Lots of people ask me how I choose a Chic Sighting – and I don’t really do any choosing – they just happen! But I’ve devoted a lot of thought to what makes (or breaks) a Chic Sighting, and in my typically orderly fashion, I’ve tried to assign my observations to an alphabetic analysis.
First are foremost, you have to be appropriately dressed for your environment, both physically (the weather), and socially (no strapless dresses at rugby matches). No matter how stunning your little dress and sandals might be, if it’s SNOWING and you’re just wearing a dress and sandals, you are not a Chic Sighting.
Balance is an elusive concept, but the absence of balance seems to show either dubious taste, or a lack of planning. Suede boots with shorts are a common offender here. Sometimes mixing seasons in an outfit can work brilliantly – Parisiennes wearing winter sweaters over their summer dresses seemed to be effortlessly attractive – but for us mere mortals, it’s a tricky maneuver.
You can also throw an outfit out of balance by trying to combine two basically incompatible moods – athletic shoes with a business suit, or a sundress with a blazer over it. This seems to happen when we try to get more mileage out of a favorite garment than is really possible. I often see women trying to wear very casual summer dresses to their office – the addition of a grey wool blazer to a pastel sundress is not going to succeed.
You’ve got to be comfortable – nobody limping or hobbling along in ridiculous shoes is going to be a Chic Sighting. This is not to say that you should wear sweat clothes or yoga pants everywhere – that’s taking the comfort goal WAAAAAAY too far. (and I do see huge volumes of very casual clothing every day – do NOT wear your pajamas outside of your home, please) Shoes in which you can walk, undergarment straps that don’t have to be constantly adjusted, and skirts that don’t need incessant tugging to remain modest are all obvious disqualifiers from the concept of the Chic Sighting.
I've seen a number of young women wearing loose tops that show pretty much every detail of their bra. Not see-through, you can see the actual undergarment right out there. Guess it's a fad among a certain set but always makes my eyes pop in disbelief. The guys with their jeans deliberately worn to show their underwear get the same reaction, I have to stop myself from mentioning that they might want to pull up their pants. Maybe I'm just turning into an old fuddy duddy.
On a related note – what are your thoughts on the question of age appropriate clothing? Is there such a thing anymore?
Janice Riggs says
I think age appropriate is mostly just plain appropriate – are you dressed suitably for the situation in which you find yourself currently? Sometimes, the situation is what's inappropriate: If you've got a great body, and you're going out to a nightclub at midnight to dance, then you can wear a "body-con bandage dress" even though you're 60 years old. But maybe the whole nightclub scene needs to be re-thought at that age…
That said, I do see lots of women who seem to be trying to revive their lost youth, and they both fail to look young, AND fail to be attractive in their own right. It's a tough balance, but if sometimes causes you to hesitate, you should listen to your instincts and try to figure out why you're reluctant – is it normal insecurity, which you should perhaps quell, or the better judgment of your more experienced intelligence warning you away from a fashion mistake?
We all err. We should all try to learn. That's the best we can hope for – permanent perfect is NOT going to happen.
Coming late to this great post with a suggestion to mothers (and others) of a certain age. If you have a child or protege with a good sense of fashion whom you trust — ask their opinion of anything you might question as age appropriate. My 10 YO son is my yardstick. He wants me to look good, but he's very honest about what would embarrass him (aka be age-inappropriate).
I do ask my 18 year old daughter. She has pretty good taste & is honest. Unfortunately she is going away to college in August, so not sure what I will do then!
In general, women who look overdone are not chic for me. Somehow they communicate that they spend way too much time thinking of how they look or what they put on. I prefer a pared-down look, tasteful and appropriate, but not staid, a little on the side of nonchalant. And an intelligent face that seems interested in things and people other than themselves.
That is exactly what I was trying to convey in my comment below. Well put, Patricia!
—Susan in SLC
I use this incident as a yardstick when I think about going out of my style zone: a few years ago at Nordstrom a mother (50's) made a big scene about buying the identical size tight jeans and gaudy tee shirt as her daughter (early 20's). It was painful to watch. Mom looked cadaverous at that age and that size and the outfit made her look like a doll-come-to-life in a horror movie. That, plus any body part with "juicy" written on it. –Susan in SLC
Oh yes..the clothing that has juicy written on it. I agree.
I had a neighbor who came over to discuss something one time and she had a t-shirt with the words porn star written across the chest. This was a mother too.
I think some of the things they write on t-shirts are inapproprate and trashy.
For that matter, having any word written on the rear end of a garment is not chic in my book!
Speaking of appropriate. What happened to the old days of wearing something appropriate for business? I went to the bank one day and one of the tellers was showing cleavage. I also went to pay a bill at city hall and the clerk was wearing a low cut wrap top with half her breasts (a full on side view) showing. And this was a woman who looked to be in her 40's and full figured.
Is this the norm these days to go to a place of business and see the girls(breasts)?
All the time. Everywhere, even at church!
I manage a group of women for a business and I have a rule of thumb for limits….no boobs, no bra straps and no bellies. The fact that I need to monitor this is so sad….
I live in the South and as soon as it gets warm, sandals are a staple. More women should evaluate the condition of their feet and nails after a long winter to make sure that rough skin is polished and moisturized and nails are trimmed and clean and polish, if worn, is not chipped or outgrown. Poorly cared for feet and hands can really detract from the overall look.
F is for Fit. Clothes should fit the wearer, even if she/me(!) is not herself "fit". Too tight = bulges, too loose = TMI.
I know this is difficult, and I sew for myself, but it is achievable. Mostly [small sigh].
Joyce in WI
Janice Riggs says
Joyce – have you been snooping on my computer? F will indeed be for Fit…
I hope M is for modesty. There are so many repercussions to society and to the girls who dress in a suggestive manner, and are aided in this by women who say they should be able to wear anything. And older women who don't have the same safety concerns usually but often look plain awful with too much showing. And what is appropriate in a private setting is not in a public place, such as a bus, or a government job etc.
I also hope I is for Irish with those foolish wigs they put the girls into that make them look like Bridget Boo Boo for Irish step dancing.
Modesty has its place, yes, but let's be careful not to start victim blaming when it comes to clothing. I'm disgusted by the notion that women are to blame for violence against them because of what they wear. Perpetrators of violence are the ones to blame, not women, not matter what they are wearing–even if it may not be 'appropriate' by general standards. I could be on bus in a bikini but it doesn't mean I deserve to assaulted. I hope that is not what you believe.
Completely agree, Amanda!
I have to say, Janice, the intent of your post is spot-on, but I found the last question jarring. It's easy to critique, but not particularly useful, and it leads to ugly comments like the one by Anonymous at 2:21. I love the "chic sightings" because you point out what is right, and that provides a model to follow.
Janice Riggs says
You're entirely right – it was unnecessary for me to include it, and I'm removing it immediately. Snark is not what we're about here; thanks so much for bringing this to my attention and giving me a chance to correct it!
Karen Shanley says
The curly hairpieces etc. in competitive Irish dance are a shame, a bit like the American Beauty pageants we hear about here in the Emerald Isle!
Any I for Irish could be to mention our wonderful Donegal tweeds, or how our fresh faced colleens look fabulous in jeans/wellies or ballgowns …… for sure it's in our love for life, our energy and passion <3
I hope a translation, it's too hard for me to read these comments !!!
It seams the differents things expensive, is it right?
Don't laugh for my poor english,
Jeanne from France, Paris.
Janice Riggs says
Je dois dire que vous parlez bien Anglais. Mieux que je parle francais, vraiment. J'espere que je peux trouver quelqun qui peut traduire mon blog.