One most excellent (and, I might add, hopeful) definition of elegance comes from Geneviève Antoine Dariaux at the start of her book Elegance; a Complete Guide for Every Women Who Wants to Be Well and Properly Dressed on All Occasions, published in 1964:
What is Elegance? It is a sort of harmony that rather resembles beauty, with the difference that the latter is more often a gift of nature and the former the result of art.Years ago I walked into a small town library sale and purchased my much-used copy of Elegance. It looked intriguing, but I had no idea just how. As my friend drove us home I randomly turned to pages and read aloud the most pithy, savvy and often funny statements on the subject of dressing and appearing elegantly. Madame Dariaux does not attempt to address other forms of elegance, but she writes wonderfully on this aspect, which she knows so well. In 1964, the author (who is still living) was directrice at the house of Nina Ricci.
|The dust jacket from my 1964 copy|
I believe one actually could appear more elegant today with the help of this book.
This very thought was the subject of the novel Elegance, written in 2004 by Kathleen Tessaro. The novel chronicles a depressed woman finding Dariaux’s book in a used book store and transforming herself and her life, based on the advice. I haven’t read this book, but the premise intrigues me. Also in 2004, Geneviève Antoine Dariaux’s book was reissued...so you may not need to find it at a used book sale!
Next time: Some timeless advice from Elegance