How to Dress in an Elegant Way Using European Principles, and How to be Classy

by TessaSchlesinger

by Tessa Schlesinger. Learn the principles of dressing with European Elegance. Both the Italians and French use these points to dress in a way that spells timeless elegance.

When Kate Middleton married Prince William, she brought elegance back into fashion. If you’ve noticed, since then, many of the aspects of elegance that was so dominant in the 50s have returned to the world of fashion. After street fashion dominating the scene for three decades, not many are skilled in the art of elegance so if you want to learn how to be elegant and how to have that classy look, then read on.

Elegance Starts with Perfect Grooming

Elegance has to do with dress. Classiness has to do with behavior.

Let's start with defining elegance and classy. Elegance is a way of dressing while classy is a way of behaving. Elegance starts with perfect grooming. It means that everything is neat and clean. Legs are shaved, the body is smooth with no rough patches, hair is cut neatly, and there is body odor. It means that both toe nails and finger nails are not only clean but nicely filed with cuticles smooth and soft. Teeth should be sparkling clean and if there is a bad taste in your mouth, be sure to carry around lots of Xylitol. Also, in case it’s coming from your stomach, drink Aloe Juice. Excellent grooming is very much part of natural elegance.

Elegant Hairstyles

Hair should always be groomed. A weekly visit to the hair salon may be a must.

The basic Chignon is still a trademark of great elegance. From Princess Grace through the Vogue models, that very simple, backswept look with a face clear of hair, is still a sign of class and elegance. While on can have one's hair down, again having it swept back off the face is always preferable when seeking the elegant look. Throughout this article, look at the difference that having the hair off the face makes as opposed to having hair on the face.

Sophia Loren : In her time, one of the most beautiful women in the world

Off the face hairstyles are always elegant. Sometimes, a little hair can be used to soften the face.
Off the face hair style Sophia Loren
Off the face hair style Sophia Loren

Princess Grace of Monaco or Grace Kelly of Alfred Hitchcock Fame

Back swept hair always accentuates the face and is always elegant.. Note that the more adornments are used, the more plain the rest.
Grace of Monaco.
Grace of Monaco.

Tutorial for Elegant Make Up and Elegant Hair

Cosmetics : Revealing Elegance

Elegant ladies always wear make up.

Lipstick might be red but it cannot have a black penciled line around it. That might have been fashionable at one point, but it isn’t elegant. In doing one’s face, there is a definite balance between the face being accented enough to draw the attention of others, but sufficiently understated not to appear garish. Make up is therefore applied carefully, neatly, and expertly. There are certain people who might get away with a set of false eyelashes but nobody will ever get away with a nose ring. It simply isn’t elegant. 

Well Kept Clothing is Essential to being Elegant

An iron is a requisite to keeping clothing crease free.

All clothing should be in good repair. They can be old fashioned or simply old. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that they are ironed and clean. They need to fit you perfectly. There is nothing like a too-tight dress to remove any idea of classiness and elegance.  The opposite is true as well. An outfit that is obviously too large also speaks of a certain carelessness. Above all, elegance is about a studied appearance so there can be no threads hanging loose or hems undone. In addition, shoes cannot be scuffed  and they must be polished. Bags might have a shabby chic look, but not a worn look. 

The Red Dress: Enough of a Statement.

Red Dress
Duchess of Cambridge
Duchess of Cambridge

Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge

Simple colors, simple lines,
The Duchess of Cambridge demonstrates Elegance
The Duchess of Cambridge demonstrates...

Elegance in the Movies - Audrey Hepburn

monochromatic colors

Grace Kelly Demonstrates Eternal Elegance

Back Swept hair, monochromatic color scheme and fitted dresses

Angelina Jolie shows Elegance in Every Aspect

Hair is backswept. Dress is fitted, ironed, and accented with red. Only two colors. Very discreet jewelry.

No Exposed Labels

Labels and nose rings are best left in the trash can.

The very rich do not show labels on their clothing. This doesn't mean you can't wear a fashion label - be it Armani, Ralph Lauren, Louis Vuitton, Tommy Hilfiger, Juicy Couture, Gap, or Lacoste. Clothing from well known fashion designers if often better made (and it shows), but not always. Just  let the obvious good cut and quality cloth show rather than the label!

This is the same for bags and shoes. Bags ought aways to be made of a fine leather – nappa leather being one of the best. Elegance is understated.

