28 September 2010

Musings on being chic

I have been thinking a lot lately about what it is to be chic. I should first of all try to clarify what I mean by chic, as you can interpret this word in many different ways. What I'm getting at, for want of a better expression, is that 'je ne sais quoi' that some people possess. It isn't present because of what they're wearing, although that certainly contributes to it, I think its something that you either have or don't have... something innate. I'm not sure you can even really quantify or define what makes someone chic but its easy to identify it visually and for me the person that most embodies what I'm trying to get at here is Sofia Coppola. In a simple shirt and jeans, wearing little make up she exudes chic. Another person that springs to mind is Audrey Hepburn, and not neccessarily in Breakfast at Tiffany's, but in photos I've seen of her she had such an inner radiance that shines out, and I think her style trancends time.

I've noticed over the years that regardless of my outfit, the makeup I've applied or the way I've styled my hair - there is always something lacking. I'm not trying to be negative here and I'm in no way looking for compliments or reassurance, I'm just being honest. The thing that sparked off this train of thought was observing a woman dressed in black cigarette pants, black ballet flats, a trench, leopard scarf and tan handbag. The elements were chic, but the whole ensemble seemed to me to be almost a caricature of chicness. She looked as if she had copied all the advice from a style guide imploring you to 'buy these and you will look chic' (I hope this doesn't come across as judgemental as I actually own a number of books like these and have made this mistake myself). I think I was just a little surprised to observe someone wearing such typically chic clothes but not actually looking chic. I think I always thought that if only I had the right clothes, that magic combination of items, that I would instantly look 'perfect'. I also naively thought that I could replicate a look I saw on someone else if I owned the same pieces, but you could put two people in the exact same outfit and it would work on one person and not on the other.

In some ways it is quite freeing to realise that maybe its something you either have or don't have, that maybe I have been striving for something which will never be attainable? Or maybe its to do with confidence and attitude, feeling at ease, being comfortable in your own skin?

I'm not sure that I'm making myself clear here, but the point that I'm trying to make was summed up so much more eloquently in this blog post if you're interested in reading. I'm pretty sure everyone has their own version of what chic means to them, I'd be very interested to hear whether you agree that being chic is something innate that you are born with - or if you think it can be achieved through your external appearance ie. clothes etc?


  1. I think the true chic is innate, it's a mixture of internal and external things. For ex: Even though they both wear similiar pieces, esp. when it comes to Balmain, there's that je ne sais quoi that makes Emmanuelle Alt chic in it over Barbara Martelo.

    I don't think I'm always so successful in pulling off the true chic. I don't have a chic face or chic hair. I may have chic clothes, but I can't fight against what I was born with. So when my hair is cooperating and I have on a pair of big sunglasses I feel more chic.

  2. After several years of "building a perfect wardrobe" I came to the same conclusion. I was always so keen to get the items defined as chic - like a pencil skirt, a white shirt. But they did not seem to work. It's always something in hair or poise or even stature of other women, which actually make these clothes chic. And though most probably people are either born with this inner thing or not, I think it stems greatly from self-confidence.
    All this said I'm still sure the minimalist wardrobe is a way to approach the ideal. But in finding true style hairstyle, not clothes, probably is a number one priority. As my mom always says even the simplest dress will look great when you have great hair and shoes.

  3. I think it's obvious when someone wears their clothes convincingly - they really feel what they're wearing, whatever it may be. That kind of confidence is chic to me. I feel that it's attainable through experience - trying stuff that inspires you, learning what works, making peace with what doesn't. Maybe some people arrive at it faster than others.

  4. I agree with spockcookbook and lin - chicness definitely comes from self confidence above and beyond apparel, hair and makeup. It's about wearing what you love, choosing pieces that fits well on your body and what makes you feel good despite of what the trends tell you.

    A lot of blogs I read emphasize on understated clothes to be a key aspect of chicness but I don't agree. I think you can end up with a cookie cutter style if everyone wears clothes like Sofia Coppola in an attempt to achieve a chic look. I've seen women wear loud clothes with patterns and cuts I wouldn't touch with a ten foot poll and they look amazingly chic.

    It's all about psychology - if your choices centers on achieving a "je ne sais quoi", you will hardly attain it.

    By the way, I looked at the pics of you in your other posts and i think you already look very chic. Especially the photo of you pouring tea above the photo of Carey Mulligan.