The author of the poem “Candy is dandy but liquor is quicker” got it all wrong: any self-respecting dandy would agree that liquor trumps candy when it comes to “dandiness.” So does sartorial elegance, quick-witted banter, and quoting “The Flowers of Evil”, probably.
But the elusive images of exclusive gentlemen clubs, smoky salons, and top hats hide, or at least disguise, the true definition of a dandy. Let us then embark on the noble quest of defining, identifying, and maybe seeking out the modern version of such a rare breed. Who were or even are dandies? On whose side are they?
The Birth of a Myth
Finding out the origins of the heroes of our quest requires a brief time travel to London in the late 18th century. If we’re careful to avoid the horse carriages, we may be lucky enough to make Sir Beau Brummell’s acquaintance, and he will tell us everything he knows about the topic while smoking a cigar in his decorous apartment, probably.
Dandies, he’ll sure say, never come from upper classes. Those in the ups, lords and such, think their lifestyle ordinary and, so, pay little attention to the lavish beauty of art or exquisite mastery of their cooks. They need someone from the middle class, an intelligent loner, to show them the pleasures of a beautiful life.
Dandies appeared at the crossroads of the end of aristocracy and the birth of democracy. They came to define the “new” aristocracy: reminiscent of the English ideas about the perfect gentleman, yet with no blue blood to back it up. Dandyism is a cult of a person, not background. If you’re more amusing than the prince, who cares if your father is merely a politician, am I right? (Brummell is smirking, probably.)
The Dandy Evolution
After Beau hints that it is time for you to leave (as it is time for his boots to be polished with champagne), don’t ask amateur questions: a proper dandy is always an eccentric myth. They could be guest lecturers in any Public Relations class. Dandyism is a flirtatious relationship with the public: the right amount of societal scandal or juicy rumors keep the passion alive.
Oscar Wilde gave actress Lillie Langtry a lily every day – as a play on her name – and didn’t get offended at the papers for calling him foolish. He knew the Gossip Girl motto before it was the Gossip Girl motto: you’re no one until you’re talked about.
We’re leaving Brummell’s apartment to pay a visit to 19th century Paris, where the “second wave” of dandyism occurred, and invited Baudelaire to be our guide. Closer to bohemian ideas, Parisian dandies made beauty and art, rather than manners into a cult. Vulgarity was the enemy and simplicity the ultimate sophistication. The Baudelairian dandy is too narcissistic to ever fall in love with another person. He’s too busy reading Byron or turning his life into art.
“Gave a lily a day. Still friendzoned. Not bitter. I’m awesome.” – Oscar, probably | Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The third and final stage of dandyism is commercial, marketable. While the original dandies valued emotional reserve and calmness, the likes of Oscar Wilde found beauty in the artificial and the exaggerated – a suffocating perfume or flamboyant colors.
Susan Sontag describes this as a phenomenon called “Camp:” a show of coded messages for the “knowing” crowd and carnival masks that have on/off modes. This ironic stage of dandyism then dissipated into the sweet monstrousness of decadence.
On Gender and Fashion
Dandies were obsessed with “the other.” Everything French was considered most fashionable in England and, of course, vice versa. Mr. Wilde called his infamous infatuation with Lord Alfred a consequence of his love for paradoxes applied to the world of emotions. The paradoxes of gender have always been an essential part of dandyism.
A man spending five hours daily on his appearance seems feminine, while dandy women have always preferred masculine clothes. “The most womanly woman,” (according to Musset), George Sand, dressed in drag to go on fashionable (at the time) strolls around Paris without attracting unwanted attention.
“Orange is the new nothing. Black is the new black.” – Coco, probably | Photo: ELLE
Coco Chanel, the dandiest woman of the fashion world (according, well, to me), was inspired by traditional English gentlemen costumes and the dandyism principle of “conspicuous inconspicuousness.” She advised her clients to “dress like their maids” and changed the meaning of black from mourning to chic.
Chanel was also the first one to accidentally set a trend. After a geyser explosion, she had to cut her slightly-burnt hair short, which caused a heated discussion at the opera and hundreds of haircuts. Like a true dandy, she valued an air of carelessness and comfort in fashion.
Oscar Wilde, too, took part in fashion revolutions. In contrast to Coco, he liked purple, gold, and ornamental details, but the general principle of “functional chic” still stands: he actively supported Dress Reform, an 1880 women’s movement against corsets and high heels.
Throughout history dandies have pioneered many fashion trends and movements – changing tastes from impeccable simplicity to much-discussed eccentricity and back again – but their fashion has always been just another aspect of the personality cult.
Spot the Dandy
So, where is (s)he, the modern dandy? Maybe what’s left is a Halloween costume idea, an anachronism, a dream, a joke? Maybe we can find only pieces of the image, or read fashionable novels to recreate the pseudo-good old days of dandy clubs and narcissistic romance.
Sadly, life is not just chocolate, traveling and feminism.
Or, could it be that dandies are all around us? Those who wear ideas pulled right from the runways or their imaginations, who turn their whole life into a piece of art in an Instagram-mosaic of only the dandiest pieces.
