As little girls, we grew up singing songs and rhymes about being “sophisticated ladies” someday. We looked up to our moms, big sisters and aunties, teachers and even that well-dressed church mother in the front row during Sunday service.
Whoever she was, she possessed qualities that couldn’t be touched, carrying with her this disciplined sense of beauty that commanded attention wherever she went. Most importantly, her routine was consistent and predictable. When encountering a sophisticated woman, you know just what to expect yet are always impressed. Her gorgeousness greets you before she even says hello. How could you ever forget her? She was certainly a celebrity in her own right.
What I adore about sophistication is that every woman has her version of it. For my grandmother, it was her iconic pearly silver nail polish that she’d never go without. For my mother, it was a statement accessory — an ascot or a fashionable belt to accentuate her petite figure. My sister just knows the appropriate handbag for any and all occasions, and she considers perfume a prerequisite for a night on the town.
Her gorgeousness greets you before she even says hello.
Becoming this woman may seem impractical or even unattainable, but it isn’t impossible to do — even for those of us with busy, hectic lives. It doesn’t require a celebrity’s wardrobe or a six-figure income, either. It requires practice, commitment, and a sense of self that can’t be duplicated. And these six essential attributes lie at the core of who she is.
Polished Nails Are a Priority
My grandmother’s silvery nail polish comes to mind every time I schedule a mani-pedi. It wasn’t so much the color but the fact that she just knew it went with everything she wore. Her manicure of choice was both pretty and practical, and it was a priority. A final sealing coat of clear Sally Hansen kept her naturally long nails healthy and durable. She carried metal nail files in her purse and touched up as needed before removing the color and starting over. This routine carried her through her roles as a working mom and singer/entertainer during the ‘50s and ‘60s.
What I take from her example is that nail color should be expressive but also sensible. And being polished isn’t just about deciding between gel and acrylic; a clean, natural shaped nail is the ideal. Some ladies make the case for self-expression with excessively long press-ons or elaborate designs. But a sophisticated woman would argue that a professionally done manicure — French, American, or natural — makes the best impression wherever you go.
In fact, many nail artists discourage the long nails you see on today’s celebrities, citing horror stories of clients having whole nail beds weakened, damaged, or worse — ripped off due to negligence and improper care. (Not to mention it’s hard to do your makeup and daily tasks with 6” claws.) So for the sake of all things beautiful and safe, the nouveau Sophisticated Lady would do well to lean on a professional nail technician who can also incorporate proper nail care. Because healthy nails are indeed the most beautiful.
She’s Fond of Fine Fragrance
The refined woman carries with her an aromatic insignia, a marking of sorts, letting those around her know of her presence. You don’t just see her, you sense her through memorable fragrances that capture her being. Trendy body splashes and scented lotions are nice but are much too weak and pale in comparison to a quality eau de parfum.
An intriguing thing to note about fine fragrances is how the scents fuse with the natural pheromones (or personal scent) of the wearer, creating an entirely new aroma. The woman who wears it truly owns it.
The scents fuse with the natural pheromones of the wearer, creating an entirely new aroma.
But never balk at the idea of fine fragrances as some old lady tradition. They’re so important that famous fragrance lines such as the rich amber musk of the cult favorite Elizabeth Arden’s Red Door (1989) and the floral luxury of Elizabeth Taylor White Diamonds (1991) are still in top demand for customers of all ages to this very day.
Finding a great perfume can be tricky as the wearer won't always know what she smells like once the fragrance oxidizes. So shopping for scents with a close friend or family member is helpful. An important rule of thumb is to use the minimum amount possible so as to not overpower the people around you. Because they’re already complex enough, a great fragrance should stand alone, never competing with other scents in your body wash or other cosmetics. Subtle and simple, not strong, is the goal.
A Quality Handbag Is “Clutch”
Sophisticated women don’t “run through” purses. Rather than purchase something inexpensive and trendy over and over, she opts for a fine handbag that’s built to last. After all, if it’s to be carried every day, it needs to be both quality and chic. Some handbag designers include a warranty in the event that the bag frays or is damaged outside of usual wear and tear.
Brown, black, and natural leather designs are sensible as starter bags or for everyday elegance on the go. But there’s nothing wrong with swinging a vibrant, luxe Brahmin Duxbury satchel with a festive pop of color that’s sure to turn heads.
But the sophisticated woman knows where and where not to carry her designer bag. She’s aware of her surroundings and sometimes swaps her expensive bags for an economical crossbody while traveling to unfamiliar destinations.
Shoes Should Be Stylish and Sensible
During Insider’s tour of Melania Trump’s closet in her New York City penthouse, she revealed hundreds of pairs of shoes, color-coordinated and separated by style. Of course, we could only dream of a wardrobe like hers, but even the ever-sophisticated former FLOTUS always keeps the same classic colors: black, silver, gold, and — most important of all — nude.
Keep to the classic colors: black, silver, gold, and — most important of all — nude.
Like handbags, shoes should be as comfortable as they are cute and coordinated with your style. They should also be of quality and sensibly made. Heels need not be extreme, as wearing high heels too frequently can have a devastating impact on your health and mobility, causing everything from varicose veins to foot, knee, and/or hip injuries. All of these issues require surgery to correct.
One culprit is online shoe shopping. Without having the chance to try on the heel, some ladies feel compelled to keep their purchase and attempt to “break” them in. Rather than risk potential injury, get sized for your shoes at a department store, read plenty of customer reviews, and only buy from reputable brands.
She’s Aware of Her Silhouette
I appreciate shapewear so much that I wrote an ode to it on my blog. An inherited notion from the wise women in my life, I believe in a flattering “foundation” by wearing appropriate undergarments found in the section of the store younger women tend to overlook. Search past the trendy bras and lacey panties, and you’ll find specially designed tanks, slips, shorts, and full garments designed to help you look your best under any dress.
This takes me back to when Momma would examine my outfit to make sure my dress wasn’t “see through.” By doing this, she was protecting my image, making sure I was presentable wherever I went. To this day, I stand in the light of a window to check if my slip is in the right place and if my body underneath is overexposed.
Women of all ages, shapes, and sizes benefit from a smooth silhouette.
One myth worth dispelling is the idea that shapewear is for overweight or aging women. This is hardly the truth. Women of all ages, shapes, and sizes benefit from a smooth silhouette that looks just as good as it feels.
She’s Mastered Her Makeup
The sophisticated lady knows everything about her makeup — from the brand to the color. She even knows if her favorite formulas have changed. Putting on her “face” every day, she’s keen on the difference between a daytime office look and makeup for a fancy date night. Nothing about her routine is half-baked or lazy, either. She takes her time putting it on and also removing it with a conscious skincare routine that preps and protects her youthful glow. Sleeping with makeup is an absolute no-no, and only quality brands will touch her face.
Every woman will embrace sophistication in her own way, but with one thing in common — the essence of elegance defines them. At the core of this kind of woman is how much she cares about herself and how she presents herself to the world. Her glamour is a form of generosity as she aims to be aesthetically pleasing to the eye wherever she goes. Her dedication to beauty travels with her through time, convincing us that sophistication is the one true anti-aging serum. Any woman who wants it would do well to apply it daily.
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