I selected the tote below because even though it was made of a casual textile and had a casual motif, it was put together in such a way that it speaks pure elegance. This particular bag was available for a time, but, of course, fashions change, and products come and go.

If you were to purchase the tote bag, the colors that you wear should be a perfect match with it, otherwise you will detract from the harmony. Elegance is always harmonic.

The key to European elegance is that the look is understated - never overstated.

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elegant ballet dress
elegant ballet dress

Elegance in Style: Keeping it simple.

Style has to do with congruence.

Style has a lot to do with elegance. Clutter is a word that is avoided when it comes to style. Style is always simple, and if there is jewelry, it is kept simple. Too much glitz is not elegant. Classy women are always understated, never overstated. So when accessorizing, keep it simple. A hat, a bag, a pair of shoes, and a string of pearls is okay. A hat with six feathers, shoes with straps and bows, glitz on fingers, arms, and ears are not a hallmark of elegance. 

Beautiful Clothing: How to Dress Elegantly

An Elegant Woman Often Shapes the Dress.

There is an art to dressing beautifully. I'm putting these in bullet points so that they are easy for  you to read.

  • Know what colors suit you, and stick to these. If your skin has a yellow undertone, then stick to colors with a blue undertone. If your skin has a blue undertone, then stick to colors with a yellow undertone. They balance each other out.
  • Know your body shape and use the shape of clothing to bring it into balance. For instance, if you have a long body and short legs, then you should accentuate your waist so that attention is drawn away from the bottom half of your body. You could also wear a-line. Don't wear over-tight clothing as they are neither flattering nor elegant.
  • Choose the fabric that your clothes are made of with care. The label inside will always tell you what the fabric is. (By law, it cannot be sold without one.) Stick to natural fabrics like wool, rayon (viscose), cotton, silk, cashmere, and linen. Be aware of the attributes of each fabric. For example, linen if fantastic in hot climates because it is very cool. However, it creases very easily and does not look good when it is creased.Man made fibers never last long or look that good. Acrylic, for instance, tends to pill within days of wearing it.
  • Always make sure that you wear fitted, structured garments. Garments that do not fit properly, or that are unstructured might look pretty, but they seldom look elegant.
  • Your clothes should always be well ironed.
  • The rule of color is one, especially if you're under 5'7", two at the most, and a second or third color as a small accent color. Monochromatic color schemes work well for those that are shorter, as they add length.
  • Don't wear clothing with exposed brand names and avoid tshirts.

.In the two examples below, you will see the difference between a dress that will always make you appear elegant and one that will not.  

How to Shop for Elegant Clothing

Elegant clothing is always simple. It is never loud. If you study elegant women, you will see that they wear only one color. In addition, only one element in their attire is dominant. Everything else merely softly compliments but is not loud within itself. When shopping for elegant clothing, look for natural fabrics and a structured style. Structured styles mean that they are fitted to your body. If it’s the sort of one size fits all, it’s never going to look elegant.

Cost of Shopping for Elegance

There are places you can cut the cost.

As with any look or product worth having, there is a cost to dressing elegantly. While it's true that some would look elegant in a sack, it's only looks true. Their hair, nails, and other accessories cost! One way around that is to shop for accessories at places like the shopping channel. On occasion, some of their really good buys will be marked down. You do need to know what you are looking for, though. I would avoid places like Target where some of the pieces are both stylish and elegant. Their designers are great but their materials (fabric, textiles) and their workmanship  leave much to be desired. They fall apart shortly after purchase - well, eight years of shopping at Target have shown me that!

Keep in mind that you can find elegant items anywhere - but if you're looking for ease of shopping, probably going to an upscale store like Nordstrom is best.

style and elegance
style and elegance
Desigual Women's Short Strap Dress Teruelin 31v2139

Desigual women's Teruelin dress from the Love line. A short, striped dress with a colourful floral print.

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prAna Women's Quinn Dress 'Short' Length

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How to select the perfect shoe

How to make the shoe love the leg.

There are a lot of shoes that almost fit the feet these days. Most of them you don't want to wear. Again, in bullet form, I'm going to list what you need to look for in a shoe.

