on September 10, 2004
I hate to admit but since I bought Elegance and started following its advice I look much better. People have actually stopped to comment. Although I'm cringing (what did I look like before?) it has been fun to get the compliments. Madam Dariaux was a designer, a director of Nina Rici and a fashion writer. She arranged the book in alphabetical format with instructions and observations about everything from alligator bags to materntiy wear. The editors have updated the book just a tiny bit but it does no harm. It's like having your own stylist.
on December 22, 2004
Yes Yes Yes! I was given the original by my mother long, long ago. Every page was a revelation. As one's appearance speaks so emphatically about one, I can't think of any gift more useful to a young woman about to take her place in the world. However, Madame Dariaux has sage wisdom and common sense advice for women of any age. Who knew that being elegant was really so very simple! And it's certainly not money that creates elegance. I wish that this book had been given to more women, especially those that have made careers in the entertainment industry. Ahem. In any case, I look forward to reading the updated version of "Elegance". And I, too, am delighted that the author is alive, well and thriving. She is truly one of my idols. I would give many more stars were they available.
I can't beleive it, but since I've read this book, not only do I feel better about the way I look with out: 1) having any plastic surgery, 2) spending way too much money on new clothes, 3) going and buying tons of makeup to cover up flaws only I think that I have, or 4) listening to any advice from snooty fashion magazines. Believe it or not, I've even been saving money AND dressing better. The majority of Ms. Dariaux's advice is priceless. Before finishing her book, I spent way too much money on clothes, had way too many of them because I never threw anything out or gave anything away, but I never felt like I had anything to wear. After finishing her book, I went through my wardrobe and gave atleast four trash bags worth of clothing to good will, keeping only a few pieces. I never feel over or underdressed, and I haven't regretted a clothing purchase (of which I'd made very few) since.
I never felt I would take anything so seemingly frivolous so seriously - but I did, and it has paid off.
on November 15, 2004
This book is a rather dangerous little flower. It appears to be very sweet and innocent, but before you know it, Madame has you following her every word. This book makes What Not to Wear seem careless. Madame advises on "everything" and even though this edition has been recently revised,it still is rather rigid and old-fashoned. On the other hand, if you already posess some taste and personality,it is a wonderful source of inspiration to never let our modern times get in the way of glamour. The glamour of simplicity,that is. And as a lover of all things retro, I can definitely recommend this book as a how-to on retro dress.
on January 28, 2005
One of the many great things here is the author's attitude toward women of all ages. When this book was originally published, in the early Sixties, real clothes and real elegance were the province of the woman over forty. She had money, taste, and the experience to use both to her advantage. How different from our situation, now.
Currently, we expect a girl-child to wear sexy clothes at 8, charge out of the adolescent gates as a perfect little woman at 14. She'll run through her twenties, slow in her thirties, disappear off the course by forty. She has fallen by the demographic wayside.
In our era, beauty is inexorably bound to giving the impression of carrying viable eggs. Mass markets and "Made in China" labels ensure an abundance of cookie-cutter clothes, but care nothing for individual style. Imagine a time when you had no size-- when clothes were made to fit you, not the reverse. This book is from that time. A lovely, strong woman, Madame Antoine-Dariaux's voice is not just wry and intelligent-- it's subversive.
on April 12, 2005
While true style never goes out of fashion, I found some of Ms. Dariaux's advice to be a bit old fashioned. As a plus size woman I prefer to wear clothing that skims my curves instead of the trapeze styles that she suggests. Why should I hide my curves beneath a burlap sack? I shudder to think what she would think of me, a single woman of 42, who decided to buy her own diamonds and other precious stones instead of waiting for her only piece of real jewellery to arrive in the form of an engagement ring. And as an African American woman, well, her suggestion that dark lipsticks are out of style--hmmm, let's just say that my dark skin just isn't going to carry off the light pinks and mauves that she insists we wear.
At any rate, she's made some good points, but not all of them are going to apply universally to every woman who picks up her book.
on March 20, 2006
Some people may find this book restrictive, constrained and out of date. I find it liberating and useful in 2006. This book is about the principles behind an elegant practical wardrobe. OK, skip the comments on veils hats and gloves, the rest still applies.
