FEBRUARY is a month of love. St Valentine’s Day. On the 14th of February, partners give each other unique attention.

It is the desire of every woman to look pretty and whether spiritual or canal, it is the desire of every woman to be admired and loved.

It is even better when that attention comes from one’s partner.

To achieve that, a woman needs to have a perfect skin, long luscious hair, and be fit and toned. Very ideal, she would need to stay within a size 10-12 and look like those great Victoria Secret models she often admires on the runway or those great style icons like Victoria Beckham, Audrey Auburn or Michelle McLean.

Unfortunately, not every woman is born pretty or blessed with a models body. Even for those who are born pretty, the after effect of child bearing and the harsh environmental factor takes its toll on a woman’s skin and consequently her looks. She grows horizontally and bulges appear in places they are not wanted making her less desirable and longing for her hey days.

Women generally want to be hot and beautiful especially on days like St. Valentine’s Day. Unfortunately, we live in an image obsessed culture where people want to step out looking camera ready. Image it is said, is everything not only because you may not have a second chance to make an impression, the way you look to a great extent, determines the first attraction between two people. The truth is that in this image obsessed world, a man hardly walks up to an ugly girl to chat her up not to talk of taking her home!

So if truth must be told, how many women dress up to look good for themselves? The reason why many women dress the way they do is because they do not want to be admired and judged by others as ugly or not capable of drawing attention. For this reason, a lot of women are faced with the challenge of buying all kinds of beauty products thrown at them by manufacturers of beauty products. For the face alone, you may have cream for day and night, special sun block, cream for puffy eyes, another to even skin tone.

There is of course eye cream, hand cream, body cream etc. some of these products range from affordable to amounts that would actually punch a hole in one’s pocket. That is for the cream alone. Then you come to make up-lip stick, lip gloss etcetera. when you take the eye shadows, you can go dizzy choosing from the wide range available. For some people, once their favourite celebrity becomes the face of a product, they all go there hoping that by using that, they will start looking like that celebrity. You may use such a product for a while only to discover that the issue was not with the product but a natural defect on one’s facial part.

This obsession with looking good stems from the images often projected by the media. Beautiful women adorn cover magazines, many of them look as graceful as a butterfly, flawless skin and flashing a smile that reveals a perfect set of teeth. Unfortunately, what these women do not realise is that the majority of these images you see in print or television or on billboards have been digitally retouched.

In other words, these images have become casualty of hours of manipulation and enhancement that characterize the retouching process. With digital retouching, cardinal blemishes can be fixed, imperfections will disappear and tribal marks can take a flight from a woman’s face! In extreme cases, some of the aquiline noses you admire have received lifts through cosmetic surgery, eyes can be adjusted to suit the individual taste, lips can be made fuller or reduced as desired while cheek bones can be enhanced.

So next time you set your eyes on one of those beautiful models’ pictures that make you feel insecure, the chances are that it has been given full digital retouch treatment that erases every trace of its originality.

So, how does one stem this inescapable pressure women are placed under? Nelao Johannes (not real names) a part time student at Unam says, “this problem is a reality with us in Namibia. Come to my school here in Windhoek by 8am in the morning, you will be shocked to see how students appear in class. Most of my class mates come looking like they are going for a photo shoot. Heavy foundation, blusher, mascara, the whole hog. It is amazing.

“It appears that they are in competition with some other people. To a point, it affected me, because I was forced to step up my game by going to buy some of these expensive cosmetic ranges. Initially, making up wasn’t an issue for me. Now it is because beside those girls, I just look like a plain Jane”.

Margaret, a mother of two says it is difficult not to look at those pictures. “Yes it puts me under pressure. After my first baby, I was very upset with the changes that took place in my body. Almost had a complex. But now I know if I need to look at an average woman, it would be people around me not on magazine covers”

Women are definitely under pressure to look good. So the real reason why they stay in front of the mirror trying out different outfits just for one event is not really for themselves but to impress the general public. Who will bail these women from the turmoil within?

When Christian Dior was asked “What is the key to good dressing?” he said, “There is no key! If there were, it would be too easy, rich women could buy the key and all their fashion worries would be over!”

Simplicity, grooming and good taste are the three fundamentals of fashion and these cannot be bought. There is of course, a more sophisticated elegance whose taste you will eventually develop, but for starters, we will stick to simple clean lines and focus on quality.

An elegant woman is more materially restrained than we realise. There is always something very cohesive, rounded, soft, subtle and ethereal about her. Her style looks effortless and perfect.

The basic elegant style principles are to be always clean and neat which will give you a graceful appearance. People will notice you more than what you are wearing.

The first step to achieving timeless, elegant style is to have immaculate personal grooming. You need to have a clean face, nails, and smell fresh (from having showered and not reeking with perfume). Wear fresh clothes always.

Develop your own customised skin care and hair care routine. Keep it simple, pay attention what works for you and be disciplined about it!

As for make up, unless you are a make up artist, be a minimalist. Go for a more natural look in the day, and a heavier one at night. Quality, rather than quantity is essential to elegance. Good quality is not extravagance; it lasts for a long time and may end up cheaper because you get more use out of each item. It pays to have the very best that you can afford.

Of course many women dream of having a different thing to wear for each day of the year. But the truth is, when you really love an item of clothing, you’ll find yourself wearing it over and over. So buy only what you love and do more with less. An ideal wardrobe has 10 really good pieces that you can mix and match, dress up or down.

What if you have nothing to wear? Strangely, in desperate times, we all get creative and when travelling with just a few clothes, I’ve found myself creating new combinations of accessories. But be careful when trying new looks. Most women, in attempting originality, simply achieve “comic effects”. In fact, pulling off originality is easy; we see it every day. The challenge is to be elegant too.

Whilst some women manage to look effortlessly elegant, others need a little helping hand when it comes to being chic. Dressing elegantly is not about spending a fortune on clothes, but buying the right pieces, wearing classy colour combinations, and having the grace to carry them off.

Keeping an outfit co-ordinated is important and it is recommendable wearing no more than 3 different colours at once. Go tonal, match hues in the same colour family (e.g. greys, blues and purples) for a sleek, classy look. When it comes to suits and party dresses the vintage inspired look represents understated glamour. Fabrics such as cashmere, lace, velvet and brocade have an enduring quality and exude class. Nautical looks and animal prints are timeless wardrobe items one must have.

A coat is one of the best investments as it is often the first piece of clothing others see. Avoid baggy shapeless styles and go for a trench coat or a classic cut in a neutral colour like camel, this will give a sophisticated vintage spin. A narrow belt added to a fitted jacket oozes style.

When shopping pick good quality fabrics and tailored cuts. Heavier fabrics will hang better and well-cut clothes will flatter the figure.

A white shirt, fitted tee, chiffon blouse, cashmere sweater, pencil skirt, tailored pants and a well-cut blazer will see you through season to season. These can be brought up-to-date with accessories in the colour, prints and styles of the current season to make an outfit trendy.

You can start re-building your ideal wardrobe now. Ruthlessly discard all that is not elegant, clothes you have not touched in two years, and items that are too big or small. Get the repairs done.

Do you have your basics? Do you have the right accessories? Follow these style guides and you will certainly achieve a perfectly polished look this Valentine’s Day!