Guest Post: Mademoiselle Sonushka.

4 Jan

Today, for the penultimate in my series of guest posts, I am welcoming the lovely Sophie-Marie. I guest blogged for her back in November, discussing my two passions, fashion and travelling, and how they hate each other. You can read that here. For now, she’ll be discussing something I really have a problem with; elegance. (I tend to over think all my outfits and it looks like a charity shop threw up on me).

Hello ladies! My name is Sophie-Marie F, I live in Washington DC and I write the blog Mademoiselle Sonushka. It is my greatest pleasure to be guest-blogging here on Fashion’s A Stranger!

Elegance. As any ideal, it is as hardly achievable as it is hard to define. We may know what it contains: a delicate balance of beauty, class, style, wit, glitz, simplicity, fanciness. Achieving elegance is the ability of finding this delicate balance and, like the perfect soup, the attempted definition is more than variable. It varies with cultures. It varies with people. It varies with eras.
Yet an elegant person strikes. Radiating perfection, she makes heads turn on her path and creates inspiration, envy, and admiration. Who is the elegant woman? She can be the courtier at Marie-Antoinette’s court, in a beautiful gown and carrying herself like a queen. She can be a woman in the 1950s or early 1960s, in the iconic Dior New Look silhouette. She can be the stylish Parisian girl, in skinny jeans, a cashmere sweater and Repetto flats, walking out of the metro with her hair flying behind her in a light cloud of Chanel perfume. She can be the celebrity on the red carpet, wearing an Elie Saab evening gown that sculpts her body to perfection. She can be the aspiring politician in Washington DC, dressed in a suit so perfectly tailored and Louboutins, and standing out from all the others, ready to get to the top. She can be this mysterious femme fatale walking alone in a bar, in a sheath dress of dark silk and a sable fur coat, ordering a martini in a dark, luscious voice like the 1930s Hollywood film stars. She can be Desperate Housewives’ one and only seemingly-perfect Bree van de Kamp (who doesn’t love her!).

No matter who the elegant woman is, details of her strike. So when one wonders how to emulate elegance, how to reach it, it is those details that should be looked at closely. Having lived myself in Paris, France, and in the French community of Washington DC, I had more than enough the opportunity to observe how French girls and women do it, for they seem to have elegance in their genes. Here’s what I found.

–          It’s in the attitude: to be an elegant girl, one must think elegant. One must have an open mind and look farther than what is popular. One must be cultivated and smart. When you are, it transcends. Be sure to have enough general culture. Learn a new language, read your classics and more, listen to opera, classic rock, anything is earlier than the last five minutes.

–          Money isn’t all: celebrities and socialites with the ghastliest tastes are only a sad proof that dressing head-to-toe in designer fashion and cosmetics doesn’t do the trick. If you wear the wrong shade of foundation, it will look horrible, whether Chanel or Cover Girl.

–          Tone it down on the labels. Shirts and clingy jewelry with the designer’s name or logo on it looks like you’re trying too hard, or that you’re desperate to flash people with your collection of designer items, and thus you have serious self-esteem issues.

–          However, quality is important. You may want to moderately invest in good basics, a nice leather bag, a beautiful piece of jewelry, a mythic perfume.

–          Introduce a little bit of luxury without breaking the bank: a cashmere sweater, a vintage silk scarf, diamond stud earrings. You can find these online or in second-hand stores if you look well enough.

–          When in doubt, start with a clean canvas: nice, fitting dark jeans, a classic white tee or a black or navy sweater or cardigan, dark leather heels or flats. In itself, it doesn’t look boring. Then accessorize moderately, keeping the outfit balanced. When in doubt, take it out.

–          Three words: little black dress. (I have so many of these in my closet!).

–          Start with simple, natural-looking make-up: foundation, concealer, (if needed), matifying powder, some blush (my favourite is Benefit Coralista), a bit of lip balm (I love Smith’s Rosebud Salve) and some mascara. Don’t bother too much with bronzer; it looks fake unless applied by a pro. Keep in mind that there shouldn’t be a drastic difference when you’re wearing make-up and when you’re not. Then add one striking element, like winged 1960s eye-liner, or red lipstick.

–          Have a signature fragrance. One that people will recognize you for. Make sure you feel yourself in it. My signature fragrance is Chanel n. 5, although I switch to Opium by Yves Saint Laurent in the winter. And obviously, don’t apply too much. It goes without saying.

–          Own a vintage piece. I own a fur coat, a few rectangular leather handbags from the early 1960s, and a lace evening dress, among others. It can be a scarf, a bag, a clothing item, a necklace, anything that you loved at first sight. Make sure it’s good quality and doesn’t smell bad.

–          Be preventive for “those days”, when you’ve been cramming all night for final exams, or you’re just tired/hangover/sick/[insert reason]. When I lived in Paris, I knew I simply couldn’t walk down the street in pajamas or sweatpants to get Chinese food (yeah, I said “those days”). I treated the problem at the core by packing dark, opaque leggings and long tee-shirts which I wore when I was home, for lounging/sleeping/studying/etc.

It can be tricky. You may try, and try too much, and look and feel like a joke. But at the end, the effort is worthwhile: not only will you get ego-flattering compliments (they’re always nice!), but you’ll feel good about yourself and more confident. Isn’t that what our individual relationship with fashion is about, after all?

As a bottom note: Amy here asked me if I could tell her readers about a frightening surgery I had. I was lucky enough never to have had major surgery yet, or broken a limb, although it’s quite miraculous because I’m quite clumsy (my friends nicknamed me Miss Catastrophe). I do hope that with all the Christmas preparations I still have to do until tonight, today won’t be the first time. I did have two teeth removed two years ago, and I remember it was extremely painful. Not to mention, the dentist, who was a family friend, kept making jokes that would have been funny in a different context, if someone else was strapped to that seat instead of me. The only positive aspects were that I got to eat tons of my favourite ice cream (peppermint and chocolate chips), and that my lips were swollen, like I always think they should be (I would have liked a little more plump). It didn’t last to the moment where I felt good enough to go out. More recently, I was at the dermatologist getting a cortisone shot (my skin tends to misbehave), and my best friend starts humming the “Jaws” theme song… Epic scary.

It was my greatest pleasure to guest-blog for Amy, and I wish you all a merry Christmas and happy holidays!

With love, S

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