Fashion Style Elegance

Kristina Akhrarova
Black velvet sheath dress and pink satin bow, design created for the perfume Paris, 1983Photograph by Gilles Tapie

I have been debating what to write for a long time because elegance is so subjectively defined, so perhaps it is best to start with what elegance is not. It is not, of course, fashion, it is not even the same thing as style; style is a great quality to have, not least because it denotes a sense of originality, but it also implies self-advertisement and that rather tiresome quality that Americans call pizzazz. Elegance, on the other hand, is a more chaste, reserved self-effacing quality, and I may be mistaken, but I detect a hint of benevolence in it as well.

Elegance is inherently present. The art of putting clothes, jewelry, flowers, objects, pictures, and furniture together is not something that can be simply taught. It comes from within. It is a way of showing respect for yourself and others, it requires acting appropriately in different situations. Thus, I believe one of its main characteristics is a sense of proportion, both literally and figuratively. Exaggeration may well be stylish, but it is seldom elegant. I am at risk of making elegance sound a little dull, but true elegance comes pre-loaded with an ineffable indefinable rightness, that leaves one impressed rather than bored.

The definition of elegance is effortlessness, naturalness, simplicity, brevity, and, when appropriate, wit... After all, when we describe a solution to a problem as elegant, we imply a sense of neatness and rightness.

Elegance is also unhurried. It is about having the confidence not to need to be noticed, and not to shoulder your way to the front... To be elegant is to be recognized by the doorman at the nightclub of life and to be plucked from the back of the throng and ushered past the velvet rope. Above all, true elegance is a part of every aspect of life.

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Accessible Fashion History Education

San Francisco, CA

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