Article by Meredith Keeve a.k.a the Wandering Parisian
As we move out of lockdown and back toward a “normal” life we will certainly find many things have changed. There will be a “new normal” in terms of telecommuting and socializing, but one thing is absolutely certain – we are ready to get out of our sweatpants!
But before you wonder how to transition from absolute comfort into your “working wardrobe”, lets take a moment to consider notions of elegance, and how they may intersect with comfort. As ever, our French neighbours may have some useful ideas…
A few years ago, Nathalie Rykiel, the daughter of famous French fashion arbiter Sonia Rykiel, wrote a book called Elegance. Intrigued by the elusive notion of elegance, and how it might be recognized and applied in the modern world, Ms. Rykiel interviewed a fascinating mix of personalities, from Museum curators to Mathematicians, Photographers, Dancers and Cartoonists, she sought a definition of the word that was not limited by fashion or style.
Her friends agreed that humour, audacity, talent, fantasy, poetry and heart were all essential for elegance, as was intelligence. She determined vulgarity, ostentation and indecency are the opposite of elegance.
Rykiel opens the book with a charming list of things she finds elegant: (all translations, strictly mine)
- Foundations with freedom
- Innate but cultivated
- Anonymous generosity
- Panache with discretion
- Powerful grace
- Elevation without heels
- Quality rather than luxury
- The Allure of simplicity
- Inaccessible but familiar
- Yesterday and today
She felt that in our social-media-intense world, elegance was something more elusive, yet more encompassing than style.
Rykiel muses on definitions of elegance:
- “Une façon de défier la gravité»
Translation: “A way of defying gravity”
- “Fugace, elle ne se capture pas. C’est peut-être ce qui la rend désirable. »
Translation: « Fleeting, elegance cannot be captured, which is perhaps what makes it desirable.”
- “C’est une ligne directrice, l’unité formée par divers éléments harmonieusement emboîtés dans un but bien tracé. »
Translation: “Elegance is a structural line, a line created by diverse, yet harmonious elements brought together in a specific objective.”
- “L’élégance, c’est la concision, la force d’évocation, la richesse de résultats avec peu d’efforts.»
Translation: Elegance is concise, evocative, a glorious result with little effort.
- “Une preuve d’élégance : Savoir se taire»
Translation: « An elegant act: to know when to be silent.”
So, as you leave your old t-shirts and elastic waist trousers behind, you may find elegance has nothing to do with high heels or couture, but rather is a frame of mind and an attitude toward interactions with the world.