The true age of elegance

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SOPHIA LOREN: Still elegant

WAS there ever more elegance and style than when women wore fur stoles, veils and dress gloves?

I am reminded of US President Reagan’s wife Nancy Reagan when being received by the Pope. Wearing a veil this otherwise ordinary lady is transformed into an almost saintly figure.

Actress Sophia Loren expressed femininity as few can, especially when wearing a face veil or stole. Approaching her eightieth birthday she still adds to her allure by wearing a broad-brimmed hat and veil.


So did countless other fashion icons such as Ingrid Bergman and Audrey Hepburn, the opera diva Maria Callas. Given these stars’ enigmatic beauty and presence can today’s fashion icons hold a candle to them?  

Actresses and film stars, even at the beginning of their careers, could flaunt it immodestly. All that was necessary to turn heads and attract admiring glances was to toss a fur stole over their shoulders with a certain élan. 

Pulling on filigree-laced elbow-length dress gloves underscored elegance and style. For added allure, a fashionable hat and pretty face tantalisingly half hidden by a veil.

This was at its most effective when decorously done as by Princess Diana. 

Dress gloves showed real taste. Their being seductively pulled on or off exposed a man’s weakness for a woman’s slim hand and forearm. A real lady never removed her glove to shake a hand, men were obliged to. It put emphasis on the difference between the genders.

Shawls are another social matter. I never met a woman who wasn’t devoted to either her shawl or stole.

Stoles were worn for style in high places whilst shawls were for those considered less fortunate. Popular in Spain too, flamenco artistes swirl a shawl with mesmerising effect. 

Of course, the donning of such fashion accessories demanded confidence without which the gesture was rather pointless. Oh, they had plenty of that too.

I recall being a passenger in a New York yellow cab; I was a 16-year-old sailor at the time. The lights changed and the world stopped for everyone in sight of her. Fascinated, we all watched a young woman, almost certainly a film star, as she crossed Fifth Avenue to approach Macy’s department store. 

Dressed in what passes for fashion today she would not be an exceptional woman. Not on this occasion. She was taking Errol Flynn’s advice. Walk like you own the earth. For a few brief moments she did so. 

With her sweet nose in the air and aware that all eyes were on her she flaunted her femininity as few can: Marylyn Monroe comes to mind.  The image of her as she flamboyantly crossed that busy city avenue stayed with me all these years. The Beatles crossing Abbey Road could never match her panache.


  1. You’re right, Mike: Today’s fashion icons don’t hold a candle to Ingrid Bergman and these other ladies of style. And I’m part of the younger generation, in my 30’s. Don’t worry, there are those of us out here who shun the ridiculous nonsense of the day and call for a return of style and class! True femininity will always be more powerful than base sexual attraction. (I’m a woman, by the way…)


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