Robert Browning, poet, writing in 1855 was the first to declare that "less is more". He was talking about poetry but it certainly applies in so many other cases especially in personal style.
Elegance is the art of restraint. Women known for their style and elegance - think Jackie O - keep their looks comfortable, uncluttered with neutral colors in their day to day wear. Their evening wear is graceful with beautiful accessories that do not overpower the look. I think that what sets an elegant woman apart from the crowd is her quiet self assurance - she is worth focusing on, not her clothing.
How can we achieve this frugally? Coco Channel noted that "Elegance does not consist in putting on a new dress". What is important for an elegant personal style is that you wear clothing and accessories thats' color, shape, fabric, and value are appropriate. This means that our clothes never eclipse the woman within - they must not get in the way of letting our inner beauty show through.
My mother is one of the most elegant women I know, and for years she has shopped at the Goodwill, Salvation Army and the St. Vincent dePaul thrift stores. I promise you that you would never be able to tell which of her clothes she bought in the boutiques in New York or which she bought in a thrift store. I was in her closet the other day and noticed that everything she owns with very few exceptions was a solid color, she used beautiful scarves and costume jewelry to accessorize.
I think we often forget that our hair too can be elegant also, a neat ponytail can be incredibly elegant - or a short choppy cut can also. It is taking the time to make it neat.
I am not suggesting that we dress to the nines everyday - but it seems to be a lost art in the younger generations to take a moment to look at how we are dressed before we go out. We don't need pearls and heals to clean like June Cleaver but we don't need to dress like Rosann all the time either.
I want to have a simple elegance about myself. I was thinking about how this will help me to live frugally. When you dress in solid colors (that look good on you) most everything matches. You don't need as many articles of clothing. As I buy something new, asking the question "does this go with my other clothing? Does it fit me? Do I feel pretty in it? Elegant? Is it well made? Will it hold up with many wearings?" will help me to accomplish my goal of simple elegance.
When you have a few pretty things that fit you well, you don't need all the other clothing. The stuff that makes you feel bad about yourself. I am not saying buy all beige and black - there are beautiful clothes in a rainbow of colors.
I want to encourage you to slowly make this change. As you purchase new ask the questions and then only buy it if it fits your criteria.