Another book I read, in the same vein, was Elegance, by Kathleen Tessaro. This was fiction, kind of in the chick lit category, and it was totally forgettable. I don’t believe I actually finished it. I had to read the summary on Amazon just now to remind myself of the plot, which is: dumpy young American woman moves to France and discovers style, in part thanks to an old copy of an out-of-print (but real) book called A Guide to Elegance by Genevieve Antoine Dariaux. Woman is transformed, all live happily ever after, or something like that.
After Elegance was released, the author and publishers of the book-within-the-book, A Guide to Elegance, decided to re-release a slightly updated version of it; this is the book I have just read. Originally written in the early 1960’s, the book is an encyclopedia of all the information you need to be truly elegant, that is, if you live in Paris in the 1960’s. Entries include Accessories, Gloves, and Suits, for example. If these kinds of things are your cup of tea, this is a fun read. Some of the advice is timeless: you don’t need a lot of clothes to be elegant; the best approach is to buy the highest quality, best fitting clothing you can afford and just get along with fewer things. Yes, we’ve all heard this before, but Dariaux is very convincing. Other bits of advice are hopelessly dated: proper attire for the country is tweed suits and low-heeled pumps. Some advice is just plain bizarre: girls under age 14 shouldn’t carry umbrellas. Huh????
I checked this out of the library thinking that I would just skim it, but I couldn’t resist reading it all the way through. It was the perfect book for when you have ten minutes to spare, and you just want a little treat, so you read one entry, and then you feel optimistic that you can have style too. Or you just laugh at how silly it is. Fun fun fun.
The author was for many years the Directrice of the fashion house of Nina Ricci, in Paris. She is a lovely writer, in addition to being extremely knowledgable about the finer points of when and when not to wear a veil with one's hat, for example. I think I kept reading this book in part because her lovely language and subtle humor were a delight. Here is what she has to say about Yachting:
Now is your chance to show everyone that you are not afraid to be seen without make-up, that you never leave a trail of disorder in your wake, that you have a wonderfully even disposition, and that your elegance is based on utter simplicity. If this be the case (and if you are not subject to seasickness and know how to swim), you will surely have the most wonderful time of your life.Isn't this charming?
This book’s grade is A- (for some of the outdated advice).
(Book 37, 2006)