We are constantly bombarded with tutorials, shows and articles that teach us the supposed ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ of fashion, so we all pretty much know the steps to look like an honest woman on the street.
Beyond those rules however, each woman should be able to define her own, according to her style. These are mine but to be perfectly honest, there are very few rules one can apply to all styles, so none of this is absolute.
“Thou shalt not drink and wear black”
If we assume that women mainly wear black when attending cocktails and that it’s always a pity to blend in, I believe color is the way to go when going out for a drink. A bright bird in a sea of ravens is how I see it (and God knows I love little black dresses but not in these circumstances).
“Thou shalt not fight on several fronts”
I can understand you’d want to underline your assets but please not all at the same time.
Too much information kills the information: how do you expect those around you to deal with so much visual cues without one drowning out the others?
Depending on your mood, choose to accentuate the eyes or the mouth, the neck or the thigh, or any other part of your body, just get creative.
“Thou shalt not look like a rainbow”
This rule is simple: no more than three colours in an outfit, or else you take the risk of looking like a rainbow, minus the poetic aspect.
Or else of looking like the fictional character I created for my dear teen’s bedtime story when she was little (it was very elaborate, with recurring characters, secondary plots, breathtaking plot twists, love stories, adventures… but I digress): Bariolette.
Bariolette was a giant, multicolored horse. An alcoholic horse, too. During episode 408, Bariolette saves the world by swallowing an entire tsunami and accidentally cured herself of her alcoholism (please don’t call the social services on me).
Despite her incredible success story, no one wants to look like Bariolette, right? So no more than three colors, please.
“Thou shalt not look like yesterday’s widow”
I love this expression, that I regularly borrow from Colette, who describes the pleasure provided by eating rotten bananas in one of her books. A pleasure that would console “yesterday’s widows” (I quote from memory. Yes, I know. But no. I don’t think Colette took any hard drugs).
Sorry, I digress again.
This is the complimentary commandment to “Thou shalt not look like a rainbow”. It is not advised to wear only one color because colors enhance one another.
“Thy eyebrows thou shalt perfect”
The often forgotten line of the brow is, in my opinion, the only part of the face that really deserves makeup, because it adds structure to the eyes. The main goal is to give your brows character so that they underline your gaze. Structuring your eyes is structuring your face.
“When in doubt, overdress”
When in doubt, it is always better to overdress than to underdress.
And I’m obviously not referring to wearing gloves and three scarves when it gets really cold. I’m talking about the fact that it’s better to risk looking a little too elegant than risk not looking elegant enough.
Why? Because a woman who makes the effort to be elegant will most likely feel beautiful and radiant, outstanding and admired… and because elegance opens all the doors.
I can give you two supporting experiences.
The first happened at the beginning of my career as a lawyer. I wore a black, three-piece suit and stilettos to a cocktail organized by my firm for some of our clients. Towards 11 p.m., I ended up dancing in a punk nightclub suggested by the said clients. In a three-piece suit… I stood out for sure. I fully grasped to what extent when a punk with a green crest on his head stepped on my foot and gallantly exclaimed “I’m so sorry Mademoiselle, did I hurt you?”.
The second time: same circumstances except that I was muuuch older and that I was wearing a very, very elegant dress and we were headed towards the trendiest nightclub in Paris, at the time. Although there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that the bouncer would refuse us access, I mustered up the courage to step forward, sporting my most sunny, imperial attitude. You better believe he opened that door and with a bow too. Seeing a mean-looking bouncer bow is quite something.
Dancing in a long dress in a nightclub is also quite something but that’s another story.
“Thou shalt not wear costumes”
Wearing costumes is fun. When you’re 5.
When you’re an adult, it’s a little less fun. In other words: finding your style without caricaturing the latter is a complex exercise.
An example: having a style with a retro vibe is great.
Looking like an exact replica of a picture from the 50’s, less so. It’s dated, it lacks imagination, it’s not very practical (you know this if you’ve ever worn a dress from the 50’s with their internal waistbands that dig into your waist because it’s… prettier? Only Dita Von Teese can look elegant and serene with a waistband pressing into her skin).
In a nutshell, the idea is to suggest, not to impose. To define your style with subtlety, by giving it a touch of personality, of originality and modernity. To avoid any kind of total look.
Talking of total looks… I sometimes fail to avoid it, when I wear my lawyer’s robes. The first time my son saw me in them he very naturally complimented my pretty Batman suit (intense moment of solitude).
Which just goes to show that the total look really does look like a costume.
“Thou shalt not flaunt thy knees”
Knees. We’ve got to talk about knees.
Besides Eric Rohmer, who was able to create an entire movie based on the desire born from the sight of a knee – I am referring myself to the supremely unique “Claire’s Knee” (in front of which I totally fell asleep) – I really don’t know anyone who sees anything aesthetic in a knee.
Coco Chanel said a woman could bare anything, except for her knee and I radically and totally agree with her.
You can show more or you can show less but never let your hemline fall precisely above the knee to draw all the attention there.
Wearing a short skirt that draws attention to your gorgeous thighs, yes.
Wearing a beautiful skirt that stops on the knee and underlines the curve of your leg, yes.
Wearing a skirt that stops right above the knee and highlights that functional yet hideous part of our bodies, no. It disrupts the beautiful line of the leg and throws the balance of the silhouette off.
I am anti-knee, sorry.
“Thou shalt choose the best armor for battle”
This rule is straightforward: what are the day’s challenges?
If the program is a walk in the park with the kids, don’t wear heels that’ll sink into the grass and avoid small bags at all costs.
If the program is meetings and difficult negotiations in which you will have to appear tough and strong, avoid jeans and juvenile outfits (because, unfortunately, stereotypes die hard and youngsters in jeans can’t negotiate, obviously…).
“Thou shalt always be with thy time if thou dresses timelessly”
It’s simple. The best way to remain within your time is to skip all the fast-fashion and to wear timeless pieces which will bear the test of time and fashion cycles.
What pieces are these? A beautiful little black dress. A perfectly cut pair of black trousers, an elegant jacket, a formal suit…
The two common denominators? They are basics and they must be of impeccable quality for a fair price.
In reality, the only true commandment is to find the style that reflects your personality. All this being said, please enjoy a selection of totally off-topic photos, I hope you don’t mind 😉
DVF dress – Chloé handbag – Stella Luna heels – François Pinton sunglasses