Years ago I taught a class in Boston called ‘How To Look Elegant on a Budget’. It was pretty popular and I enjoyed teaching it. First I would show pictures of men and women dressed elegantly and I would ask them what they would think of the person in the picture based upon how they were dressed. Inevitably I would get the same answers from the students that I got in every class in which I displayed these pictures. She looks like she is rich; well educated; discriminating; well bred; cultured; gracious; lovely; well mannered; well manicured; well groomed……and so on.
Occasionally there would be the slightly negative response of “high maintenance or unapproachable”. But overwhelmingly the students would have determined the people in these pictures as being class acts and they made these assumptions based only on how they were put together.
Then I would hold up my list of adjectives describing the non-verbal impression of Elegant style and all the words they had just said would be there on that list— proving that the language of dress is UNIVERSAL. Everyone understands it.
Some of the most famous Elegant names are Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelley, Jackie Kennedy, Fred Astaire, and David Niven. Always impeccable. Always appropriate. Always classy.
Some of us are just born Elegant. Some of us make it a point to become Elegant intentionally like Cary Grant did. But to be honest, Elegant style has taken a hit in recent history as dressing down for almost every occasion has become the norm and T shirts and jeans seem to be the go-to uniform for school teachers to dinner guests.
I’d be hard pressed to come up with many well known people who are such good examples of Elegant style living today. A few that come to mind would be Pierce Brosnan, Condoleeza Rice, Jeremy Irons, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Gwyneth Paltrow.
There are occasions when any of us would do well to dip into the Elegant Recipe Book. Occasions like weddings, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, court appearances, formal or ceremonial dinners or fundraisers, or just anytime that you would like people to perceive you as being a class act. So here it is. My Elegant Recipe. Choose any of the ingredients from this list to add elegance to your style. Notice how differently you’ll feel and how differently people will react to you then when you are wearing your jeans and T shirts.
Elegant Style Ingredients
Fabrics: fine quality wools, pima cottons, silks, linen, cashmere
Cuts: simple lines, minimal details, hidden buttons, timeless styles
Prints/Patterns: Almost none, woven patterns that are tone-on-tone, designer prints on accessories
Fit: Perfect. A key element is perfect fit. Get your clothes altered. Don’t settle for poor fit.
Shoes: Bought to match specific outfits; REAL leather
Jewelry: REAL, real stones, real gold, real pearls; expensive (or good fake) watch in classic tank style
Earrings: One in each ear. None anwhere else on your body.
Makeup: flawless, powder and/or foundation unless your skin is naturally flawless; mid-tone lips and cheeks
Nails: well manicured, natural or mid toned colors. No decals, fire engine reds, blacks, or ‘fashion’ colors
Hair: super well groomed; worn smooth and all one length; never any ‘roots’ showing, no fashion colors
and here it comes
One of the cheapest ways to look Elegant is with color. Elegants avoid bright hues like the plague. Their closets are filled with neutrals and a few neutralized colors. Black, grey, beige, taupe, creme, ivory, maybe some navy or tan if it suits their coloring. The occasional misty pastel perhaps (no cotton candy pink). These colors give years of mileage and when you pay for good cashmere and wool you will want them to last for years. The color is not what makes the statement. It is the quality of the fabric and the ‘make’ or cut that gets noticed. And Elegant dressers keep their outfits tonal, often wearing the same (or very similar) color top and bottom.
So the next time you want to look and feel Elegant, reach for or shop for an outfit in one of your personal best neutrals (see your personal color palette for this) or a misty version of your eye color and pull that strand of pearls out of your jewelry box. If you don’t have occasion to dress formally buy a beautiful high quality cashmere sweater in one of your best neutrals and wear it with a pair of slacks that have been altered to fit you perfectly.
Want to learn more about Elegant Style? Here’s a web site to visit.