The ultimate guide to elegance: When style outlives trends
Some people have claimed to have just ditched their chunky sneakers. Back in 2018, they seemed like a good idea. After all, they were high-fashion items, and a couple of stars were somehow making them look OK. But elegant? No. Now it seems a little embarrassing that we ever fell for them.
After all, Coco Chanel’s philosophy states that being elegant is way more important than looking fashionable. That isn’t to say you won’t find a few gems among the season’s latest offerings, but the big difference is that elegance doesn’t go out of style. Fads do.
Everyone knows this, but we still bought those horrible sneakers. And most of us have binned a few “What was I thinking of?” items. Or perhaps they’re still there, lurking in the back of your wardrobe so that you don’t have to look at them too often let alone be seen wearing them.
Still, when you’re out and about or shopping online, it’s easy to get carried away – so what you need is a guide to elegance that won’t allow you to go wrong in the heat of the moment. So, with a little help from icons who are famous for their unfailing choices, here’s an ultimate guide that’s easy to keep in mind for a quick mental run-through before you click “add to cart” or head for the checkout counter.
1. Choose classics
Some things never go out of style. Choose wardrobe staples like the little black dress, soft leather handbags, and those oh-so-sexy court shoes. Chances are, you won’t miss the mark if the lines are simple, clean and sassy. You’ll look trendy, but you won’t sacrifice class, and in a couple of years, you can still wear these fashion basics without anyone raising an eyebrow.
2. Know what suits you
Styling your look based on fashions and what your favourite celebrities are wearing can be a hit-or-miss business. There are two things to remember – your colouring and your physique.
For example, while Kim Kardashian might look stunning in buttercup-yellow, it’s a demanding colour that might not suit your complexion. Heidi Klum might rock crop tops thanks to her willowy figure, but alas, not all of us can get away with wearing them.
Looking for an example with a less recent appeal to prove the point? Think of shoulder pads, a feature of 80s fashion that really didn’t work for everyone. If you were tall with a slender build, you could look really smart. Princess Diana did reasonably well with this look. But if you already had broad shoulders, you were more likely to look like an Arnold Schwarzenegger wannabe than a style icon.
If you want to try something new to add to your fashion repertoire, take a friend whose style advice you trust along on your shopping trip.
3. Keep the statements subtle
Turning heads means making a statement, but do think about what you’re saying with that statement. True elegance doesn’t shout. It whispers.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try anything a little more daring, but do be aware that it’s a risk. And, if you’ve chosen something really showy, you won’t as easily be able to restyle it for a fresh look. Everyone’s going to remember that gold-sequined top, for example. Even if you do try teaming it up with something different, it’s the focal point of your outfit.
It’s much easier to put a new spin on softer statement items – think of a crisp white blouse, for instance. There are tons of ways to create an entirely new look without anybody noticing you’re repurposing a tried and true favourite of yours.
4. Think mix-and-match
There’s a big difference between having clothes and having clothes you like wearing. Most of us have been through the dreaded wardrobe cleanup in which we discover things we haven’t used for years.
You don’t need a lot of clothes to create a spectrum of elegant outfits, but you do need several items that will work in a variety of different combinations. Choose clothes and accessories that allow you to get creative with your look. Variety is the spice of life, but you don’t need a wardrobe the size of your house to achieve it.
It’s when accessories enter the picture that we can really start having fun with a few elegant basics. Scarves, bags, shoes, jewellery: these are the things that can transform even the most conservative outfits into something memorable.
Turn a casual blouse into a formal one with a draped scarf, make your rather ordinary little black dress look extraordinary with a few choice items of jewellery and never forget the importance of your handbag as part of the overall effect you’re creating.
Try it – the results speak for themselves
In general, the basic principles will work every time. Beyond that, think twice about anything that falls outside of the classics and be sure you really want to try something a little risky. This isn’t to say there’s no way for a daring look to be a raving success, but it’s almost as easy for it to be a roaring failure.
At the same time, do check out the seasonal trends. They often go in cycles, reappearing every couple of years and some of them will delight and surprise you without getting glaringly dated by next season. This year, lots of people have been enjoying some of the leather looks that are surfacing. Neon is in style yet again. It might not suit you, but there are probably a few people who can carry it off with aplomb. But hey, white dresses are a “thing” this summer and they’ll be a perfect one for you out there.
Meanwhile, whether you’re all for the neons or have a preference for pastel shades: elegance is always fashionable; fashion is not always elegant. Now let’s go shopping.
The editorial unit