Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Guide to Elegance

Several new books arrived at the TC and Gordita household yesterday, and Genevieve Antoine Darriaux's A Guide to Elegance was one of them. I had a fantastic time reading through parts of it yesterday, and my overall feeling is the advice is mostly outdated (it was originally published in 1964, the year my parents were married), although there is some good advice. Since I'm in a combative mood, I want to share with you some advice I disagree with, under the heading Shoes.

"... the shoe industry provides us with a steady stream of original new models that are created or imported in the hopes of tempting us to buy at least twice as many pairs as a well-dressed woman really needs. So self-restraint is absolutely indispensable in this field..." 

Okay, so far so good. I agree on this point. Self-restraint is necessary in so many different situations.

" should be the complement of an ensemble, never an end in themselves. ... The most elegant shoes in the world will never 'make' an outfit-- in fact, if they are too noticeable, they cannot be elegant."

I respectfully disagree. To a point. I think that fantastic shoes can really top off an outfit. Sometimes I'm inspired to put an outfit together based solely on a pair of shoes. If I am in the mood to wear a pair of shoes that are a bit colorful, or adorned, or otherwise call attention to themselves, I will pair them with a very plain ensemble, to bring balance. In cases like that, I believe that the shoes make the outfit.

" can immediately eliminate certain styles that have no place in an elegant wardrobe:
"-too high heels, which...are extremely vulgar. Even if you are only five feet tall, you should wear heels no higher than 2 or 2 1/2 inches."

Yikes. By this definition, I'm pretty much always vulgar.

Adding to her list of style that have no place in an elegant wardrobe: open-toed shoes, wedge heels, ankle straps, pointy shoes, shoes adorned with a giant bow or flower, or any shoes that attract too much attention.

I pretty much love all those things listed as having no place in an elegant wardrobe. Ha.

But alas, I have found a hole in the advice. Take a second look at the cover art on the book: pictured is a pair of pointy-toed, at least 3" heels. Ha ha. Inelegance indeed. 

So, as if I were an expert in the field, I shall write my own modern guide to elegant shoes.

Gordita's Guide to Shoes for the Modern Woman

Shoes should:

  • be well-cared for and clean
  • fit well
  • be comfortable enough for the occasion (i.e. do not wear stilettos to an amusement park where you will be walking around all day, but do wear them to a nice dinner, where you will be seated most of the time)
  • be made of non-synthetic materials, such as leather, suede, canvas, satin, etc. Faux leather, polyurethane, and other synthetics often look like leather, but usually do not wear as well or as long, do not conform to your foot's contour making them generally less comfortable than leather, and often do not allow a foot to breathe, sometimes resulting in stinky feet.
  • compliment your outfit, but sometimes can compliment in a completely nonintuitive way. Shoes can make a statement on their own, or blend in to the outfit. Strike a balance between the clothing, accessories and shoes. If one of the three already makes a statement, the others should blend in. However, it should be noted that a shoe, paired with a plain outfit might be the statement piece, while the same shoe, paired with a different outfit, may blend in and allow a different part of the outfit to make the statement. 
And one last thought on shoes: women should practice their gait in heels. All too often a woman who is dressed beautifully looks in elegant because of the way she walks. She should wear heels no higher than she is able to walk steadily in, and should stand up straight, not drag her feet, and take smaller steps.

So there you have it. I am arguing with nearly 50 year old advice on how to be elegant. And, of course, giving my own take on shoes. 

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