“Elegance does not consist of putting on a new dress.” ~ Coco Chanel
It is no surprise that mature women like Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, and Jackie Onassis are considered icons of style and elegance. To me, one of the best compliments that you can receive is being told you are elegant.
Elegant [el-i-guh nt]. Characterized by dignified richness and grace, as of manner, dress, design, and style; luxurious or opulent in a restrained tasteful manner.
Pioneer French fashion designer Coco Chanel once said, “Elegance is not the prerogative of those who have just escaped from adolescence but of those who have already taken possession of their future.” I believe Chanel recognized what our current youth-obsessed culture seems to forget: it is the rare adolescent that has a true sense of style because style and elegance come from truly understanding your inner self, and being at peace with it. All of the awkwardness and insecurities of youth combined with a tendency to be focused on “fitting in” translates to selecting fashion trends rather than fashion style, disqualifying all but the rarest of adolescents.
“Fashion fades, only style remains the same.” ~ Coco Chanel
Many of today’s fashion trends look dreadful, in my opinion. So how do you learn how to develop the inner radiance that transcends into grace, style, and elegance? How do women learn to remain stylish and radiant without an endless budget? Since I’m a librarian, my answer is, of course, books!
Hair and skin care are important elements of elegance. In simple but engaging language, Eva Scrivo thoroughly explains self care in Eva Scrivo on Beauty. Eva notes that beauty care is “in her DNA” as her mother was a professional model and her father was a fashion designer and hair stylist. She believes in the connection between how you look and how you feel. The book is particularly strong in the area of hair care, and Eva designs the right haircut for your facial structure and head shape, explains how to select hair color, how to give yourself salon-worthy hair styles, and how to effectively communicate with your stylist. But she doesn’t stop there: Eva includes sections on make-up, beauty routines, skin care, foods that nourish and support hair and skin, make-overs for women over the age of sixty, and developing a sense of style. I especially like how Eva will tell you what she does for herself and also give you break-out boxes to highlight an additional tip on the subject. This is an excellent book to read from front to back, or to browse those sections of most relevance to you.
In Getting the Pretty Back, actor Molly Ringwald offers her insights on beauty and living well. When you are finished with this fast read, you’ll suddenly realize you learned a lot more than you thought! She includes her list of essential items to own, describes herself as a “serial monogamist”, urges women to find time for friends and fun, gives her thoughts on designing the perfect dinner party, and much more. Her title refers to the idea that again, the youth-obsessed culture tends to make women feel that they are no longer pretty once they reach a certain age. Molly refutes this and encourages us all to “get the pretty back”.
“My body is the shape I live in and it shapes the way I live.” ~ Raquel Welch
In Beyond the Cleavage, Raquel Welch dishes out bits of autobiography in this very interesting and enjoyable book on her philosophy of living and staying beautiful. Raquel doesn’t believe in plastic surgery and instead promotes good living and self care. She riles against the culture’s taboo against aging, or as she terms it, “the Big O”, and against what seems to be a culture devoid of true ethics. She reminds us that the only “true secret behind enviable beauty is hard work” that includes daily facial care, drinking water and eating well, resting, and fitness. She also gives plenty of insights into interpersonal relationships and issues with our current culture as well as fashion tips like how the colors you wear invoke different feelings, and how to pack for traveling.
“There is no cosmetic for beauty like happiness.” ~ Lady Marguerite Blessington
A Guide to Elegance by Genevieve Antoine Dariaux looks at almost every possible topic related even remotely to elegance, from accessories to zippers in alphabetical order. Each entry is about one to three pages and Dariaux certainly has a strong opinion about each one! Under Knees, she simply writes, “The proverb Pour vivre heureux, vivons caches was invented for them!” (Translated: To stay happy, stay hidden). Under Bargains, she reminds us that the price tag doesn’t determine if an item is a bargain … it’s how often you wear it that matters. A “bargain” dress that we never wear isn’t much of a bargain compared to an expensive piece that you wear every week for years. Dariaux spares nothing and gives you her opinionated look at elegance from every angle.
Ah, clothes. Reconsider your closet identity with the help of Kim Johnson Gross in her book, What to Wear for the Rest of Your Life: Ageless Secrets to Style. Designed specifically for women over the age of forty, Gross gives practical advice on style tips that won’t get old. She navigates the wardrobe helping define the essentials, rejects the sentimental favorites, and supports the style that helps you present your best.
“We must never confuse elegance with snobbery” ~ Yves Saint Laurent
In both French Women Don’t Sleep Alone by Jamie Cat Callahan and Entre Nous: a Woman’s Guide to Finding Her Inner French Girl by Debra Olliver, the authors offer tips to celebrate life and our femininity. By integrating beauty, love, intelligence, and romance into your daily life, the enjoyment and pleasure from any day is enhanced. For more on these books and the French way of approaching life, read my July 1, 2010 blog Le Petit Reins.
In Every Girl’s Guide to Healthy, Sexy, Strong Legs, freelance writer and former OWL Sunday Librarian Jane Merrill provides an invaluable guide to great legs including exercises to tone and strengthen, selecting proper shoes, dressing to accent your legs, best foot and leg care practices, and information on medical treatments. As Jane writes, “[w]omen want to be sexy (sometimes), attractive (all the time) and comfortable (as much as possible).”
Ann Marie is the Library Director for the Oliver Wolcott Library