How To Be Elegant

 We’re all a combination of style characteristics. That’s what makes personal style…personal. How you dress is the outer reflection of your personal style and your behavior usually speaks the same language.

Working with a new client last week, we discovered that Elegant was a large part of her style formula. She also incorporated, sporty and sensual into the mix…but always in an elegant way.

..{ elegant behavior }..

~ She must have self-confidence.
~ There’s a graciousness to the elegant woman.
~ She is polished and refined.
~ She speaks softly and listens with quiet attentiveness.
~ She has a warm smile for everyone. She is kind.
An elegant woman looks people in the eye when they’re speaking to her. She doesn’t rush and acts as though every conversation she has… is the most important one of her day. You have her full attention when you’re speaking to her.

She is perceived to be highly intelligent.

Princess Grace of Monaco epitomized elegance.
..{ elegant appearance }..
An elegant wardrobe requires the art of self-restraint. The guidelines for an elegant wardrobe are simple and need not be expensive.
~ Uncluttered looks with clean simple lines. No overabundance of frills and extraneous details.
~  A comfortable, neutral color scheme that is not overly bright or jarring in its contrast to one’s own inherent coloring.
~ Beautiful tailored clothing that fits the body with a natural ease for movement, neither too tight nor loose-fitting.
~ Quiet, well-bred accessories that do not overpower the woman. Loud, ostentatious jewelry or accessories are the antithesis of the elegantly dressed woman.
~ She chooses clothing in the finest fabrics she can afford. Cashmere, silk, linen, the softest cotton, and wool.
~ The focus is on the woman. Clothes and accessories never eclipse her.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis is an example of grace and elegance in the face of tragic challenges.
“Less is more…”
wrote Robert Browning in his famous poem “Andrea del Sarto”, published in 1855.

This same concept is applied to the elegant woman’s wardrobe.

The famous architect Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe embraced this concept as a precept for his designs in the early twentieth century, which were characterized by simplicity and extreme clarity. His designs were refined.

Refined is often used to describe an elegant woman.

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Audrey Hepburn was another icon of elegance who embodied a sweet charm and gentleness of spirit.
We know an elegant woman when we meet her. We recognize her when we hear her speak and we are comfortable with her integrity.
Serenity, honesty, sincerity, and intelligence are all attributed to the elegant woman.Who do you think is elegant today?
Do you have elegance as part of your style recipe?

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47 Comments

  1. Thank you so much.
    I m so glad to know there are others out there with an appreciation for elegance and grace.

    Wow. So , I’m not alone.

  2. I wonder how you teach children in an elegant way. Being an example is one way. There are so many instances where children need to be corrected. As a grandmother, I would like to help my grands become elegant so that it does not appear that I am correcting them. Is this possible? Elbows on the table, chewing gum, and encouraging my granddaughter to wear a dress are three examples that come to mind. All suggestions are appreciated.

    1. I explain to my grandson how a gentleman would behave in the situation. Then I explain how gentlemen are appreciated and why they are preferred by everyone than someone who isn’t.

    2. You have a great question.
      I’m not a Grandmother yet ( tho’ I’m always hopeful.)
      What I did with my daughter is I’d always wear dresses in front of her and say nothing about it.
      And when she was 12 I found the movie “Gigi” and said “ you’ll probably like this great movie. If you don’t like it in 1 st 10 minutes you don’t have to watch it…”

      I picked up copy of book ( it’s a soft back more like a pamphlet) “ Tiffany Etiquite for Children.”

      And I’d say something CASUALLY. such as “ oh I found this little book. Its fun to read. The girl looks a lot like you.”

      Take your grandchildren to Sunday school. My daughter refused to go.
      So I’d get dressed and wake her and say “ I’m going to Sunday school see ya later.” When I came home I’d Casually say “ I saw so and so with her kids there. We had ( whatever, picnic outside or whatever childrens events were there.”)

      I did that for several months until she began on occasion to go too.

      Just you and grand children go to lunch at a quiet restaurant occasionally.

  3. Michelle Obama is always elegant. She is intelligent, kind and passionate about helping others. I am in my early thirties and she and Kate Middleton are my role models.

  4. Whatever happened to women wearing dresses and skirts everyday? All you see now is pants or jeans, personally I think that takes away your femininity completely when you start wearing pants, sometimes they do have their place, but wearing them everyday? No, not this woman, not anymore anyhow, I have been wearing pants for the longest time and I am no longer going to do so. I feel so unfeminine in them.

