I will have arrived when I truly understand “casual elegance”.
I’ve studied this iconic style for many years trying to prepare for aging in a graceful way. Oh well, let’s face it: I studied it in my more social days and in my career days, too. But now I’m truly aging and I haven’t gotten it yet.
You know the people I mean…maybe you are one of them. They attend every event looking exactly right. They are capable of making jeans and a white shirt look like Diane Sawyer. They wear simple as elegant and casual as just-stepped-away-from-dinner-on-the-patio-of-the-country-club. Their bracelets are perfect. Their perfect earrings peek through their perfect hair in a casual way. These women come in any shape, size, race or ethnicity. I see them on planes and on the streets of cities where admire them from afar and study the details. But, woefully, the casually elegant at parties and charitable events usually stand next to me and highlight the fact that I am over-dressed or under-dressed no matter what the occasion. You will say that anyone can wear anything nowadays. I will argue that this is only true of younger people. We oldies are thought to have learned our lessons in propriety by now.
A few years ago I thought that the Asian women had a true corner on the secret. A bit more classic than chic, perhaps; but I knew that I needed a strong dose of classic. In my travels I would see Asian women of a certain age whose slacks and skirts invariable hung perfectly. Their silk blouses weren’t soiled and their petite pumps seemed comfortable on their much-smaller-than-my feet. (Lately, tho, I’ve noticed that many of these women have adopted my style and no longer fit the profile to which I aspire.)
Well, I go through spells. When I’m on a roll I use all of the tricks that I learned on What Not to Wear. I have little jackets and sweaters that pretend I have a waist. I sport V-neck shirts and blouses to make my neck look swan-like. I accessorize. I wear the jeans that are long enough to need a boot with a bit of a heel. (Oh no…I’m not getting too old for jeans, am I?)
Then I revert to my real self. My friend’s daughter asked her, “Mom, when are you going to stop pretending that yoga pants are dress slack?”
To this I reply. “Aren’t they?” Well, I wore them last evening with my cashmere sweater when I went the Metropolitan Opera in HD at the movie theater. How could anyone tell the difference?
The bad part of this scenario is my critical nature when it comes to men who can’t seem to grow up and dress up when necessary. I’ve carped and complained when I see women in smart little sundresses and strappy-sandaled heels accompanied by men in basketball shorts, baseball caps and tee shirts. And then I read a post on It Builds Character, which is a blog by young mothers that you can access here. A young woman is bemoaning her propensity for wearing yoga pants and hoodies with either flip-flops or furry boots.
I realize that haven’t learned my aging-with-grace lesson at all. I have grandchildren in their child-bearing years and I’m still wearing the garb of a young mother. Well, I must give myself credit for having (mostly) given up trendy. I’m not wearing mini-skirts and see-through shirts with black bras. And I only wear my old running tees as PJ’s.
But casual elegance? Not even!