How to be Exquisite
I remember going shopping with a friend who had expensive tastes and whose father had deep pockets (and was very generous with her). I used to assume girls like her bought shoes from all the expensive brands, shoes I can't afford.
I didn't like going shopping with her because I assumed all girls went places I couldn't afford. My family put me up at her place at that time, while my place was getting ready, and so one evening we had a party to go together that night and I needed a pair of black heels.
She dragged me all over her favorite shops and I remember trying on the most expensive pair I've ever tried on, $650 pair of Ferragamo shoes. And this was easily more than ten years ago. My feet felt and looked beautiful. But I wasn't prepared to part with $650 so I went on trying other shoes. At the end of the day, I only wanted to spend $100 and so I walked into a shoe shop chain and tried a pair of shoes which only cost $125. Now that I'm more conscious of quality due to Rachel who encouraged me (and out of peer pressure I did) to try on, these shoes did not feel good at all. The leather-ish material was obviously a cheap pvc and it just looked bland on my feet. I could not bring myself to buy it even though it was a lot closer to my budget.
Since then, I slowly established a habit and knack for finding good quality shoes for reasonable prices. I was so satisfied with my purchase, that I felt no need to go out shopping for more "perfect" things.
What happened? I increased my eye and my desire for quality. My consciousness for quality has increased by leaps and bounds.
And as a result, my senses for filtering out the best quality, design have become more acute and this is how you develop an exquisite taste.
What is an Exquisite taste?
"Exquisite" is defined by the dictionary of having or being of "extreme beauty of delicacy".
We can also get a better idea of the meaning of "exquisite" by taking a look at its synonyms.
Synonyms of exquisite taste: discerning, discriminating, sensitive, selective, refined, cultured, educated, cultivated.
I always tell my clients that learning to be elegant and developing an exquisite eye or taste is more important than having money.
I'm of the belief that sometimes when a girl or woman starts out with having too much money, it may be hard for her to develop good taste. That is why we see the 'vulgar rich' side of some newly rich folks who are flashy and distasteful in their choice of clothes, houses, cars etc.
Being elegant and exquisite is about discerning quality, learning how to sift and select or edit. When you have too much choices or have the ability to buy absolutely anything you want, you tend to be lazy and not think your choices thoroughly.
When you have too much, it is hard to be elegant. That is why I personally fight against excess in my life as well.
Of course, this is just a generalization. I'll explain in greater detail below.
How Does One Develop an Exquisite Eye and Taste?
Firstly, develop an attitude that you want to afford the best for yourself. Treat yourself first class. Sometimes the reason why we succumb to buying cheap things for ourselves is not that we want to save money, but we feel we are not worth spending on. We are not good enough. Instead of splurging on a bunch of cheap things, tell yourself you will only allow yourself to buy one good dress or pair of shoes etc. Just one.
As you look around for that one pair of good shoes, you'll learn how to discern quality because you are deciding on how best to spend that top dollar.
Experiencing quality and being exposed to quality inevitably develops your skill in identifying value. You'll be a very wise bargain hunter, because the things that you buy, you won't get sick of. You won't have to throw away so much, and thus house will not be filled with clutter. You'll find that you won't have to do a wardrobe edit so often.
Once you are confident enough in your discernment of quality, and knack for finding beautiful things on your own, you won't have to rely on designer labels any longer.
Personally, I find it helpful to learn about good fabric, the maintenance and care for it and to have a tailor. It is also helpful to find a few good reliable brands that you can go to in a jiffy if you need something. I have a mental directory of good shops for basics, for dresses or sports clothes etc.
How To Shop Exquisitely
Ask Yourself These Questions As You Go Shopping
Shopping Exquisitely: How To Shop Like An Elegant Woman
Follow these classic principles:
If you have been convicted like I have to have the dream wardrobe of an elegant woman, we must first be ruthless with our wardrobe. Before shopping, go to your wardrobe and discard all clothing that is not flattering. Wear only those that looks good on you. If you don't love it, or are not feeling it, let it go!
Tell yourself, from now on, you'll only invest in terrific outfits!
Why did I say invest? Because you'll now buy things only with a long term view in mind.
Although this is so cliché, remember and believe that "Less is more."
What to buy?
Clothes or things that you'll love. (Although I've written more specifically to clothes, these principles can be applied to anything we buy: books, food, things for the house etc.)
What you need.