  • Man made fibers tend to be smelly so avoid them. Look for a good leather that breathes. If it's a boot wear socks to avoid sweat saturating the leather.
  • The arch of the shoe should fit with the arch of your feet. Generally a good shoemaker makes a slightly curving arch in the shoe. It is not a straight slant. A straight slant will not be comfortable to walk on.
  • The sole of the shoe should not slip in the rain. There are many different materials that will work here and it's a matter of where you live and what shops are available. Unhappily, there is nothing for it but to learn what is available in your area and go from there. It's an important factor. You will never walk with confidence if your shoes have a tendency to slip.
  • A slingback shoe will avoid blisters at the back of your heel. Make sure that the 'sling' can be adjusted to fit the curve above your heel.
  • Always wear a stocking with a closed shoe. It is elegant. Bear legs may be sexy, but they re never elegant.
  • Select a shoe that suits your leg. If you have short legs, don't have a strap over the top of the foot and definitely wear a heel. Avoid hefty looking shoes if you're a dainty person, and dainty shoes if you're a hefty person. 
  • Wear shoes that either match or compliment your outfit. In other words, don't wear navy shoes with a black outfit or black shoes with a brown outfit. 
Elegant Nine West Shoe
Elegant Nine West Shoe
Nine West Women's Acre Pump

Vivacious d'orsay lines impart vixen-appeal to Nine West's Acre pump.

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Nine West Women's Hellsfire Pump

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Most popular perfumes through the years...

The elegant lady has a soft, understated fragrance about her.

Fragrance changes when it touches the skin. The fragrance will depend on the acidic factor in the skin, so no perfume is exactly the same on two individuals. Also, people have different interpretations of what attracts them and what repels them. That said, there are some classics that have stood the test of time, and if you have not yet established your own personal trademark, then you might like to look at one of the more classical fragrances. Incidentally, in the days of old, it was the norm to establish a fragrance that was unique yours, so that when you entered, your fragrance would precede you, and people would know it was you by your fragrance. Nordstrom is one of the stores that give free samples so you can try them out.

Some good classic fragrances are:

  • Chanel No. 5
  • Joy by Jean Patou
  • Blue Grass by Elizabeth Arden
  • Youth Dew by Estee Lauder
  • Angel by Thierry Mugler
  • Anais Anais by Cacherel
  • Poison by Christian Dior

For Elegance, select the right shape shoes. It shows to the sophisticated eye.

Diagram of the correct shape for heeled shoes
Diagram of the correct shape for a heel shoe
Diagram of the correct shape for a heel shoe

Elegant Perfume: The 20 Best Ever Perfumes

Read all about the top twenty perfumes that have stood the test of time: You're safe when using these... Unsurprisingly, Chanel No. 5 still retains top spot after nearly 100 years.
Chanel No. 5, the trademark perfume of the late Marilyn Monroe, is approaching its first century. Despite being nearly one hundred years old, its fragrance is such that it still attracts both men and women everywhere. Yes, the fragrance will adjust to the body chemistry of those who wear it, but it is still always recognizable. It has become the trademark perfume of many beautiful women throughout the world.

How to be Classy

The essence of class is a combination of two attributes...

There is a difference between being elegant and being classy, although it might be said that elegant people are generally classy. However, classy people might not be elegant. Elegance has to do with attire; being classy has to do with behavior. The essence of class is a combination of two attributes: the first is always making the people in your company feel comfortable. The second is living a life of honor and integrity.

Example of a Class Act
There is a story in South Africa of how, after the British defeated the Boers, Louis  Botha, a signatory to the treaty, was invited to a banquet where Queen Victoria was the head of the table. Unfamiliar with the purpose of the finger bowl, much to the dismay and astonishment of those around him, he took up the bowl and drank from it. There was, of course, that moment of embarrassed silence. Then, Queen Victoria, ever a lady of supreme class, took up her finger bowl and drank from it as well. 

Class acts are always those where one puts the well being and comfort of others ahead of one's own. So How to be Elegant and have a Class Act is dependent on how well you are groomed and dressed, and how you behave. 



Updated: 03/24/2013, TessaSchlesinger
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katiem2 on 02/26/2012

How lovely, it feels wonderful to be elegant, makes a person feel very good. We could all use a bit of this feel good refinement from time to time. Thanks

TessaSchlesinger on 02/25/2012

Thanks, Brenda. :)

BrendaReeves on 02/25/2012

Yes! Simplicity is elegant. I've never see a classy woman wearing a foo foo dress.

TessaSchlesinger on 02/24/2012

Thank you, humagaia. Just checking to make sure that I understood exactly what you were saying. You obviously explained very well as I got it right! Thanks. :)

humagaia on 02/24/2012

Great article, love the layout, and all the VigLink links seem to work as they should. Look forward to more quality articles like this and hope everyone uses the VigLink opportunity as well as you have here. It is a learning curve worth following.

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