Whence Elegance?

Remember when women knew how to walk? Remember Marilyn Monroe and Rosalind Russell and Kate Hepburn and how they moved? Remember Bette Davis? By god, that’s presence. Not ministerial presence, of course, but PRESENCE. You know who has Presence today? Jessye Norman.
Those insolent tarts who walk the red carpet know nothing about it. A couture gown does not presence grant. Neither does daily injections of Botox, Miss Kidman, or starving oneself into a transparent gossamer condition, Miss Zellwegger.

Remember when women wore gloves, and they made putting them on and taking them off into a little Japanese tea ceremony of minute beauty and elegance?

Nowadays I see women shuffling along in FLIP-FLOPS — the dreaded flip-flops that are the enemy of everything elegant — looking and sounding like a paper-slippers-clad nursing home denizens — schluf schluf schluf. They blab away on cell phones and chaw gum at the same time, all while swigging from a Starbucks container. VERY elegant. Every time I see one of these beauties I think of that wonderful line from “Singin’ In The Rain,” plaintively spoken in a flat midwestern voice by a drab little flapper watching the great Lena Lamont on screen:
“She’s so refined. I think I’ll kill myself.”

For lessons in elegance, darlings, see Annette Bening in “Being Julia.”
Charming film, fabulous performance. Elegance, elegance, humor, and a study in the surgically unenhanced middle-aged beauty.

P.S. No one’s feet and ankles look lovely in plain old flip-flops. At LEAST get some with a bit of support and shape to them, for the love of Olivia DeHaviland.

4 Replies to “Whence Elegance?”

  1. I can remember my mother never going out without her hat and gloves. She still won’t even go to the grocery store without “getting dressed”.
    I suppose we gained comfort but we lost something beautiful, didn’t we?

    BTW I watched a bio on Marilyn today. Oh la la

  2. My mother was like the TV moms of the ’50’s and 60’s–I don’t ever remember her wearing anything but a dress, hose and heels. She only wore shorts to garden in or at the beach.

    When you look at newsreel or early TV shows you see that Americans used to look a whole lot better before the day of jeans, t-shirts and flip-flops.

    Keep holding up the standard, PB!

  3. I love looking at the photographs of my mom when she was young and my grandmother and her sister. Very glam by today’s standards, although they did not have a lot of money.

    I love glamorous clothing myself, but when you don’t have a car, you have to think about what you can wear walking that half a mile to a bus stop.

  4. People on TV may have looked more glamorous, as well as a few folks with an innate sense of style and access to the implements necessary to create that style. However, judging by my family photos, poor country people looked absolutely dreadful during the early part of the century by today’s standards, before ready-made was cheap enough for everyone and electricity and running water were rare luxuries. I’m sure that my female relatives would have loved a few shirts in cute fabrics and a few well fitting skirts. I mean, when the family’s clothes still had to be sewn by the woman of the house, not every woman was a great seamstress, and some folks just went around looking like they had on an ill fitting hand-me-down. Looking at those in contrast with old photographs of other folks you can definitely see the difference styled hair, a little makeup, and flattering well fitting clothing makes on a person’s appearance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.