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Elegance - the fashionable words of Genevieve Antoine Dariaux

Posted on 14 April 2015

Grace Kelly
Grace Kelly

Some women are simply elegant.  I mean, they could be wearing shorts, jeans, or a towel on their heads, and somehow, they still look chic.  Do you know women like that? Grace Kelly was one of those women, as was the it girl herself, Audrey Hepburn.

 

Audrey Hepburn lounging elegantly
Audrey Hepburn lounging elegantly

 

I have a large collection of antique and vintage etiquette and beauty books, they are my favorite things to read on a rainy day in Oregon (which, as you probably know, means countless days). I recently grabbed a book off of my shelf that I hadn't looked at in a while - it's a signed first edition of the book Elegance, A Complete Guide for Every Woman Who Wants To Be Well and Properly Dressed on All Occasions by Genevieve Antoine Dariaux.  It was written in 1964 and covers everything you need to know about elegance from A (accessories) to Z (zippers). 

 

1959 Nina Ricci Ensemble by Henry Clarke
1959 Nina Ricci Ensemble by Henry Clarke

 

Madame Dariaux was the directice of Nina Ricci so she knew a little something about elegant women.  She had originally opened her own fashion house before going to Nina Ricci.

 

Madame Dariaux
Madame Dariaux

What I love about this book, is that it is always honest, at times funny, sometimes timeless, and it's full of fabulous pieces of advice on elegance and style.  In the "C" chapter, there is a section on CHIC.  When trying to describe the essence of chic, Madame Dariaux says;

"The essence of casual refinement, chic, is a little less studied than elegance and a little more intellectual....It is a gift of the gods and has no relationship to beauty nor to wealth. .. The Kennedy family has chic; but the Truman family doesn't.  The late Queen Mary of England had chic, but Queen Juliana of the Netherlands didn't.  Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo have chic, but Rita Hayworth and Elizabeth Taylor, in spite of their beauty, their sumptuous clothes and jewels, do not."

In the "D" chapter, there is a section on Designers, and Madame Dariaux tells us the dream wardrobe she would compose from all of the Paris designers.  This is one of my favorite chapters!  I have inserted the images of vintage outfits that fit the descriptions on her list from the 16 designers.  I've tried to choose those from the 1960's in most cases.  I think she chose the perfect things for this hypothetical designer wardrobe!

 

Balenciaga Vogue 1952 Frances McLaughlin-Gill
Balenciaga Vogue 1952 Frances McLaughlin-Gill

 

1. From Balenciaga:  A little black dress, or a very formal evening dress and coat..as a matter of fact, everything (except for certain "experiments")

 

Pierre Balmain 1952 L'Officiel
Pierre Balmain 1952 L'Officiel

 

2. From Balmain:  A regal gown fit for a queen

 

Pierre Balmain 1952
Pierre Balmain 1952

 

1966 Pierre Cardin wool suit
1966 Pierre Cardin wool suit

 

3. From Pierre Cardin:  A wool suit

Castillo 1954
Castillo 1954

 

4. From Castillo:  Evening ensembles, long or short

 

Chanel tweed suit 1964
Chanel tweed suit 1964

 

5. From Chanel:  A tweed Suit

1968 Courreges L'Officiel Paris
1968 Courreges L'Officiel Paris

 

6. From Courreges:  A sports Coat

 

 

 

7. From Dior:  A cocktail or dinner dress

Christian Dior 1960
Christian Dior 1960

 

1964 Cecil Beaton for Vogue- Audrey Hepburn in Givenchy
1964 Cecil Beaton for Vogue- Audrey Hepburn in Givenchy

 

8. From Givenchy:  A wool or Silk coat

1968 Gres Dress
1968 Gres Dress

 

9. From Gres:  A draped jersey dress or an extreme sports coat (if I were very tall).

 

Jacques Griffe 1961
Jacques Griffe 1961

 

10. From Jacques Griffe:  A little black dress, or a good suit

 

George Dambier 1950 photograph of Suzy Parker wearing a Jacques Heim dress
George Dambier 1950 photograph of Suzy Parker wearing a Jacques Heim dress

 

11. From Jacques Heim:  My daughter's first ball gown

 

MET Costume Exhibit - 1969 Lanvin dress designed by Jules-Francois Crahay
MET Costume Exhibit - 1969 Lanvin dress designed by Jules-Francois Crahay

 

12. From Lanvin:  A sophisticated kind of evening dress that Crahay alone knows how to make.

1966 Guy Laroche L'Officiel
1966 Guy Laroche L'Officiel

 

13. From Guy Laroche:  A short beaded evening dress

Gerard Pipart designed ensemble for Nina Ricci photographed by David Bailey in 1968
Gerard Pipart designed ensemble for Nina Ricci photographed by David Bailey in 1968

 

14. From Nina Ricci:  (now the most youthful house in Paris, thanks to Geraud Pipart) A striking, unconventional ensemble.

 

Nina Ricci 1969
Nina Ricci 1969

 

1963 Yves Saint Laurent
1963 Yves Saint Laurent

 

15. From Yves Saint Laurent:  An elegant afternoon outfit

 

Phillipe Venet L'Officiel 1968
Phillipe Venet L'Officiel 1968

 

16. From Venet:  A wool Sports Coat

There are countless gems of elegant wisdom in this book - including a list of quality accessories that can "add prestige to an entire ensemble" 

- a lovely umbrellla

- a cashmere sweater

- a really good mink ascot or two skin mink scarf

- a fur hat of excellent quality and design

- a fine pair of black glace kidskin gloves

Though we may laugh a little at the mink ascot or glace kidskin gloves, her main  emphasis is repeatedly quality over quantity and on that point, I agree wholeheartedly.  Our closets are too big - we need smaller closets, and better made clothing! What's interesting about Madame Dariaux's list is that I think I would wear everything on it today!   

If you get a chance to pick up a copy of her book - I can guarantee that you will love it!  I know it has been re-printed, so you can find an more affordable copy than mine!  Let me know your thoughts on elegance and chic - I'd love to see photographs of people you know who exemplify those qualities!

 

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