    1. I really enjoy wearing dresses and skirts too! Pants are convenient and seem to be taking over don”t they?

  5. Elegance in dress, behavior, manners, speech & thought went out the window with the advent of feminism and Women’s liberation. Women want to be seen as equal to men in a professional & personal sense…sometimes unfortunately that’s come with wanting to be counted as one of the boys….dressing in unisex or androgynous clothes & hairstyles, masculine agressiveness in behavior & speech, competition & inability to express or embrace feminine graces. Plus with each successive generation the next grow up without feminine & graceful role models to emulate other than in old hollywood movies which are not likely to be watched by a younger audience. Women really looked like women then, dressed like women, danced like women, flirted & charmed like women, behaved gracefully & modestly pre-feminism. Women of all ages strive to be regarded as “cool”, “sexy”, “independent” & “confident” now, not “elegant”.

    1. I disagree, Maria. Elegance still exists today. Women can be professionally successful, competent, independent, confident and cool…all while behaving and dressing elegantly. Societal role models still exist today for the elegant woman.

  6. We hardly hear a woman being described today as elegant. I was just thinking about Nancy Reagan who died today. Not a fan in particular but she carried herself elegantly. Iris Apfel is in the media lately, I would not call her elegant. I recently wrote a blog, Actresses over 50: Aging Gracefully & I should have used the word elegant to describe Isabella Rosselli & Helen Mirren.
    I think it has a lot to do with projecting self-confidence, being impeccably dressed and watchful how she speaks.
    Fun topic.
    I am forever posting Audrey Hepburn on my FB page.

    1. Elegant seems to coe in and out of popularity. I have always loved the elegant look. I wouldn;t descrive Iris as elegant either, she’s creative and highly original. A real spitfire who encourages many woman.

  7. Oh I love these photos – and yes – these women were epitomes of elegance. And I agree with the reader who tagged Kate Middleton as an example of elegance today. Such class.

    1. Of course! Elegance is not about superficial beauty. It is a way of dressing and a way of living your life.
      If you would like I could send you some images to clarify the parameters.
      Have a lovely day.

  8. What a lovely post! Some time ago it came to me as I was working away at a planning project (landscape) that “Simplicity is the essence of elegance.” which I promptly wrote down in my notebook. I transfer that sentence to each new notebook as a simple reminder.

    I have always been inspired by the elegance of the women you have highlighted in your post. Now four words come to mind as I attempt to wrap up my comment: Aspire. Essence. Elegance. Emulate.

    Thank you! I look forward to more inspiration now that I have found your blog….

  9. Elegance is rather harder to come by – also I feel that elegance isn’t valued by the younger generation. The media doesn’t really seem to reward elegance. It subliminally rewards women who have done lewd videos and then make them into these “stars” i.e. Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton. Plus there are few lady like women and when they are they tend to go overboard and almost come off dull and boring i.e. Kate Middleton. I had a hard time thinking of present elegant ladies and I could only really come up with Cate Blanchett. She is sleek well groomed and event appropriately dressed. After that the women all tended to be in their sixties so it was part of another generation. But I do miss elegance and I wish it were more prevalent!

    1. I can agree with Cate Blanchett! Part of the issue for younger generations is that so much of young culture centers on Hollywood, even more than in the past. And LA style is too casual to be elegant, even when “dressed up.” It’s a totally different way of thinking. As for the Kardashians and that ilk? When will that disappear…as we finally got rid of Paris Hilton.

  10. What an interesting post. I am in complete agreement with all of your points, and you have clearly chosen the “perfect” examples. All of these women were the icons of style and elegance of my youth.

    For me, true elegance gives the appearance of being truly effortless. It never looks contrived or deliberate.

    I would add one more attribute to the truly elegant woman — charm. When is the last time you heard a man or woman described as charming? Remember sending your little girls to charm school? Aaaah, the good old days. I miss them.

    1. Love your webpage! Love your examples. The world is a better place when we expect the best from ourselves.I enjoy being a lady, dressing tastefully, being kind to all. I disagree about Natalie Portman. She is physically beautiful, but when I heard her using profanity in Arabic on Youtube, she dropped down to gutter in my book. (especially because I understand Arabic)

  11. You are absolutely right about the elegant woman. She does not discriminate and is gracious and kind to everyone. It’s a tough act to follow these three ladies and their elegance.
    Classic is frequently elegantly styled and traditional can be too. But if the core value is elegance, even sporty and casual can be styled elegantly.