Classics first, then "personality items". If you have a tight budget, you may buy a few classics and mix them with cheaper (reasonable quality) items.
What To Avoid Buying
Avoid tight fitting clothes and that shows too much flesh.
Anything that looks cheap, even though it is expensive.
My friend who has deep pockets turned up for my party the other day in a Dolce and Gabbana T-shirt imprinted with a photo Claudia Schiffer naked on the front.
I was taken aback because I always thought he wore very expensive things. I asked myself, "Why is he wearing this cheap T-shirt?" and later on, I realized it was Dolce and Gabbana when I went shopping and saw that picture.
So the conclusion is, expensive and quality things can still look cheap!
Anything that is ostentatious.
Do Elegant Women Avoid Sales?
Sometimes, when it looks like a meat market and feels like one.
But do not believe that all elegant women avoid sales. More often than not, they know where the sales are and almost never pay retail!
But the reason why I write this is to caution you about sales. Beware of sales, which tempt you to spend more than you should. Sales are only for the savvy!
Shopping at Sales
"You may even get a good deal of satisfaction out of the sales, provided that you are armed with lots of courage and the will power to resist the temptation of some darling little outfit which in the end is terribly expensive when you realize that, while it may have cost you 'nothing', it is worth practically nothing to you." - Mdm Genevieve Antoine Dariaux
Although sales are great for getting more value of quality items, never let "sales" influence your decision on whether to purchase or not.
Ask yourself, why didn't you buy at full price? Did you not love it enough?
Sales are perfect for stocking up things you love, or for trying out a new style that you've always wanted to but are not sure.
No matter how big the sale, only buy what you absolutely love.
Quote by Shakespeare on shopping
"Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy but not expressed in fancy; rich but not gaudy, for the apparel oft proclaims the man."
This is to illustrate the essence of good shopping. If you shop badly, you are wasting your money, time and efforts. You also add to the clutter of your home. Your less-than-ideal choice of clothes tell people who you are.
The Issue of Quantity
I think when Mdm Genevieve Antoine Dariaux wrote that, she has not met Asians, whom I think have the most clutter! But that's another story.
I've been to Paris and I've met Parisians.
To set the record straight, I don't believe every single Parisian is well-dressed.
However, from my experience, I'll admit that Parisians have a propensity towards quality than others. And since we are generalizing here, maybe it is more fitting for me to say, the general european.
While everyone else looks for the cheapest, europeans look for the best they can afford. Sometimes even forgoing some necessities in the process.
It is common for them to go without until they find the perfect one.
If they want a certain pair of shoes or mink coat, they put money away for months in order to purchase it. Basically, they take a longer time to buy anything.
They will not buy on impulse.
Thus, you can say that quanity is not a priority.
A Small Quality and Exquisite Wardrobe
In a well-dressed woman's wardrobe, every piece is carefully selected, which had to pass a high standard of fit and quality, and perfectly adapted to the lifestyle that she leads.
Once deciding to buy only what she really loves, the clothes are worn over and over, and seldom are tired of it until they are worn out or out-of-fashion, where they are then discarded. They sometimes go through many states of repair before they are fully done with it.
An elegant person expects their clothes to last.
She owns very few sets of daily wear at one time: items such as socks, lingerie, everyday shoes, gloves and other expendable items but replaces them frequently, though the classic items like coats, purses, handbags, luggages and travel holders are expected to last for years.
For expendable items: Get them in a good department store for reasonable quality. Search for good reliable brands or boutiques.
To value quality and to be exquisite is a way of life. Contrary to popular opinion, developing an exquisite eye and taste is the opposite of extravagance. Mdm Genevieve Antoine Dariaux writes in her book A Guide to Elegance that the answer (to how a young career girl in Paris can afford its high prices) is that she buys very few garments; her goal is to possess a single perfect ensemble for each of the different occasions in her life, rather than a wide choice of clothes to suit every passing mood.
Only a few of us can afford to have everything in the wardrobe of the very finest quality, but every budget can be stretched to cover a few basic luxury items, preferably those where quality represent a long term investment and often means a saving in the end.
We all know that a classic fine leather handbag - it lasts for life.
If you can't always afford the best quality, try going for simple ensembles with medium quality.
Invest in a few quality accessories and these can add prestige to an outfit for e.g. a lovely umbrella, a cashmere sweater, a very charming bracelet and give the appearance of a fine ensemble.