Easy and Elegant Life

The Search for Everyday Elegance and the Art of Living Well.

Grime Waves

(Photo: Harper’s Bazaar)

Did it all start here? Or is this just the expected fallout?

Grime, scruffy chins, ripped jeans, ink… where did we go wrong? I used to look forward to the warmer months when sundresses hit the streets of the city and sunkissed skin signaled the arrival of summer. Nowadays, the “dangerous” tan has been replaced with inky tattoos that my or may not be the reason that evening dresses are cut high on the thigh but feature long sleeves.

I’m as red-blooded as the next guy, but is this really what women want to be wearing?

According to NY Magazine it is.
When French couturier Pierre Balmain founded his house in 1945, he, Christian Dior, and Cristobal Balenciaga were the design giants responsible for reenergizing lavish couture dressing after World War II. Balmain’s elegant, super-feminine looks were favorites among European royalty and Hollywood fashion plates like Marlene Dietrich, Katharine Hepburn, Brigitte Bardot, and Sophia Loren. Since Balmain’s death in 1982, the glory days have dwindled … Investors revived Balmain in 2005, and brought on designer Christophe Decarnin, fresh from a decade’s work at Paco Rabanne. And for a label that was once known for ultraelegant evening attire with a draping and pleating focus, Decarnin’s appointment took it toward tough-chic, thigh-grazing, body-skimming looks—a sensibility that embraces the quintessential trendsetting French party-girl. Owner Alain Hivelin claims that sales have doubled since Decarnin’s appointment, projecting 2009 to amass $28 million in revenue (the clothes are notoriously expensive—a sparkly tee is $3,000, dresses are $12,000 to $22,000, and jackets are $5,000)

How could the men in the photo above design anything but what they designed? A well-tailored Balmain made elegant clothes for women who wanted to look … well … elegant. M. Decarnin designs for the woman who wants to be sexy.

Apparently the two adjectives are mutually exclusive. And that’s a shame.

Here are a few more adjectives which we, collectively, should strive to bring back into our lives.

Dashing. Dapper. Jaunty. Natty. Spruce. Smart. Tasteful. Exquisite. Handsome. Polished. Graceful. Gorgeous. Beautiful. Delightful. Refined. Dignified. Chic. Or just plain “Pretty.”

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to shave and dress. I have a luncheon date with Mrs. E. and my children.

19 thoughts on “Grime Waves

  1. I emphatically agree. At back-to-school night my wife and I were shocked at the number of tattoos on the teachers. And visible bras…I won’t begin to tell you my distaste for them!

  2. My generation has much to answer for. We failed miserably in instilling manners, taste and good design in our children. My fear of a just god makes me hope for my personal immortality.

  3. So many of these people look like they need a good scrub. I really don’t want to be served a meal by someone who’s tatted and pierced to within an inch of their lives. Ugh.

  4. P-D, Mrs. E. and I just were… I try and make eye contact only. Perfectly decent waiting and friendly too boot. But those ink sweaters…

    toad, let we who are without sin, etc. I had my combat boot/rattail/earring days. Not, in retrospect, my proudest moment.

    Eric, really? Yikes. The only teacher I had in high school with a (visible) tattoo was a former Marine Corps Master Sergeant who was our school disciplinarian and world history teacher. And it had to get pretty hot for him to wear a short sleeve shirt that exposed it.

  5. Yes, truly – and not just a small icon or image – but full “sleeves” I believe they are called. Thankfully we have been instilling in our children an abhorrence to tattoos, piercings and such.

  6. Very timely post. In addition to Balmain, I have seen many new looks with his name attached that I should think would give Monsieur Givenchy pause. Clunky shoes and unattractively short dresses, among other things. But since he is still alive — I wonder if he has any say in what comes out under his label?

  7. As a tattoo(less) man in my young thirties, I must admit that I am looking forward to the day when these self-deprecating fads are over. In about thirty years, when I see some old fellow, covered with faded tattoos, face and ear full of holes looking like he has been attacked by a hole puncher, I will think to myself “Wow I am glad I wasn’t cool in 2008”!

  8. All of these ‘looks’ (if you can call them that) lack dignity and demean the girl/young lady/woman who wears them. Balmain would roll over in his grave if he knew! Many of these old designer labels, much like designer-name colleges and universities, are trading on a reputation that has been dead for decades. Buyer beware!

    “A sensibility that embraces the quintessential trend-setting French party girl . . . ” you mean like pole dancers? And can they really afford Balmain?

    My daughter and I would add the word ‘fresh’ to your list of adjectives–as in fresh faced, easy and relaxed, cute and young, something that not everyone else is wearing. Miss J wore a very fresh look to last Spring’s prom–a lipstick pink Marc by Marc knee -length dress with a cute big bow off center a

  9. OOps!

    . . . and inexpensive vintage color stone clip-on earrings. Feminine hair-do and light make up. Very Fresh and Young Sophisticate!

  10. I rather like the term “rakish”… It has a sort of ring to it that conjures up images of a well dressed ex-pirate or viking who used to rape, pillage and plunder…

  11. “M. Decarnin designs for the woman who wants to be sexy.”

    I believe you have a typo for the last word: it should be “vulgar,” or perhaps “trashy.” Maybe it was the end of the sentence that came out wrong: “…the woman who wants to look like a whore.”

    I’m proud to say that I get “dapper” applied to my personal appearance quite a lot, and sometimes even “natty.”

    Excellent post. Words to live by.

  12. This past weekend the Mrs. and I went to see Julie & Julia. Stanley Tucci’s wardrobe as Paul Child was inspirational and, certainly, all of the adjectives listed in your post apply. I was struck by the relevance Tucci’s wardrobe has for today’s man. Even in period casual wear, he appeared uncommonly elegant by today’s standards.

  13. Doug In OK — totally agree with you about Stanley Tucci’s wardrobe in J&J. I also loved the decor in their Paris apartment.

  14. I’m so glad that you’ve said something about these ratty looking designers and the objectionable designs they propose. Look at the starlets wearing these unflattering things, and let them be lessons in what not to wear and what not to buy. I really have no idea why they think young women should want to wear these things. What is the attraction with looking like an addict on the skids? Will they still think it is cool when they get icy looks at job interviews? I think we need some new role models for the youth of today.
    Square with Flair

  15. Believe it or not, Teen Vogue actually does a pretty decent job of presenting youthful looks for teens on models that are generally healthy looking. The clothes and the articles, for the most part, are age appropriate and don’t cross the line or offer up excess propaganda to the young ladies reading the magazine. Some of the models which are interviewed actually espouse decent morals and speak aloud of their faith in God–very refreshing!

  16. E&E,

    You’re looking to rile me up, aren’t you? As if I don’t rail against our culture enough.

    That’s all right – in about 30 years I’ll be the right age to hold the views I do.

    Until then…

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