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Style File: Chic

Some may say that it is hard to define chic style; it’s a “know it when you see it” aesthetic. However, whenever I think of chic, I think of smart elegance and sophistication, a distinct mode of classic posturing, a little black dress, a single strand of pearls, Audrey Hepburn, a red lip. But that’s my own definition of chic, and I’d argue that’s how chic works (and any style really); how you define it for yourself. However, even with that free-handed definition, chic has become a catchall word for cute or trendy here recently, so I wanted to take a moment to explore a more basic essence of chic style beyond social media hashtags, marketing strategies, and celebrity sightings.

Yes, you can define chic in whatever manner best suits your individual tastes and preference; hence we see things like shabby chic, safari chic, rustic chic, etc. In the general fashion world, chic most often refers to when something is stylish, cool, proper, or when something is ineffably, indescribably great. It’s a word that originated in the French culture but has been adopted by most other languages across the globe, due to its inherent inability to be accurately translated. Some other common words that share this trait include kimono, schadenfreude, hygge, as well as a variety of tech jargon. Case in point, how did I get that list? I Googled it.

I’d argue no matter your culture or language; chic is translatable in feeling with some standard tenets, no matter your approach or variation. Chic style is tailored, polished, not over-done, nor under-done, chic is hitting a tasteful balance. Let’s take denim as an example. Everyone has at least one pair in their wardrobe; jeans can be basic or designer, worn for daily chores, or an evening out on the town. They can be chic, trendy, edgy, punk, and even preppy. For jeans to be chic, they should fit well, nothing too slouchy or oversized. Chic jeans aren’t ripped or worn, nor are they over-embellished or fussy. Not that there’s anything wrong with a distressed or embroidered jean, they just aren’t chic.

Chic jeans can be worn with heels or flats, with fine jewelry or just a simple locket and watch. Layer a black turtleneck under a menswear-inspired button-down with a gemstone stud earring, loafers, and a leather handbag for a casual chic outfit. Add a blazer and put your hair up in a high bun; you could be ready for the office while looking chic.

Fall is the perfect time to experiment with chic style. Pieces like cable knit sweaters, striped long-sleeve tees, the aforementioned button-downs, and silk blouses are all chic tops for fall. Mix and match these with dark-wash, straight-fit denim, tailored trousers, corduroy A-line skirts, or easy natural-fiber pants. For shoes, look to polished pumps, loafers, flats, and both ankle and tall boots. The trench coat is the quintessential chic autumnal outwear. Blazers, peacoats, and especially capes are also chic options. For accessories, pick one statement piece, like a pendant necklace or bangle, and keep the rest minimal. A good leather belt is also a must-have chic add-on. Additional accessories should be functional, like scarves, gloves, hats, and bags. Stay away from anything with too many bells and whistles.

In general, avoid anything overly complicated, as chic implies a sense of ease. If you are uncomfortable in layers, then forgo them. Heels can be elegant, but so can ballet flats if you’re better suited to them. While I love interesting silhouettes, fits that compliment your shape with freedom of movement are much more chic than too tight or oversized ensembles.

The key elements in creating a chic outfit are to think of timeless, yet wearable pieces that create a cohesive and elegant look. Keep accessories uncomplicated, yet polished, and stay authentic to your personal style by embracing touches of individual flair. All in all, chic is about finding a balance between simple and special.

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