  12. I would say I lean more to the elegant than to other style memes, although I would refer to it as “classic” or tailored, as I have as much Katherine Hepburn as Audrey going on. I wish to add that an elegant woman treats everyone similarly, and doesn’t change personas to fit the people with whome she finds herself…she is the same to all, whether children, elders, colleagues, leaders….everyone is treated as worthy individuals and not pandered to nor coddled. Today’s elegant woman representative? A young one may be Natalie Portman. Of my age bracket, perhaps Christine Lagarde.

  13. A beautifully elegant post…I love your choices of elegant women, perfect…as Ms. Hepburn said… “the only true beauty that never fades is elegance”….nobody epitomises elegance for me more than Audrey Hepburn.
    Have a wonderful week.
    Catherine xx

  14. According to Mme. Dariaux in her book, “A Guide to Elegance”, I am exempt from being truly elegant due to the “handicaps” of having both freckles and a heavy bust. So I try, in vain I suppose, to be as elegant as these two hindrances allow. Sigh. : ) It’s a lot of work. Perhaps if I apply Browning’s “less is more” theory (the less I try to be elegant the more I will become so?), I will find an elegant balance.

    Lovely post though. I think if we spun that handbag around on Ms. Hepburn, we might learn that it is a Coblentz travel handbag. Very stylish. Just observing.

    1. I’ve read “A Guide To Elegance” also and do not agree with Mme. Limiting ourselves because of inherent physical characteristics is old school. Your elegance is very obvious!!
      You are also probably right about that bag. Good eye!!

  15. Interesting post. For some reason, until I read it I’d never realized quite so clearly how much elegance is a goal for so many. And it’s not, for me. I find this really useful, this recognition. Because at some level, I suspect I’ve been taking it on, in a way, while I don’t particularly care for it. Hmmm, going away to think now . . . Thank you!

    1. I’m glad you liked this. I’m never sure how much “image consulting” people want to read about.
      You seem more creative and sporty to me. People think being/looking elegant should be their goal. When really their goal should be to discover the “true” them and express it beautifully.

    2. Hmmm, I’m not keen on sporty (the running is different, to me anyway, and belongs to my later life — I was never keen on gym classes, etc.) but I’m flattered if you see me as creative. . . 😉

    3. Sporty style is not “gym” clothes. I’ll write a post on “sporty” style soon. It’s approachable, casual, friendly and natural.
      You mix it with creative very nicely. Which reminds me to write a post on creative style.

  16. Lovely post! As I get older, I want more and more to be elegant and am always taking things off more than putting them on. I am definitely NOT elegant in the garden however!

    I agree about Kate Middleton. I have to put Olivia Palermo into the category. Her style is effortless and she usually looks very elegant, which is difficult for a young woman to do.

  17. Lovely women and a meaningful post. The mind .. I agree. Beauty comes from the inside and I believe all women have potential.
    Happy Monday!

    1. Yes if that’s her choice, the potential is there. For many women it is just not in their style recipe and not important to them. Personal styles are so varied, that’s what makes it so fun to find our own uniqueness and let it shine confidently.

  18. THE WINNER OF THAT QUESTION BY FAR IS KATE MIDDLETON!I WOULD LIKE TO THINK OF MYSELF AS ELEGANT BUT BY YOUR DEFINITION I HAVE FAILED MORE THEN ONCE!WE ALL HAVE DREAMS!XXX

      1. I think Kate Middleton is the epitome of grace, poise and elegance. She is very regal. She carries herself with total grace. I love her beautiful style of dress.

      2. Elegance is actually deep respect. One behaves well because one respects the other people around them. A disrespect person is inelegant. An elegant person is like a good hostess or host, she/he is says and dies things to make people comfortable. She/he introduces people to each other, offers food or drink, begins conversations between people, and doesn’t dominate a conversation. She/he enjoys giving other people room to shine. She is never rude even when insulted by an inelegant person. If you teach your grandchildren to self-respect; they will be above being manipulated. If you teach them to respect others; they will be polite and thoughtful. The only other skill is learning to eat with their mouths closed, and voila— elegant grandchildren who become elegant adults.

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