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The Art of Effortlessness

Very often I find myself struggling for the perfect words to describe our styling philosophy here at LYB. Our concept is edgy, yet classic; unpredictable, yet cohesive; eye-catching, yet practical. How can I make sense of these seemingly contradictory ideas for our clients?

Enter Francesca (I’ve changed her name in case she wishes to remain anonymous.) Last week, I met a woman shopping for the first time at our store who could easily be considered the poster child for Love Your Body style. There was a certain enigma about this beautiful, yet understated, Italian woman that was so natural, so non-formulaic, and so refreshing. I felt compelled to get to know her and understand the personality and ideas behind this icon of effortless style.

I came to understand over the course of our hour-long chat, that her way of dressing was really very representative of a classic Western European approach to style. She never quite put it that way, but the ideas she articulated quickly brought back memories of not only the many books I’ve read on French fashion, but my numerous trips to and living stints in Europe (I studied in England, Italy and Austria.) The Western European woman has this sort of pulled-together ease about her that draws attention to her innate beauty versus the ornamentation on her body.

From talking to Francesca, I was able to distill the key tenets to her approach to dressing, or, what could be summed up as “The Art of Effortlessness.”

1. Practicality is key.

I wince every time I’m at the airport and cross paths with some poor soul running for her flight in four-inch heels. For a woman like Francesca, a stunning pair of heels has a definite time and place, and that’s usually a dinner date or dressy event. Work, grocery shopping, running after kids and travel all require clothing that is of course stylish (because the European woman is always pulled together), but comfortable and durable. The day I met Francesca, she was on a work break and was wearing wide-leg trousers, an oversized pashmina and gorgeous leather flats. She bought a pair of colorful sneakers here at LYB, which she said she could use for travel, paired with the same pants she was wearing. So chic, and yet totally practical.

2. Quality is everything.

The beautiful black leather flats Francesca was wearing led to a conversation about quality over quantity. She admitted that she had paid a bit extra for these shoes, but had no regrets. Rather than six or seven pairs of trendy, inexpensive flats, she was happy to have had these shoes for several years that paired beautifully with most of her wardrobe, were immensely comfortable and would probably last at least another few years. The same could have been said for the cashmere pashmina and lovely, yet non-distinct, handbag she had with her that day. The European woman doesn’t cut corners, especially on her foundational basics.

3. Mix your neutrals.

Oh, if only I had a dollar for every time I’ve had a woman tell me she needed black shoes to match her black top, a brown purse to match her brown belt, or a silver bracelet to match her silver necklace! The European woman, by contrast, is much less formulaic in her dressing. Not one piece of Francesca’s clothing that day was exactly the same color. She was a menagerie of lovely neutrals. Her look felt very “organic,” as if she’d woken up and reached for her easiest pants, her softest scarf and shoes she knew she could walk in all day. The result was a beautiful symphony versus a paint-by-numbers coloring book. The European woman never seems to question pairing blacks, browns, greys, olives, creams and other neutrals (and metals when it comes to jewelry) within the same look.

4. Layer your basics.

One of the most standout elements of Francesca’s look that day was her effortless layering of scarf over tunic over floaty pants. At one point in our conversation, she shared the name of her favorite European designer and directed me to look at some of the photos on their website. Every look was based on this layering concept: long dresses and tops over wide leg pants, cropped tees over loose longer tanks, jackets and pashminas layered over tunics. The overall effect was as though these looks had just “accidentally” and fabulously come together without a great deal of effort.

5. Never leave home without a scarf.

Perhaps this seems cliché, but scarves are the hallmark of the European woman. Francesca was wearing an oversized pashmina the day she came into the store, and she probably wrapped and re-wrapped her scarf a half-dozen times as she was trying on outfits. Each time, the wrap was slightly different and seemed to be the result of having effortlessly slung it around her shoulders. The scarf did not appear on Francesca as a fashion accessory, but more as a second skin or an extension of herself. There was nothing remotely contrived about it. It was clear that this pashmina was serving multiple purposes—as a completion to her outfit, an additional layer for both comfort and style, and a practical way to keep warm both indoors and out.

6. True class is understated.

Francesca and I had a little laugh about labels and what it means to look truly sophisticated. She is from one of the great fashion meccas, Milan, and yet said that she goes to great lengths to avoid wearing clothing or accessories with obvious high-end labels or logos. She explained to me that most European women with true style (and the ability to fund it) do not wish to advertise the cost or origin of their clothing. The beauty of this, of course, is that it is easy to integrate less expensive pieces into one’s wardrobe if one is more understated when it comes to labels. She also shared with me that European women are typically more understated when it comes to color and accessories. If they want to make their outfit pop or show off some personality, they’ll pair animal-print shoes or a colorful scarf (but never both) with an otherwise completely neutral palette. The same goes for jewelry: a great necklace, stack of bracelets, or outstanding earrings, but never all at the same time. And, last but not least, hair and makeup, even for the dressiest of occasions, are kept underdone and simple so that the focus is on the woman herself and not what she’s piled on top.

Just for fun, trying doing an Internet search for images of your favorite European actresses. I almost guarantee that these principles will be apparent in their more the candid, street-style shots. There is an art to innate and effortless style that we in America were not necessarily taught growing up. Yet, it is an art form well worth learning. Look at pictures and learn! As my mother always reminded me, “act as if, and you shall become.” Find your own unique way to begin bringing ease and effortless into your dressing, and you will quickly discover for yourself one of our most essential concepts here at LYB: true beauty is based on comfort and authenticity.


Lisa Berry

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