A Handsome Woman

I like this description more and more as I get older. A “handsome” woman can mean different things to different people. For me, it evokes a strong face, perhaps a face-of-one’s-own, rather than a traditionally “cute” or “pretty” one. Good posture, a chic, simple hair and makeup routine, and a style that doesn’t succumb to trends.

I am not making any value judgments about a “pretty” woman (think Scarlett Johansson) versus a “handsome” woman (Sigourney Weaver). I find us all beautiful in our way. I do find myself drawn to a handsome woman, probably because her looks convey a sense of inner strength (when it could be mainly a matter of simple genetics?).

I have strong cheekbones and a strong jaw, and strong opinions, but a slight frame and fuzzy yellow hair, so I don’t put myself in the handsome category, at least not yet. I won’t mind growing into it though, letting my hair go silver, and wearing less makeup as I age.

I like the way “handsome” women seem to let themselves shine through, needing few adornments and staying true to their muse.

Christine LaGarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, is chic and handsome. And smart.

One of the Original Handsome Women, Katharine Hepburn.

Angela Bassett might be both “beautiful” and “handsome”, and has a strong presence.
Hilary Swank is handsome and strong-looking, and not only when she’s playing a boxer!
A great actress, Glenn Close is also a handsome woman and has aged beautifully.
Tilda Swinton can do no wrong by me. I adore her individualistic look and style.

Over to you – do you have/admire a “handsome” look? Any other women you’d like to nominate?

Have a marvelous Thursday, and stay fabulous,

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  1. I'm a huge Frances Mcdormand fan. She's so talented and seems so comfortable in her own skin. Great post. thanks- Susan

  2. I love all of these ladies–because they aren't just a "pretty face"–there's BRAINS and character–which makes them amazing!!

  3. I am a little uncomfortable with all the "OOh, yes, Handsome women look so strong!" comments. This is just the same ol, same ol "Masculine=handsome and strong, feminine = pretty and weak."
    The women you depict all have a certain type of facial features – wide, prominent foreheads, thicker brows (not tweezed into skinny arches), more "natural" makeup (whatever), unfussy hair, and so on. Why can't these women just be called "Beautiful" if their appearance pleases your eye?

  4. Got here from Sally's link at Already Pretty. I love the term "a handsome woman." To me it has connotations of being well-kept; not what you have, so much as what you do with it. I'd nominate my mom. She was pretty when she was young — strong dark brows, nice skin, nice smile. At 74, she is comfortable in her own skin and does yoga, takes a walk, and sings every day. She is stylish and well-groomed without being fussy. In the old novels I'm so fond of, "handsome women" seem to be women with physical fitness, self-respect, a certain firmness of character, and good grooming. Attributes I can really get behind (though I'm terribly unfit myself), and have little to do with genetics.

  5. When I think handsome woman I also think of a sort of minimalist chicness. I actually think Sandra Bullock might fit this category too. She has strong features which are attractive and feminine and yet not soft and delicate. I also think perhaps Cate Blanchet even though at first glance she can look a bit delicate. She is similar to Tilda Swinton in that icy beauty and strong woman look.

    I don't think I will ever be described as handsome because my facial features tend to be delicate and soft. I think I will only get softer looking as I age.

  6. Being "handsome" as opposed to "pretty" probably helped someone like LaGarde stay afloat in a male dominated profession like banking. Someone who was too pretty would be swimming against the tide. Thinking of other powerful women, how would you you categorize Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook?

  7. I think my face is a little squishy to be "handsome" a la Tilda Swinton, but I've definitely always had a "face of one's own". I really like my own face and can't be shaken from that by others' reactions, maybe it's because I look so much like my dad, who I love and respect.

  8. Because my features are soft and I've been described as pretty, I am more drawn to the handsome woman — the woman with angles in her face, who looks in charge and can take anything on. My favorite of the above pictures if, of course, Mme Christine Lagarde. She is handsome and smart and quite chic. I'd like to think I could look like her when I'm that age, but I'll probably look like a tuffet.

  9. In some cases I would even say they could be close to androgyny. I love tilda Swinton, she is incredibly attractive in my opinion, because of that strength you say.

  10. I definitely admire handsome women, although I'm not one of them myself. I think that the French former model Inès de la Fressange falls into this category as well.

  11. All beauties. I have long been fascinated with Tilda. She's my favorite of the group.

  12. Hi Patt!

    How are you doing?
    I think handsome women age well- don't you think? – Plus they have the look of intelligence
    Intelligence is the best collagen!


  13. I can agree with what you are saying in the descriptions…these are women I have always thought were beautiful and striking in their strength and I believe you are saying the same thing with the word handsome. I love portraying strength, but I believe pretty women can do that as well. Enjoyed the post, Patti!

  14. Great topic Patti! Hmmm – I would have included Angelica Huston, but then she did all that awful plastic surgery. I am hoping to age like my Aunt Betty – she was pretty enough when she was young, but looked better and better as she aged! I am hoping for the same!

  15. I adore Tilda Swinton! I love the women here – they are all so strong and seem to really know themselves well. Brava, Patti, great choices!

  16. I've always fallen into the "pixie" category, which I hope will be cute when I'm 80. Angelica Houston comes to mind as another handsome woman, although I haven't seen her lately.

  17. There are so many striking, handsome women. I will never be one of them . . . at 5'1" with blonde curls I most often hear "cute". Bea Arthur comes to mind as does Sandra Day O'Connor and Grace Jones.

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