Despite my not-so-proficient knowledge in fashion, I am quoting the famous words of Coco Chanel. Elegance is refusal, and I have proven this even in my non-fashion experience. Whether it is in a line of code or a clothing article, it works. Coco Chanel’s wisdom transcends industries on this simple but powerful message.
It’s quite a rewarding experience to have the privilege of working with people of different backgrounds. I started working at age 17, and as such, I was exposed to different types of people. Eleven years of meeting new people outside of my family helped me get to know people. I studied in a private Catholic school for elementary and high school, but I entered a state university for college. It was a good mix of crowds, in my opinion.
In the course of my journey, I met a lot of brats or social climbers. Later, I also met the really elegant and rich people who also have day jobs. I was finally able to compare the difference between genuine elegance and the trying hard elegance that some people like to call sophistication. The good advantage of working with both types of people is that you will be able to develop a sort of discernment and it guides you in your future interactions.
I knew that I did not have the inherent graciousness of my elite friends. I also did not like the attitude of the social climbers I have met in the past. I was somewhere in the limbo of the authentic fashion forward folk and the trying hard fashionista. I spurned the ostentatious quality of the middle class who try to be elite. They loudly talk about their social climbing efforts over lunch, convinced that doing so makes them elegant. On the other end of the lifestyle spectrum, there is this snobbery and sense of entitlement that some elite people have.
I also observed that the amount of money that a person has does not necessarily mean that he or she is elegant. I have met a person with a complete slew of stock investments but has the attitude of a swine when dealing with people. There are also people who claim that they have Magna cum laude attached to their college degrees but do not even have the minimum pedigree that you will find in a well-groomed poodle.
Fortunately, I have met a handful of really elegant ladies. Yes, they still exist and they are worth emulating. The perfume of their elegance resounds more to souls compared to the biggest embossed brands on one’s clothes. The clothes may have come from a thrift store, but they possess the inner calm and grace that makes even the cheapest items look like a million bucks. I have seen elegance across all socioeconomic levels. And even though they do not have the same amount of money in their wallets, they all possess the inner calm and the poise and the confidence that you will not really find even in those who make fashion as their obsession. You just see them. They do not necessarily put up fashion blogs to show off their goods, although there are some bloggers who are naturally elegant without trying.
At the moment, I am far from becoming the exceptionally elegant lady that I want to become. There is still so much work to be done. But I am happy because I am able to find the people that I consider genuinely elegant and they graciously help me to make some changes in myself by their good example. So far, I think I am in the right direction in terms of my disposition and mindset but much action remains to be done.
Surprisingly, it is not in the brand of clothing or the type of clothes they espouse where elegance shows itself. I was pleasantly surprised that not being born with a silver spoon in my mouth is no hindrance. In fact, the hindrance came from my failure to recognize my habits from the inside that keep me from practicing the admirable elegance I have seen in the handful of pleasant women I have seen.
For the year 2014, one big step towards elegance was achieved when I learned to say no.
I said no to many, many things. I said no to things that are against my principles. I actually had them, all the while. I said no to commitments that other people shove in my throat to advance their selfish interests. I said no to unnecessary things that suck my time. I said no when someone is trying to be unfair and package it as an appeal to “charity” or “generosity”. I said no when I am not being respected by anyone, in any form or at any time. I said no when I am not ready or when I feel like I am not a good fit. I refused created needs and decided to stick to the basics.
In the midst of that, I made an effort to know myself. I removed weeds in the garden of my soul and I made sure that I engage in pursuits that I mean a lot to me, and out of these pursuits come the fruits of a soul that works towards centering itself.
In exchange for all these refusals, I just say yes to things that I mean to do, the things that I genuinely want, and the things that have such lasting value.
As soon as I learned the art of REFUSAL, the structure of my life became simple. And in this simplicity, I discovered my own brand of elegance. It is not the highly advertised type. I do not possess a DeBeers diamond ring (but I have a cabinet full of little black dresses!) on my finger or an expensive pearl necklace. I do not have fashion tips. But there is an increased certainty with the way I approach life, a confidence that I did not have before. And it’s an amazing experience.
From this moment of stumbling into a simpler lifestyle sprang decisions for external things as an overflow of what was inside of me. I still have the same cabinet but there is a more deliberate decision when I pick articles of clothing. It’s no longer a careless and mindless exercise of throwing in things. Everything just became a moment for meditating and expressing myself at its utmost. Even my choice of food is full of love and thought because I treated my body with respect. I respect it by giving it good food most of the time. My choice of how I spend my time and who I spend it with became something that I fiercely guard with all my heart and soul. It became a certainty that does not depend on my mood, but more on what I think is right, on what I think needs to be done with my time.
I hope to continue in the quest of refusing appropriately. It is nice and liberating to finally be able to say no to the things that other people want for me, the things that the world says to be right for me… And finally to just SAY YES to what I need and what I want. And I believe that if I continue in this track, the elegance that I have long admired from a distance will finally be within my reach.