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After a brief search over StackExchange I've decided to ask my own question.

I'm looking for a word to describe someone who enjoys grooming themselves or taking care of their appearance, but without the negative connotations of words like 'vain' or 'self-conscious'.

I've thought about some options already that I'm not very happy with:

Vain and self-conscious feel derogative, coquettish feels sexual or romantic and seems to describe the way someone behaves towards someone else, pretty/handsome or good looking seem to describe the way someone appears and not the way someone behaves.

Stylish and fashionable are close ones, but they seem to focus too much on clothing, and I'm talking more about grooming: combed hair, manicured nails, clean-shaven (especially a man), maybe with some makeup on (especially a woman), etc...

The context of what I'm trying to write would be something like this:

A woman who is the perfect blend of practical and ____.

Vain? Stylish? Fashionable? I'm not convinced... help!

Any suggestions?

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  • Are you talking about what their appearance actually is or the fact that they enjoy having that appearance? One is visual, the other is an attitude. You've provided both in your question—but you can't if you want a specific answer. They mean different things. Also, vain, self-conscious, and happy all mean different things when it comes to attitude. So even if you narrow it down to that (as opposed to appearance), your question is still too broad. Commented Feb 1, 2019 at 17:22

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It doesn't really work in the OP's sample sentence, but I would suggest well-groomed. If we tweak (quite radically, I'm afraid) the sample sentence we'd get

A well-groomed woman who epitomizes practical sense, and style.

Collins Dictionary

A well-groomed person is very neat and tidy, and looks as if they have taken care over their appearance.

Collins also provides soigné as one of its synonyms, a French loanword which originally meant “to take good care of” (soigner) nowadays its meaning is closer to that of being elegant, chic, and well-groomed. Merriam-Webster says of it

It can also be used to describe people, as in an article about fashion designer Donna Karan: "Though her name is really pronounced 'Karen,' people said it with a glamorous continental inflection; it suited their image of a fashion designer: aloof, soigné, different from you and me." (Josh Patner, The New York Times, April 11, 2004)

  • ‘As he stops to arrange dinner with the soignée wife of a chap he was at nursery school with, I realise, not without envy, that to be a Venetian is to live in the world's most beautiful and sophisticated village.’ (Oxford Dictionaries)
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  • A pedant would object that well-groomed does not imply that they enjoy taking care of their appearance, but I doubt you'll get much better, and I'm not sure how serious the OP is about that aspect. (I upvoted.)
    – Stuart F
    Commented May 21, 2023 at 11:33
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Well-kempt. From the Oxford English Dictionary (and here at Oxford Dictionaries)

Of hair, etc.: carefully combed, neatly styled. Of a person: having carefully combed or neatly styled hair; (more generally) of clean and tidy appearance. Also in extended use, esp. of a garden, park, etc.: diligently tended or cared for; tidy.

I'd describe manicured nails, carefully-coifed hair, some makeup, moisturizer, or otherwise clean skin, and similar measures as part of being well-kempt. Kempt retains a vague hint of action, being derived from the verb kemb (now obsolete), meaning to dress, trim, or comb hair. So there's a sense of care to the term as evident in the resulting appearance of a person or thing.

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    unkempt is much more frequent....
    – Lambie
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 16:17
  • @Lambie Unkempt also doesn't fit the required meaning so I don't see what your point is.
    – JDF
    Commented Feb 3, 2019 at 4:45
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    @Deonyi I think he means that "unkempt" is so frequently used that it is immediately familiar whereas "well-kempt", though it might be technically correct, is so infrequenly used that it is hardly recognisable at all. Personally I would read "well-kempt" or "very kempt" as being humourous in the style of Wodehouse who, I am sure, had Bertie Wooster refer to someone being "very gruntled" (as opposed to "disgruntled").
    – BoldBen
    Commented Feb 3, 2019 at 10:55
  • Regarding frequency, YMMV. I have seen it frequently enough to think of the term before consulting a dictionary. The greater frequency of unkempt also helps, since anything well- would be read as a reversal of anything un-. (Well-protected v. unprotected, well-laced v. unlaced, well-proven and unproven.) Commented Feb 3, 2019 at 16:51
  • Well-kempt looks a little like a typo for well-kept, but it's still comprehensible.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Sep 11, 2021 at 11:35
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Is metrosexual still a thing? A man who likes to stay well groomed hair skin nails.

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    Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Commented Sep 23, 2022 at 23:24
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Dapper could be applied to a man ("being strikingly neat and trim in style or appearance" - Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary) though I know no equivalent word for a woman.

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That's a neat person:

Clean and tidy in appearance or character
Dressed in a tidily stylish or presentable manner
Having a simple, tidy and pleasing appearance (WordHippo)

  • She is in her early twenties, but serious, tiny, and very neat in appearance. (WH examples)

Collins explains that

A neat place, thing, or person is tidy and smart, and has everything in the correct place.

Trim and spruce are indicated as synonyms, but I find them more shallow, deprived of the nuance (present in neat) of the effort in obtaining the result of such appearance.

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What about "smart"? Even if it's more about the result than about the behavior. In French, I think there is the word that you're looking for: "coquette".

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    Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Commented May 20, 2023 at 20:13
  • Coquette is rather pejorative in English.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented May 21, 2023 at 11:16
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I was having trouble finding a single word that didn't carry bias or judgement, but the example sentence led me straight to aesthetic.

"A woman who is the perfect blend of practical and aesthetic."

It's a comparatively unemotive term, and works well as a counterpoint to the technical sounding "practical". Merriam Webster's second definition ("appreciative of, responsive to, or zealous about the beautiful") seems close to what we're looking for, my only reservation is that it's often used of a subject towards an object so might be considered the view of an observer rather than of the person themselves.

It's also not a word that's in everyone's vocabulary, so will depend on the intended audience and the characteristics of any character using it.

"Cosmetic" is also worth considering, but can carry an implication of superficiality.

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