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SNP’s word of the day: Sprezzatura

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Illustration by Lewis Mirrett

Word: Sprezzatura

Meaning: An art that seems artless; a rehearsed spontaneity.

Usage: “I have a theory that elegant people have an aura of impenetrable private sadness, and that good taste and impeccable manners are life’s consolation. Perhaps they conjure sprezzatura, the Renaissance ideal of artful nonchalance, that makes it all conceivable.” — Lauren Cerand in her Rumpus.com essay, “On Elegance.” http://therumpus.net/2012/02/on-elegance/

You should know it because: The linked-above essay, “On Elegance,” is worth not only reading, but printing out on fine-milled paper and hanging, in a vintage gilt frame, on your bedroom wall. The idea Cerand begins with, sprezzatura, seems to have been lost in a time when fame and fortune are transparent, when backstage runway photos reveal/deny the magic and It bloggers post change room outfits to Pose. It comes from Renaissance days: in Baldassare Castiglione‘s The Book of the Courtier, he defines it as “a certain nonchalance, so as to conceal all art and make whatever one does or says appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it.”

Sprezzatura is not the same as effortless style, which is the worst lie ever propagated by women’s media. It is really the effortful pursuit of the appearance of effortlessness, a dedication to the end result. I think of my friend Maryam Keyhani, who is the most elegant woman I know, and I know that she has spent days on end researching fashion, learning about designers, studying art, shopping for clothes. And as a result of those days that have become years, decades, she can now get dressed in 10 minutes. That’s sprezzatura.

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