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A Guide to Elegance
For Every Woman Who Wants to Be Well and Properly Dressed on All Occasions
The accessories worn with an outfit -- gloves, hat, shoes, and handbag -- are among the most important elements of an elegant appearance. A modest dress or suit can triple its face value when it is worn with an elegant hat, bag, gloves, and shoes, while a designer's original can lose much of its prestige if its accessories have been carelessly selected.
Very often a woman buys a coat or suit without realizing that its price will be doubled if, in order to accessorize it correctly, she must buy an entire new set in a colour that does not already figure in her wardrobe.
It is indispensable to own a complete set of accessories in black and, if possible, another in brown, plus a pair of beige shoes and a beige straw handbag for the summer. With this basic minimum almost every combination is attractive. I can remember how daring it was considered when Dior first combined brown and black in the same ensemble, but now this harmony is considered a classic, as is navy blue with black.
Of course, it would be ideal to have each set of accessories in two different versions: one for sport and the other dressy. And in this regard I cannot restrain myself from expressing the dismay I feel when I see a woman carry an alligator handbag with a dressy ensemble merely because she has paid an enormous sum of money for it. Alligator is strictly for sports or travel, shoes as well as bags, and this respected reptile should be permitted to retire every evening at 5 P.M.
Bright-coloured shoes are only smart when worn in the evening under electric lights with a long or short evening dress. As for white shoes, they should preferably never be seen on a city street (except, of course, for tropical cities), and in any case only in the summer-time when worn with a white dress. With pastel shades, a beige handbag and shoes are much smarter than white.
Personally speaking, aside from a plain or beaded white satin evening purse, I dislike the white handbags that some women cannot resist carrying as soon as there is a ray of sunshine. They are fine for the beach and summer resorts, but are somehow provincial-looking on a city street, even in the middle of August.
One of the best-dressed women in Paris, Madame Bricard, who was the inspiration for many of Christian Dior's outstanding creations, never carried a bag at all. Instead, she had a series of pockets concealed in the lining of her coats. But there's no need to go to that extreme!
And speaking of the little objects we carry in our handbags ... they can be charming, even more so if they match. So decide upon a colour and a material and little by little try to acquire a complete set: wallet, change purse, comb case, key case, eyeglass case, etc. (An ideal theme for those little gifts!) The style of your compact will depend upon the depth of your wallet. But whether it is an ordinary one or a precious antique gold box, try to have a matching lipstick case and, needless to add, a clean handkerchief every morning. Personally I prefer white ones, of very fine linen, embroidered with my initials.
In short, it is necessary to give a good deal of thought to accessories and never buy anything on an impulse that does not fit into your well-established program. The saying, 'I cannot afford to buy cheaply,' was never so true. Although I am far from rich, I have bought my handbags for years from Hermès, Germaine Guerin, and Roberta. And without exception, I have ended up by giving away all the cheap little novelty bags that I found irresistible at first. The same is true of shoes and gloves.
I realize that all of this may seem rather austere, and even very expensive. But these efforts are one of the keys, one of the Open Sesames that unlock the door to elegance.
(See Handbags, Shoes)A Guide to Elegance
For Every Woman Who Wants to Be Well and Properly Dressed on All Occasions. Copyright © by Geneviere Dariaux. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.