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How sorely people desire to be seen, recognised, noticed, and known in today’s world. Not that I’ve been privy to Edwardian dinners, but one excellent custom from socialising in previous centuries that seems a bit lost today was the art of not being noticed. Regarding classic style, we understand this nowadays as understated elegance. I will now dive into what I think are some key features of this concept and why it is the preferred way to dress.
In style particularly, we think of elegance as neatness, well-rounded outfits, and the feeling of everything being high-quality and put-together. This is the case, but it can be overdone.
I’m a fool for a good coat as much as the next sartorial enthusiast, but when you insist on bright red or blue overcoats, with yellow gloves and orange socks all in one go – that sense of elegance almost feels withered and softened in an unfortunate way. It’s too much, frankly. Despite the immaculate fit and the choice of fabrics, it’s all a bit try-hard. Peacocking, if you will. Given the choice, I’d much rather see something simpler and equally executed regularly than the in-your-face types.
Last month, I was involved in a photoshoot where I was required to wear a navy suit. I had recently bought the suit, made-to-measure, and it fits like a dream. This photo shoot was in my city centre, and whilst wearing a basic but quite lovely navy suit, I caught many people’s eye. What was the reason? This straightforward navy suit was speaking loud enough, but in a way that didn’t forcibly arrest people’s attention. It casually drew the eye without commanding anything. That’s elegance.
Another component of elegance is a sense of selflessness. As members of a society and not lone individuals, how we dress is an active choice about how we want others to see us. By drawing little attention to ourselves, we are displaying good manners. So, understated elegance will exude from you with the right outfit, but more importantly if you have the right attitude behind it all too.
If you wear something that distracts people from the moment or the conversation rather than pleasantly surprise them when they notice, it’s too much. If people have a great impression of your look and attitude but cannot quite put their finger on it, I’d say you’ve got the balance just right.
Neatness, care, simplicity, and good manners. That’s understated elegance.
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