speak to normcore and printed leggings go to athleisure.


But some style setters’ esthetics are so elusive, they can only be filed under the alluringly vague, “je ne sais quoi.” You can’t quite pin down why they exude such original style—they simply do.


Nichole Ciotti falls into this elite fashion echelon.


The brains and style behind blog Vanilla Extract nails every look she posts—check out how here—but it’s nearly impossible to explain how or why. How does she make worn-in skinny jeans look so luxe? Why is her baggy cotton tee so perfectly fitted? What is it about her take on oversize knits and beanies with pom-poms that feels sexy, not sloppy?


Check out our Q&A with Ciotti, including her bookmark-worthy shopping tip-off, personal-favorite S.F. hangouts and her super-easy, product-free secret to getting that camera-ready glow!


When did you start your blog?

August 2012, shortly after I moved to the Bay Area as a way to chronicle my adventures in a new city and share my passions. As far as the name, Vanilla Extract, I like to extract the ordinary out of every situation and share things that are anything but vanilla! 


Do you have a real-life style icon?

My mom. She always puts effort into her style and still plans out vacation outfits weeks in advance. I always admired her ability to make inexpensive pieces look rich and luxurious, as if she spent thousands of dollars on one single outfit alone.


Style advice to your 18-year-old self?

Experiment, but stay true to your style. Figure out what that style is and buy pieces that work together so you have endless outfit options, no matter the occasion. 


What shoe or piece of clothing in your closet will you never throw away?

My Vince Camuto Leila studded tote. I don’t know how I lived without it, quite honestly. It fits everything I need at all times and is the perfect representation of my style: simple but edgy.


What does the first hour of your day look like?

I don’t deviate much from my morning routine. I typically browse Instagram and check email. First thing, I have a warm cup of water with lemon—it’s a great detoxifier and does wonders for the skin even though it’s so simple. When I get hungry, I always drink my Glowing Green Smoothie, which I make the night before. It has tons of fiber that keeps me full all the way until lunch. Since the smoothie is easy to digest, I have tons of energy and barely need coffee until almost noon!


Last song you sang in the shower?

“Sorry” by Justin Bieber. I definitely became a Belieber in 2015!


Last time you laughed until you cried?

I saw Amy Schumer’s standup two nights ago. I lost it!! She is so funny, and her jokes are unfortunately (at times) too relatable.


Favorite cocktail?

The Faded Crane from Umami, which is vodka, Valencia orange, lime, orange bitters and soda water. They go down like water! 


Favorite hostess gift?

A bottle of Ménage à Trois Red Blend. It’s my favorite wine to give and receive.


Best coffee shop in San Francisco?

My favorite spot is Coffee Shop in Walnut Creek. I’m obsessed with their pumpkin latte all year round and often tackle my inbox from their rustic community table a couple times per week.


Best thrift shop?

I’m not a huge thrift shopper, but The Haight [S.F.’s Haight-Ashbury district, specifically Haight Street] is known for its epic shops. I do love visiting the Alameda Flea Market every once in a while. There are around 800 booths and all items are 20 years old or even older. 


Favorite city block?

I love Cow Hollow. It has so many cute boutiques, restaurants and art galleries. Every part of San Francisco is magical and so charming!