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Out of Our Minds
Thursday, July 29, 2004 2:39 PM
Does Elegance Matter?
Anita Sharpe on Culture

This question came up at a dinner of professional women the other night. The fact that every well-known person who seems to illustrate elegance -- Jackie Onassis, Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire -- is dead, probably speaks to the answer.

The closest we could get to a living example was Sean Connery as James Bond (which hardly counts as 'living') or, perhaps, Oprah.

Old-fashioned though it may be, I come down on the side that elegance does matter. It certainly matters in writing; an elegant sentence is a sentence that conveys a thought in a memorable, yet simple style; it doesn't draw attention to itself with unnecessary modifiers or overuse of slang. In other words, it shows respect for the reader by being stylish but not showy. There is also something genuine and timeless about an elegant sentence.

Elegant people are the same. (One dictionary defines elegance as 'a refined quality of gracefulness and good taste.') We are drawn to them -- some of us, at least -- because they exude timeless qualities of authenticity, dignity, artfulness and respect, for themselves and, by extension, others.

Surely there must be more living examples.


Ty Moddelmog - 8/3/2004 2:04:40 PM
I'd vote for Claire Daines. Gorgeous, classy, and discreet.
Kevin - 7/30/2004 2:26:17 PM
You want elegance? Michael Jordan, in style, haberdashery and performance.
Walker's dad - 7/30/2004 11:17:59 AM
We should all be ashamed of ourselves. Well known professionals does not have to mean 'celebrities.' I am surrounded by elegance. I believe our first lady has elegance. I think my wife is the epitome of elegance.
Yes, if we keep trolling around looking to people who imitate others or read others words for our examples of elegance than we should fall short in the elegance department.
Plus remember,
those 'celebrities' think elegance is antiquated and conservative. Elegance doesn't get your image splashed acrossed most tabloids- TV or magazine.
Heath Row - 7/30/2004 9:17:40 AM
I'd add Andre 3000 to the list. And Bentley, P. Diddy's valet.
Kate - 7/30/2004 8:28:53 AM
Anita, you are too kind (although I did just score a summer 'Roman Holiday' haircut...)

I agree that greater discretion on the part of the press definitely made iconizing celebrities easier in days gone by. Any star who can still come off as elegant in the time of '25 Celebrity Swimsuit No-Nos' has done an excellent job of living with discretion!

I'd add Kate Spade, Twyla Tharp, Queen Noor of Jordan, and Madeline Albright to your list.
MRKinLA - 7/30/2004 1:27:11 AM
Fair to say, I think part of the patina of elegance is imparted by time. In general, people dressed more formally -- and, accordingly, with a bit more elegance -- in years gone by, and the press was less salacious, celebrating stars rather than trying to catch a glimpse of them scarfing from a bag of Doritos. We need to measure individuals by different standards today -- you are not comparing apples to apples to measure Audrey Hepburn against Julia Roberts.

That said, living nominations: Jackie's kid sister, Lee Radziwell. George Clooney. Sharon Stone and Sarah Jessica Parker dress extremely well but lack a certain demure humility. Natalie Portman has potential. Gwyneth Paltrow, if she didn't seem to have such a high opinion of herself. Catherine Deneuve would rank high on my list.

I'm sure there are plenty of elegant people outside the world of celebrity -- perhaps it's less that elegance doesn't matter, but elegance doesn't sell copy.
anita - 7/29/2004 6:04:01 PM
You're thinking of Kate Yandoh.
lee - 7/29/2004 4:16:46 PM
Perhaps it is just me, but I think Anita Sharpe bears an uncanny resemblence to Audrey Hepburn.


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