Not long ago I was filling out a questionnaire for a very exciting project of sorts I’ll be doing in a few weeks. One of the questions went something like “in five words or less, describe the impression you want to make [with your style]” and the first two words that popped into my head were “casual elegance.” This surprised me a little as I’ve not consciously thought of “elegance” as one of my style attributes. It’s one of those words that like chic, that gets tossed around a lot, and I think I’d associated it with a certain level of formality, and (at times) attitudes of stuffiness, aloofness, and classism. If you look up the definition in Merriam-Webster, the first two entries might bear this out:
a: refined grace or dignified propriety; urbanity
b: tasteful richness of design or ornamentation
(The two words, “propriety” and “tasteful” being the loaded ones for me. 🙂 )
But continuing down the third definition,
c : dignified gracefulness or restrained beauty of style; polish
you get closer to what I’m thinking of with regard to style. (“Gracefulness,” there’s that word again.) When I think of the kind of “elegance” I was trying to describe in that questionnaire, the words graceful, simple, polished, refined are what come to mind.
What appeals most about the concept of elegance is the ideal of elevating the everyday. In today’s uber-casual world, it does feel as though there’s a specialness that’s missing. Efforts to add a touch of elegance can be an acknowledgement of daily life being worth making an appearance for, of being worth paying attention to.
But the word on its own still implies a level of restraint, seriousness and conventionality that doesn’t feel like quite the right fit. While I like the idea of some degree of elegance in my style, it’s not the whole story, at least not most of the time. There needs to be some light-heartedness in there too, no small amount of ease, and a soupçon of cool (I hope).
Maybe the word I was actually looking for was “glamour.” From the Oxford dictionary:
The attractive or exciting quality that makes certain people or things seem appealing or special
The difference? Glamour seems to make more allowances for fun, individuality and that occasional “splash of bad taste” that Diana Vreeland championed. Glamour takes itself less seriously, yet when done right, still elevates the ordinary. There’s certainly a place for elegance, but I’ll take my mine leavened with a good bit of glamour, thank you. Now, off to change my answer on that questionnaire. 🙂
What about you, Elegance, Glamour or both?