Classy Nail Designs - Never Go Out of Style

June 05, 2024 8 min read

Classy Nail Designs - Never Go Out of Style

Classy fashion goes beyond trends, whether we’re talking about clothing, hairstyles, shoes, or nail designs. It's about creating a look that's timeless, polished, and confident. Trends come and go. But classic nails are here to stay, no matter the season or occasion. 

Classic Nail Design - What should you aim for? 

Trends have come and gone throughout the years, but there are a few truly classic nail designs that have never really left. Even if they fade, they will come back with force. 

Our great-grandmothers knew these styles, and they were sure to stick around when we all finally received our jet packs and flying cars. Let’s talk about these classy nail designs! 

Historically, all of the most classic nail designs came into existence at the end of the 1920s, when the gloves came off. Before then, most fashionable women would wear gloves whenever they went out, making nail polish unnecessary. The nail designs we explore all take their root in this time period. 

French Manicure

This is the quintessential classic. It features a sheer or nude base coat with crisp white tips. Variations can be found with colored tips or a glitter accent on the white tip. But that’s trendy. Let’s stick to the pure classics. 

How did the French come up with the French Manicure? Don’t be disappointed—the French Manicure, a global icon, wasn't born in France but in California—Hollywood, to be exact.

Back in 1975, manicurist Jeff Pink saw a major time suck: constantly changing actresses' nail polish to match every outfit. Directors craved a more neutral, adaptable solution. 

Pink’s solution was the French manicure—it looks polished but completely natural, accentuating the natural tones and colors of the nail.  

This is exactly what makes the French Manicure the ultimate icon of classy nail design—it looks great with anything and can be worn anywhere for a sophisticated, simple, polished look, whether you’re at a wedding, a funeral, a party, or a business function. And most importantly - even if you have a dozen wardrobe changes a day! 

Naturally, actresses and directors were instantly smitten. This versatile style boasted barely-there regrowth and complemented any wardrobe. The fashion world quickly followed suit, with stylists taking notice. 

Paris Fashion Week the next year saw models rocking the now-famous pink base with white tips. It was the perfect moment for Pink to christen his creation and unveil it to the world: the French Manicure.

The French Manicure, despite its fancy name, is actually a relatively simple nail design to achieve at home. Here's what you'll need:

  • Base Coat: This protects your nails and helps the polish adhere better.
  • Sheer Pink or Nude Polish: This forms the base color of your manicure, mimicking your natural nail bed.
  • White Tip Polish: This is what creates the classic white crescent moon on the tips.
  • Top Coat: This seals everything in and adds shine. (Optional: French Tip Guides)

Here's a step-by-step guide, best practices with a French Manicure set:

  1. Prep your nails: Gently remove any old polish and trim/file your nails to your desired shape. Push back your cuticles and buff your nails lightly for a smooth surface. Apply a base coat and let it dry completely.
  2. Paint the base color: Apply two thin coats of your sheer pink or nude polish, allowing each coat to dry completely before applying the next.
  3. French Tips (with French Tip Guides): These pre-cut sticky stencils make creating clean white tips easier. Apply the guides to your nails, leaving the desired amount of nail tip exposed (usually 1/8" to 1/4").
  4. French Tips (without Guides): This requires a steadier hand but offers more customization. Using your white polish brush, carefully paint a thin crescent moon shape along the tip of your nail, following the natural curve of your nail bed. You can repeat for a thicker white tip if desired.

Tip: If you mess up a white tip line, don't panic! Use a cotton swab dipped in nail polish remover to clean up the edges while the polish is still wet.

  1. Finalize: Once the white tips are dry, remove the French Tip Guides (if used). Apply a final coat of top coat to seal everything in and add a glossy shine.

Adding trendy accents: While the classic French Manicure uses white tips, you can explore other colors! Try pastels, glitter, metallics, or even bold black for a modern twist. Just remember to keep the base color sheer or nude for that signature French Mani look.

People also tend to completely flip it and use any color they can think of but still keep the curved almond tip. Does it work as well? You be the judge. 

Ella Video:

Solid Color Manicure

A simple and versatile option, this involves painting your nails all one color. Popular choices include:

  • Reds: From bold cherry red to fiery crimson, red is a timeless and powerful color for nails.
  • Nudes: This natural-looking option is perfect for any occasion. Choose a shade that complements your skin tone.
  • Blacks: Sophisticated and edgy, black nails make a statement.
  • Other neutrals: Colors like white, gray, and beige offer a clean and polished look.

Among these, a few are considered especially classy and are well-recognized among fashionistas and historians alike. 

Nude and Pink Classy Manicure - a Royal Must 

What are some examples of this elegant look in real life? The British Royal Family is a great place to start!

Move over, tiaras—the classic staple of royal wardrobes has been nail polish! For over 30 years, Queen Elizabeth's go-to manicure shade has been a simple, delicate pale pink varnish for all occasions.