What this book does not provide is advice on how to choose a t-shirt, jeans or underwear. Check the lucky shopper's guide for that.
The author gives invaluable advice on, for example the use (and abuse) of the colour black-which should NEVER be teamed with brights or pastels-. Trinny and Susanna would applaud!. Black worn in the mornings is cheap, unflattering, aggressive and somewhat ghetto-ish. Only people who are lazy or clueless about colour wear black head to toe in the morning. Do not confuse black with other dark colours.
Mme Dariaux does not write for the élite. She proposes very limited wardrobes which are adapted to the season and the situation. I know nobody who would own so few clothes as she proposes! On the contrary, sloppy dressers usually have a huge wardrobe of cheap t-shirts and sweatshirts, and an ironing basket which never empties.
I transcribe her comments on wedge heel shoes (notice it is the latest resuscitated trend, for summer 2006):"Nothing is more certaint to give you an awkward gait and a heavy leg than a high wedgie". Her remark still applies.
If your admired the style of the late Carolyn Besette, this book is for you. If your fashion icon is Victoria Beckam, then do not buy it.
on May 13, 2007
As a professional designer I am always looking for gifts and books to recommend to my clients. This book is one of my favorites for its sense of wit and surprisingly accurate information. I have lived in London, Paris and Los Angeles and can promise that elegant women have changed very little over the past 40 years. There is definitely more diversity permitted, but elegance as a reflection of charm, refinement and economy have not changed much at all. Elegant women are neither showy, nor trendy, nor cheap. An elegant woman would not frivolously waste money at fast fashion retailers such as Forever 21 nor would they be caught dead dressed inappropriately for the situation. In our current culture of self absorbed me me me, it is nice to reflect on a time when giving care to ones appearance was a way of giving to others, helping others to be at ease and projecting the sense that you have assigned a certain amount of importance to being with them. Although the truly elegant woman is a vanishing bird, use this guide to assure it's recovery. There is no greater experience than to be in the presence of a woman whose appearance provides a subtle backdrop to her sparkling and charismatic personality. When you needn't worry about your appearance, you are free to express your personality and charms without worry.
on July 19, 2005
This book can be summarized in one sentence. Elegance is about good taste and discretion. That is it. Some of her rules can be taken with a pinch of salt (try telling a teenager she is not to wear black until she is 18!), but the general idea is powerful, simply because it is so rare to find a truly elegant woman these days. The taboos that I still believe work are - no diamonds (except wedding ring) during the day, no white shoes or bags- ever, diet alone, shop alone, and never act with affectation. Elegance is not expensive, it is more about cultivating a taste for a few superior things instead of a closet of cheapies. An interesting, fascinating read if you admire old school classic beauties.
on December 23, 2005
Madame Dariaux's guide to elegance always makes me think of beautiful old movies filled with gorgeous people having mysterious and exciting adventures. She has a way of skewering fashion excesses (wearing anything other than flat shoes with trousers and owning a Pomeranian were two of my favorite Mme. Dariaux fashion excesses) that is both witty and apropos - I giggled throughout my first reading of this book and even enjoyed discovering my own errors in judgment, viewed through her keen, critical, yet kind eyes.
My mother was in the business of fashion during the late 1950's thoughout the 1960's, and her advice on personal style is strikingly similar to Mme. Dariaux's. Does this mean that their advice is a product of their being women of their generation? Perhaps it does. However, it also needs to be said that when I choose to follow such advice, I receive many more compliments on my appearance than I would otherwise. Even more importantly for me, I feel that I "look the part," no matter where I go or whomever I meet when I get there.
My dear friend is a fashion designer whose creations could not be further from Mme. Dariaux's ideal, yet she also thoroughly enjoyed this book.
"It reminds me of all the training I received at school and throughout my apprenticeship. This book is an education," she said, during a phone call in which we exchanged some of our favorite Mme. Dariaux one-liners, and there were many. (This book is so drily funny! If you love wit, you will not be disappointed.)
Our conversation then continued along the lines of how we see many beautiful women with great personal charm and style, but elegance is something rarer and, to us, more precious than those qualities. If you are lucky enough to have a woman of chic in your life, I am certain you already cherish knowing her. If, however, you are not so lucky, then pick up this book and meet Madame Dariaux.