The emotional walls and self-admiration in selfies, the cult of beauty, the cult of vulgarity, exaggeration, masks, Camps, gender benders, and more personal blogs than people on the planet. Dandyism is in full swing. Yet no one is the audience.
Who is the modern dandy? Are you one (even slightly)? Is modern dandyism going to end in decadence as well? Tell us what you think in the comments.
For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been attending the Bates Dance Festival at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. It’s been an incredible experience and I’ve met so many talented dancers. People from across the globe attend this event, so I’ve been able to scope out unique and graceful dancers who also have an inspiring sense of style.
I saw Alexandra while leaving the dining hall during the festival, and her outfit was on point. The combination of her interesting black dress and colorful hat immediately caught my eye.
University: College of Southern Nevada
Let’s Talk Fashion
Who or what inspires your style? “Young Whitney Houston, most definitely!”
Where do you like to shop? “I like thrift shops and yard sales mostly.”
How would you describe your sense of style? “I would say it’s a mix of vintage and Hollywood.”
Why did you choose this particular outfit? “Because [this dress] was the most comfortable thing in my room. I chose my hat because my hair wasn’t up to par, so I threw on this beanie.”
What fashion advice would you give to other students looking to improve their style? “I would say: don’t think about it too much, if it works for you then it’s perfect, and if you want to add extra flair, add an accessory!”
What are your favorite trends right now? “Natural hair and Orange Is the New Black!”
Do you have any favorite fashion designers? If so, who? “I do; I like Coco Chanel because she has good quotes. I also like McQueen because he’s really creative. I enjoy St. John’s because it’s very timeless.”
What do you do for fun-do you have any unique hobbies or interests? “Singing [and] step. I used to be on a step team. And poetry.”
If you could raid anyone’s closet, who would be and why? “It would be Carrie from Sex and the City. I need all of her clothes today. Right now.”
Elements of Alex’s Style
1. Colorful Stand-Out Beanie
The bright colors and knit texture of Alexandra’s beautiful beanie contrasted with her stark black dress in a stylish way. Ultimately, it made her dress more casual, which was ideal for an afternoon spent at a dance festival.
2. Attention-Grabbing Cutouts
Alexandra’s dress, from Nicki Minaj’s collection at Kmart, has unique lower back cut-outs. The trendy cut-outs not only flaunt her gorgeous shape, but they really upgraded her classic LBD and turned it into something cool and edgy.
What do you think of Alexandra’s unique LBD?
Did she nail the casual summertime look? What do you think about her knit beanie? Do you ever rock cut-outs? Let us know what you think in the comments below!
3.1 Phillip Lim Resort 2014 | ELLE
3.1 Phillip Lim’s Resort 2014 collection featured its signature oversized silhouettes combined with tailored features and cool pops of color. With lighter, brighter hues that are perfect for warmer weather, quirky topless floppy sunhats, and the introduction of a backpack version of the trademark Pashli bag, Lim put forth looks that are fashion-forward, wearable, and incredibly fun.
Are you in absolute love with Lim’s fabulous collection, but are balking at the price tag? Keep reading for three budget-friendly outfits inspired by Phillip Lim Resort 2014:
1. Oversized Structure
This first look is the perfect example of how to combine oversized, borrowed-from-the-boys silhouettes and structured pieces. The cool blue shorts are loose yet fitted, while the blazer is both casual and office-ready. The printed flats and orange clutch add a touch of fun to an otherwise basic outfit.
Get the Look:
Recreate this ensemble with a pair of light blue shorts that are flowy but flattering. Combine these shorts with a white t-shirt and an oversized beige blazer. Continue channeling the original look with an orange clutch that has zipper details, as well as round sunglasses and a pair of patterned loafers.
2. Orange You In Love?
Orange was a reoccurring color in Lim’s Resort 2014 collection. While the first outfit incorporated just a dash of the hue, this ensemble centered around the gorgeous orange skirt. By pairing this strong color with an equally rich dark purple top, the resulting outfit is incredibly bold and fashion-forward.
Get the Look:
Start by pairing a pleated orange mini skirt with a deep purple top. Slip a black-and-white color-blocked jacket on over the blouse and add some classic-looking strappy white heels. Define and shape your brows á la model with an easy-to-use eyebrow pencil.
3. Summertime Chic
This outfit is my personal favorite from Lim’s resort collection. Not only does it featured the chic combination of black and white, but it upgrades that classic look with both edgy components (just look at that leather detail!) and unconventional ones (like that envy-worthy floppy hat).
Get the Look:
Slip on a white tee with rolled sleeves under a black romper that has edgy details; for this recreation, we chose zippers over leather. Incorporate a black floppy hat and metallic ankle-strap heels. Finish the look with silver bangles for a bit of bling. We think this outfit would be perfect for a brunch date!
What were your thoughts on this collection? Were you guys inspired by these stunning outfits by Phillip Lim? Which of these is your favorite? Would you wear any of them? Remember to let me know your thoughts in the comments below, along with any designers you’d like to see in the next few weeks!