In 1964, Madame Genevieve Antoine Dariaux, billed as a “French style guru” wrote a tiny tome entitled: “A Guide to Elegance”. The jacket touts the advice within as “the original what not to wear from one of fashion’s most enduringly stylish women.” Further it notes, Madame has written “a classic style bible for timeless chic, grace and poise — every tidbit of advice today’s woman could possibly need” right down to her impeccably manicured fingertips.
Alphabetized from accessories to zippers, the book is nothing if not charming with a nostalgic flashback to an age — yes, it was 45-years-ago after all — when there were still hard, fast “rules” we were supposed to follow if we wished to be a stylish lady.
It is a fun read, even my 24-year-old niece enjoyed it from a historical point-of-view. At moments she was laughing out loud. I found that quite disturbing.
At one point she read the following paragraph to me from the chapter on shoes (it comes right after the chapter on “Sex” — perhaps I’ll delve into that one in an upcoming post. . .) regarding wedge heels which Madame Dariaux clustered into a list “to simplify matters” of styles a woman can immediately eliminate and have “no place in an elegant wardrobe.”
“Wedge heels [were] only accepted reluctantly by Frenchwomen during the war when, because of the shortage of leather, the shoe manufacturers were obliged to invent some kind of footwear that could be built on a cork or wooden sole. Nothing is more certain to give you an awkward gait and a heavy leg than a high wedgie. And it is the extreme of bad taste when the wedge is made of transparent plastic, with gold fish or flowers floating about inside.”
I think that last observation holds up to the test of time.
One can’t help but wonder what she would have to say about these wedgie wonders from: Chanel, Stella McCartney, Marc Jacobs, Louis Vuitton, Keds, Gucci, Vuitton and Dior (ouch!).
I think “A Guide to Elegance” makes an adorable petit cadeau for a friend who loves clothes and elegance.