Designer Coco Chanel first dressed her elegant clientele in suits in the 1930’s. When Hollywood beckoned, her influence spread far beyond the couturier world. On screen and off, women began wearing suits. The “Chanel Suit,” which evolved during the fifties, has since become a classic.
The skirt is straight and elegantly simple. The short, collarless jacket has a stright, edge-to-edge closing. The simplicity and versatility of her design have made it internationally popular – available in all price ranges, in all colors and fabrics. To be “well-dressed” has often been simply a matter of wearing a Chanel suit.
And then there’s the basic black dress, with a plain jewel or scoop neckline, a straight skirt and fitted waist and long or short sleeves depending on the season. The little black dress has been a tradition for generations. It has also been a social necessity – essential to own regardless of how you looked in it. You were always “well-dressed” in your basic black.
Our casual lives have also been strongly influenced by the fashion industry. A case in point: the seen-everywhere “alligator” shirt made famous by tennis star Rene LaCoste. Although it has spawned look-alikes bearing polo player, horsed, and foxes, many men – and women – continue to rely on the alligator shirt to keep them safely well-dressed on the sport scene.
The corporate women of the seventies was expected to emulate her male counterparts – navy pin stripes, tailored blouses, and minimal makeup were the well-dress business woman’s uniform of the day.
Today, however, women are less will to conform, either to the expectations of the corporate or to the dictates of the designers.
A matter of balance
Today’s well-dressed woman thinks in terms of the total picture she creates. This includes her makeup, clothing, and the way she carries herself. To fully express who she is, the colors, designs, fabrics, and details involved must all balance with her coloring, her body size and shape, and her facial features. These factors must also balance with who she is internally, which is reflected in the way she moves and walks. This non-verbal message, which comprises 55 percent of what she says to others about herself, is essential to her style.
This all-important balance is created when what you are wearing looks like a natural extension of you by complementing your characteristics as well as your personality. How can we accomplish this? Few of us, especially since we grew up with the security of “dictated” styles, were never taught what to look for when selecting our clothing. instead, we learned to shop sales, or to buy what looked nice on our friends. Consequently we never succeeded in defining our individual style, let long relating it to the clothes we should wear.
Some lucky souls can put on an article of clothing and instinctively know that it creates the balance and harmony that make it right for them. The style t hey choose always seem “theirs.” and they have a knack for mixing pieces and accessories to create interesting, exciting looks. they’re the ones envied for their natural flair for fashion.
Many of those on today’s best-dress lists are there because they have this innate ability to select the right clothing. Others make these lists because they can afford personal shoppers or have found one or two designers whose clothing consistently works for them. Although these women are fortunate in that they have been able to develop their style, they too can benefit from understanding why the clothes they wear work so well for them. It is always fascinating and exciting to learn the “whys,” and to perfect what you already know.
But those of use who have not been blessed with a natural flair for style – who have not yet managed to reach best-dressed status – can acquire the skills that it takes to get there. The list is less important than the satisfaction of knowing that you qualify. When you as an individual reach your maximum potential – when you always look as wonderfully as you can – it will because you have discovered your individual style and how to put it to work for you.