According to gossip columns, Queen's love affair with Essie’s Ballet Slippers began in 1989 when her hairdresser requested a bottle. And that was that! This sheer, elegant shade became the Queen's signature nail color, perfectly complementing her vibrant outfits and adding a touch of timeless polish (pun intended) to every ensemble.

Keep in mind that the Queen was known to wear bright and exciting colors. Her nail polish was kept sheer pink so that it would go well with just about any outrageous outfit color she chose next. 

But the Queen wasn't the only royal to fall for Ballet Slippers' charm. Her granddaughter-in-law, Kate Middleton, has also been spotted sporting the shade, as did Meghan Markle on her wedding day! Although the royals don’t officially have a dress code, this neutral pink has often been called part of the official dress protocol. 

So, if you're looking for a touch of regal elegance, consider this classy and elegant style—a delicate pink and neutral polish that goes with just about every outrageous and wild outfit you want to wear. Test out colors like Honeymoon Bliss or Luminousto copy this look! 

Red-hot forever and ever

Red is an aggressive, powerful color. It stirs up passionate emotions like love, desire, and romance. Think red roses or hearts on Valentine’s Day. But we also tend to associate it with danger, excitement, warning, and urgency—red traffic lights, warning signs, fire engines, and flags. 

Red is also a royal color. Other associations we might have are red carpets, seeing red, the scarlet letter, and red-light districts - all of these are flashy, open, full of passion, and bold. 

And red nails - they don’t go with just anything. You have to plan an outfit around them - they’re classics, but they are definitely not neutral. 

A short history: red nail polish might be an older trend than you think. Painting nails red was a “thing” in Ancient China as well as in Ancient Egypt. Of course, it was a symbol of status and wealth. Isn’t it funny how certain colors emit the same type of vibes throughout centuries? 

But when did red nail polish as we know it become popular? It happened about a hundred years ago, in the 1920s! American actresses spied that European socialites were using this color, and it soon made its way into Hollywood (again, Hollywood!)

Here is a pearl-clutching theory that’s been popular on TikTok lately: men find red nail polish attractive because it reminds them of their moms! Our take on it? We don’t really buy it because nail polish has always been associated with glamour, sexiness, and audacity, people have been constantly bombarded with images of red nails on sexy, glamorous, and audacious women. It’s no wonder they find red nail polish attractive!

Half-Moon Manicure

This unique design features a curved line of bare nails at the base, with the rest of the nails painted in a solid color. It's a subtle yet stylish way to add a touch of interest. It can also be mixed up with different colors and made more colorful than it was in the 1930s, an era associated with the Great Depression!

It’s not as popular right now as it once was, but it’s certainly making a comeback. This style is almost the opposite of the French manicure - here, the bottom half-moon is accented, not the tip of the nail. 

The half-moon manicure is a stylish and elegant nail design that's perfect for those who want something a little different from the classic full-polish look. It’s an old classic, made popular in the 1930s. 

Here's what you'll need to achieve it:


  • Base coat
  • Sheer pink or nude nail polish (optional - colors are popular for this look now)
  • Your chosen colored polish
  • Top coat
  • Optional: Round nail art stickers (various sizes) or a striping brush


Prep your nails: This is crucial for any manicure! Remove any old polish, trim and file your nails to your desired shape, and gently push back your cuticles. Buff your nails lightly for a smooth surface. Apply a base coat and let it dry completely.

Sheer Base (Optional): If you want a more natural look under your colored polish, apply two thin coats of a sheer pink or nude shade and let each coat dry completely.

Half-Moon Creation (with Stickers):

  • Choose round nail art stickers that are slightly smaller than the desired size of your half-moon.
  • Apply the stickers to the base of your nails, leaving a crescent moon-shaped gap at the tip.
  • Paint your chosen color polish over the entire nail, making sure to paint over the sticker as well.

Half-Moon Creation (without Stickers): (Requires a steadier hand but offers more customization)

  • This method uses a striping brush for a more precise line.
  • Dip your striping brush in your chosen color polish and carefully create a curved line at the base of your nail, following the natural curve of your cuticle.
  • You can repeat for a thicker half-moon line if desired.


  • Once the colored polish is dry, carefully peel off the nail art stickers (if used).
  • Apply a final coat of top coat to seal everything in and add shine.


  • If you mess up the half-moon line with the striping brush, don't panic! Use a cotton swab dipped in nail polish remover to clean it up, and try again.
  • Practice makes perfect! The half-moon line might take a few tries to get neat, so don't get discouraged.


  • You can experiment with different color combinations for the half-moon and the main polish.
  • For a more subtle look, use a glitter polish for the half-moon instead of a solid color.

The Finishing Touch

So, there you have it! From the timeless elegance of the French manicure to Royal nudes to early twentieth-century fashions, classic nail designs offer endless possibilities. Whether you're a seasoned nail artist or just starting out, these styles are guaranteed to elevate any look you choose—classic nails can complement even the most outrageous outfit. 

Remember that some of these classy looks are over a century old!