The incomparable French fashion designer Yves St. Laurent once remarked, “I wish I had invented blue jeans. They have expression, modesty, sex appeal, simplicity – all I hope for in my clothes.” St. Laurent was a master when it came to making women look good. At first glance, his quote seems contradictory, in that he likes women to have both modesty and sex appeal. Notice that he didn’t say he wanted them to “look sexy,” because sexy implies “cheesecake.” Cheesecake is for Hollywood. Sex appeal is entirely different.
Women who look angry, aggressive or masculine are said to be unappealing in the eyes of many men. Even though women who look sexy could, no doubt, be appealing to men, the whole scenario changes when you throw in the word modesty. Sexy-looking women and modesty seem to be located at opposite ends of the spectrum.
If you overheard a male client drop your name in a conversation, which would you rather hear? “She always looks very appealing” or “She always looks very sexy.” Does one comment imply more professionalism than the other? We could easily substitute the word appealing for the word attractive, but in keeping with Monsieur Laurent’s comment, I will use his word. Sex appeal literally implies that you do not put off members of the opposite sex by your appearance, mannerisms or actions. Your appearance is appealing, as opposed to repelling, to males.
Look at the two young “Millennial” women above. Which woman is more powerful, more dynamic? Which one looks more appealing? Both women are dressed modestly and with simplicity. If clothing is about expression, the woman on the left sends the signal “inexperienced greenhorn” while the other woman says “polished professional with expertise and credibility.”
But what about modesty and sex appeal? As Yves St. Laurent proved, there is nothing more appealing than a woman in a black tuxedo or a beautifully tailored suit styled after a man’s suit. Of course, St. Laurent always respected the hourglass shape of a woman’s body, even though his designer suits for women were inspired by menswear. It’s a bit like sweet and sour tastes with food; seemingly-opposite things have a certain irresistible appeal.
Look closely and you will see that the suit on the left is fairly shapeless, so it is not as flattering as the suit on the left. Nor is it as powerful looking as the tailored suit on the right. Furthermore, skirts are more formal and powerful than pants, so the suit on the right conveys more authority and credibility; and it also looks more appealing because it is well tailored.
In fashion, the “S” curve is highly valued for its harmony, because it is pleasing to the eye. Artists and photographers know that the female figure benefits from the use of this line. When two similar items are placed side by side in a fashion magazine, the model with the most appealing S-curve will be judged to wear the most attractive garment.
If you compare the two photos, there are several S-curves in the photo on the right, including the woman’s left hand, which is placed on her hip at a pleasing angle. Her legs form S- curves, as does her entire body. There is no “S” curve in the photo on the left. Ultimately, the woman on the right looks more appealing in terms of overall line. I think Monsieur Laurent would agree that she has expression, modesty, sex appeal and simplicity.
Sandy Dumont is an image consultant for business professionals and their staff. She also conducts assertiveness training seminars for women. For more information, please visit www.theimagearchitect.com