For this article, I will be using, as role models for elegance, some of history’s most elegant and beautiful women: Eva Gabor, Elizabeth Taylor, Cate Blanchett, Grace Kelly, Aubrey Hepburn, Jackie Onassis, and Princess Kate. People who are elegant understand that your hands, in and of themselves, should not stand out; hands that stand out because of too long nails, trendy nail color, or excessive jewelry detract from an overall classy appearance.
The key to a classy appearance is understatement and style, this is not just true of your hands but your overall appearance. Elegance is not about wearing the most stylish clothing, or the having the most eyecatching decolletage, or wearing the gaudiest jewelry, it is about wearing clothing and jewelry that are always stylish and attractive.
1. Keep Your Nail Color Discreet.
Elegant nails, if painted, are painted with neutral colors - pinks, tans, and creams; sometimes purple is okay, but not bright purple. Occasionally, for special occasions, they will wear bold colors like red, but only if it matches what they are wearing. You can never go wrong with just a clear coat of polish. Elegant women do not have sparkly nails, black tips, neon nails, or any color that is desperately trendy – they stick with colors that are classic.
Speaking of nail colors, a French manicure can be elegant if done properly; the length of your nails is key when getting a French manicure. If the manicurist has to paint the tip halfway down your nail bed, you need to wait until your nails are longer. Elegant french manicures always have white tips, pink nail bed.
2. File Your Nails to the Same Length.
Consistency is so important when trying to be elegent, and two short nails and three long nails looks weird and detracts from your overall manicure. If one nail breaks, file the rest down until they are all the same length. However, along these lines, classy nails do not get more than 1/4” from the tips of your finger, and that is a bit long. I personally would not go further than 1/8” from the tips of your fingers.
3. Only Wear Quality Jewelry, and Keep It To A Minimum
I hate to state the obvious, but I must - if your jewelry leaves a stain on your skin, it is not quality. Obviously, the best quality is gold and platinum, but solid silver (not plaited) will do. You should not have a ring on every finger; one per hand is best, but two is sometimes okay. The rule of thumb, in regards to rings, is if the ring is simple you can wear two rings, if it has large jewels, keep it to one per hand. If it is REALLY large, one ring should be the maximum for both hands. Also, if you are going to wear more than one ring, make sure that they are the same color – it does not matter if you wear gold or silver rings, as long as it is not both.
4. Take Care of Your Cuticles.
Just to be clear, the cuticle is the dead skin at the base of your nail bed. Untended cuticles will grow up your nail and/or crack and become infected. This is unnecessary, because cuticle care is easy and, if done right, painless. First, buy a package of orange wood sticks. Then, when the cuticles are soft from bathing, gently push back your cuticle. DO NOT CUT YOUR CUTICLES. I know that there are cuticle scissors, but cutting your cuticles actually damages them, leading to dryness and cracking. The cuticle is there to protect your nails from infection and fungus, if you damage your cuticles you can permanently harm your nails.
After you have pushed your cuticles back, massage some oil into them. You can buy cuticle oil, but it is not necessary – olive and grape-seed oil are sufficient. If your cuticles are cracked, Neosporin (or the off-brand equivalent) not only will heal your cuticle, but it will also get some moisture into your nails to prevent them from being re-damaged.
5. Cleanliness Counts.
This cannot be emphasized enough; if your nails are dirty and your hands are grubby it will not matter if everything else is perfect, no one will be able to see past the grime. Along the same lines, calluses look dirty, even if you are clean. However, calluses do not necessarily have to look ugly; the best thing to do, in regards to calluses, is also done during your daily hygiene regiment – while in the bath, gently rub a pumice stone over the callus to remove any dead skin, and smooth the skin. Afterwards, moisturize with your favorite moisturizer.
Alexandria on May 28, 2018:
@Sabrina, I'm black (dark skin) and I choose to wear clear polish. It's very classy and elegant. If you want to add some color, a flesh tone pink is always a win.
Lisa Jane from Maine on February 26, 2018:
I love your article. It is full of great information.
Sabrina on February 24, 2017:
So called "neutral colors" are probably ok for a white woman. Beige nails probably would work for a darker skinned black woman. What colors would you suggest then to stay classy?
Melinda (author) from Oregon on December 05, 2012:
Beth Perry from Tennesee on December 05, 2012:
Fantastic advice. Voted up!
Melinda (author) from Oregon on April 14, 2012:
Thanks. I just love the look of people who know what they're doing, hand-wise. lol
Roberta Kyle from Central New Jersey on April 14, 2012: