How to be chic, and the mystery of casual elegance.

For a long while, I’ve wondered what does “chic” exactly mean? And how to look chic?

Definition of Chic

Somewhere along the way, it dawned upon me that to be chic is to be casually elegant. It also means to have style with a bit of attitude.

It is original. It is a little unexpected.

There are many definitions or interpretations of chic, as many style advocates will tell you … but my definition is that chic style is – casual elegance with a bit of an attitude and independence (from fashion trends).

Since some others may not define chic the same way as I do, I would also like to say that not everything ‘chic’ is casually elegant (or elegant at all) and not everything casually elegant is chic.

How to be Chic

As much as I prefer classic and traditional elegant styles,
I’ve come to realize that most of them are on the formal side, by today’s standards.

If you consider the history of fashion, our way of dress has become increasingly casual. Take travel for instance.
About a couple of decades years ago, men wore suits and women wore tailored dresses and fitted jackets to travel by air, these days, you’ll see many in camisoles and shorts, pajamas tracksuits and flip-flops with no make up!

So the real question we face is,

How do we adapt to the casual modern society without compromising on elegance?

One of those ways, I believe is to learn how to be casually elegant. Having a little fun with casual elegance is to be chic. To inject a bit of personality into ‘expected’ or
cliche styles shows an independent spirit.

First we have to understand what ‘casual elegance’ is.

Casual elegance is dressing in a relaxed way.

  • Sometimes, an elegant woman’s want to leave all her bling at home, kick off her heels, lean back and have a cup of coffee in her garden.
  • She wears her husband’s watch instead to achieve a ‘smart casual’ look…a break from her usual ladylike outfits.
  • She also decides to wear ballet flats with her tailored dress because she will be going into the city and doing lots of walking.
  • She may run out of time, so decides to wear a beret masking her unstyled hair.
  • She loves her elegant bag and decides to use it everywhere, for special occasions, to work and even to the supermarket.

Chic is casual elegance with a bit of the unexpected.

A person who has chic style is someone who thinks independently about fashion. She is confident and self aware to know what looks good on her. She adapts fashion to her style, not the other way round. She is somewhat of a free spirit.
She doesn’t like to be showy or obvious, she likes to keep a little mystery, and by that way, she unknowingly keeps everyone guessing!

She embraces change at the right time and not one to sport the same hairstyle for the next couple of decades. She is fresh, exciting and passionate yet comfortable in her own skin. She likes to reinvent herself when she feels she needs a change.

How to Look Chic

  • She is not a fashion victim. That does not mean she is modern and out-of-date, she keeps an eye on fashion but only takes what is appropriate to her.
  • She doesn’t like to be too obvious. She avoids cliches and expected coordination. For instance, to match white dresses with turquoise earrings, polka dots with red shoes etc. She might just sport a french bob hairstyle when everyone is leaving their hair long and curling their hair at the ends like Kate Middleton.
  • She does not buy popular designer labels. The more obscure the better, with exceptional quality of course. She prides herself on discovering secrets.
  • She prefers chic boutiques to chain stores, whether luxury or not, although she’ll still get her basics like tank tops and camisoles in departmental stores like everyone else. She is not one of those that wants to be different ‘for the sake of being different’.
  • She buys from a wide range of price range – from low end to high end.
  • She will not wear what she is not confident or comfortable in.
  • She likes reinvention. Sometimes she moves her furniture around in the house to add some life, or learns a new make up technique.
  • She is more concerned about real life than superficial things. I.e. She prefers talking about than the latest IT bag or on celebrity gossip.
  • Her look and style looks effortless. It looks layered, thrown on, relaxed and not fussy. This is opposite from ‘try-too-hard’. Her look says, “I’ve got more important
    things to think about; I love other things passionately like my work, children, my love and my life…than to spend 2 hours sitting in front of a mirror getting ready.” It also says, “I don’t know I’m beautiful but I know I look presentable and that is a sign of respect of
    other people and society.” And probably, “I’m an individual. I’m my own person.”

  • She rather you not know where she gets her things from, be it clothes and shoes or furniture. Or how much they cost.
  • She is unpretentious.
  • She doesn’t care to impress.
  • Balance is her thing. That is the secret of her poise. She embraces the new but treasures the old. She finds balance in everything. Chic and poise go together.
  • She doesn’t try to be who she is not. She has a very clear view of who she is.
  • A good mix and play with ‘masculine and feminine’ clothes.

I heard about this from a designer when I was working for a fashion magazine. Vivien says she likes a little clash in her outfits. A lacy top perhaps, but with boyfriend jeans instead of the predictable pencil skirt.

The actual terms “masculine and feminine” is from Ines de la Fressange, in her fabulously chic book
Parisian Chic: A Style Guide by Ines de la Fressange
.

Parisian Chic Review

I loved the book for its beautiful presentation and “chic pointers” but I would say I’ve read her chic tips from other french style books before. Some points I don’t quite agree on because I felt it clashed with elegance.
I felt that Ines’s way of being chic is heavily emphasized on making a statement, or being different (sometimes for the sake of it) and many of the stores that she recommended
in her book are not something quite elegant (after all, this is elegantwoman.org). Her book is also more like a flip through book, rather than a book you read intensely.

But don’t get me wrong, it is VERY VERY GOOD though for basic pointers and reminders that we have to LIVE LIFE (and not just live a little) and also dare to be different.

Her tips are useful, and practical and very chic! It will stay in my favorite bookshelf for future reference, when I’m feeling a little predictable.

After all, though we may be a bit different, Ines de la Fressange is one of my favorite style inspirations.
She is the epitome of french chic!

Last but not least in how to look chic

  • Principles of elegance STILL apply.

    Chic Wardrobe

    Need some chic wardrobe ideas?

    Guide to a basic wardobe for the basics of course (otherwise you couldn’t build a chic wardrobe.).

    Check out some tres chic looks!

    Thank you for reading ‘How to Look Chic’!

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