Is “Chic” Passé?

what is chic

chic in 1953, with some minor tweaks would be chic today. via

Conceptualizing Chic

I’ve been writing versions of this post in my head for months now. But it was one recent commenter on my Facebook page who asked “Is Parisian chic dead?” that prompted me to try to get some of these thoughts down, even if it’s in a rather rough, stream-of-consciousness form.

First, let me get this out of the way: if I see one more image on Pinterest of rhinestone encrusted nail art or cut-off shorts with pockets hanging below the hem, captioned “OMG So Chic!!!” I may lose it and cannot be held responsible. 😉 If there’s any word that’s so overused as to be rendered almost meaningless, “chic” has to be near the top of the list. (And the use of  “effortless chic” is particularly egregious.) Chic has become a catchall word for cute or trendy or what-my-favorite-celebrity-is-wearing.

And in these days of casual dress, “athleisure” wear, “normcore” and You Do You™ anything-goes style, does the concept of chic still have any relevance? Is it still something to aspire to, and does anyone still care?

My answers would be yes, yes and sometimes. So if there IS still such a thing as Chic, what is it? “I know it when I see it” is the easy answer but when I spot an image that evokes the word “chic,” there are certain specific qualities. And as someone who loves to define and quantify (with an eye toward being able to duplicate good results), I wanted to try to capture the parameters of Modern Chic, at least as I see it.

Defining Chic…

Chic is: (relatively) timeless. While silhouettes and details may change, the basic design elements translate across decades.
Chic isn’t: trendy, extreme.

Chic is: wearable. By real people.
Chic isn’t: something that only works on a red carpet or runway.

Chic is: cohesive. The overall effect is that of a pleasing whole; the various bits don’t fight or compete with each other.
Chic isn’t: random. Not usually.

Chic is: elegant. Though not necessarily expensive. (While quality helps, I’ve seen women who look absolutely chic in men’s Hanes tee shirts. It’s all about how you wear it.)
Chic isn’t: designer logos head to toe. Flashy.

Chic is: light-handed, even witty at times.
Chic isn’t: too serious, ponderous.

Chic is: simple, polished.
Chic isn’t: fussy, over-styled.

Chic is: leaving something to the imagination.
Chic isn’t: visible underwear. Skin-tight head-to-toe. (Some will disagree, but I stand by these.)

Chic is: authentic. Appropriate to the situation and person wearing it. Bien dans sa peau.
Chic isn’t: forcing oneself into someone else’s clothing or style.

Chic is: knowing what works for one’s body and shape.
Chic isn’t: a size.

Chic is: well-fitting, but with room for movement.
Chic isn’t: sloppy.

Chic is: comfortable, both physically and emotionally.
Chic isn’t: constricting. If you’re hobbling or teetering, pas chic.

Chic is: a touch of individuality, something personal or unexpected.
Chic isn’t: too matchy, generic.

Chic can be: tailored, casual, bohemian, minimalist, vintage, or hand-crafted.

Chic isn’t: everyone’s style priority and certainly doesn’t need to be. People can have wonderful and enviable style without being particularly chic (as I’ve described here). Some people would find it boring or restrictive or outmoded and I say chacun à son goût; that’s what makes the world a more interesting place.

To answer this post’s title question, no I don’t think chic is passé or irrelevant. I still believe that chic is something to aspire to, and that true chic is something that elevates everyday style.

That’s my take. How do you define chic? Is it something that you try to achieve with your style?

Stay in touch.

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62 Comments

  1. Marguerite
    July 22, 2015 / 1:10 pm

    Femme, beautifully articulated, as usual! To me, the basis of chic is confidence, attention to detail as well as simplicity, and being well groomed, always.

  2. jewelrydiva
    July 25, 2015 / 5:49 pm

    Kudos on the nail art and cutoffs comment.Can’t stand either one!!! As I get older, I am gravitating to more black and white, never having it on with small children and white dogs and cats as a young mom!!!! Real, good jewelry is always chic as long as it is not overdone and out of scale to the person. Don’t let the jewelry wear you – command and own it. I still love my florals in the summer – too hot for black in Atlanta – but am toning down a bit. So glad I have found you, reading Tish and talking about her friend, Susan, so I’m now a devoted follower. May I copy your chic is/is not and post it to my business facebook page, with credit to you, of course. Would never do it without permission as this is your blog. Love Love Love it! I know that I will copy it out and print it and frame it in my jewelry store. Many thanks for your exceptional description.

    • une femme
      July 25, 2015 / 5:54 pm

      Hi Jewelrydiva, so glad you liked it and yes, please feel free to share. 🙂

  3. Tamra
    July 28, 2015 / 8:24 am

    I think you nailed it.

  4. June 4, 2017 / 10:10 am

    Bravo!
    I see many well heeled stylish women but very few are truly chic. It’s part attitude and part restraint…and I think there’s a mystique that comes into play.
    It most certainly is not shorts with the pockets hanging down!

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