I am not sure about the meaning of the verb ground in this sentence from an online article.

Accessories were kept polished and stylish with taupe suede Manolo Blahniks grounding the look and simple diamond stud Adina Reyter earrings for subtle sparkle.

Does ground mean connect with the ground, place on the ground, or give theoretical basis to? None of the dictionary definitions seem to work here. What does the sentence mean? Manolo Blahniks supposedly refers to a pair of shoes designed by Manolo Blahniks, but how do shoes ground a look?

up vote 29 down vote accepted

In this case, there is a very fashion-specific meaning for grounded. One occasional definition of the verb ground is to keep something on the ground or to prevent something from taking off/flying (see, for example, MacMillan Dictionary). Fashion writing sometimes plays on this meaning to describe some element of an outfit that keeps it from being too outrageous or over-the-top. For example:

The skirt is what keeps the outfit grounded and keeps it from going overboard.
(2018 fashion blog post)

we do love the way in which the shocking green hue makes her outfit pop, yet the casual shape keeps the outfit grounded
(2010 fashion commentary blog)

If you find bold colours challenging, try grounding the outfit with muted shades, like white and navy.
(Style advice section on fashion retail site)

In this case, the sentence is part of a description of an outfit worn by Megan Markle. The main element was a canary yellow dress, so the implication is that the less-colorful shoes keep the outfit "classy" and restrained, rather than too flamboyant.

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    The use of ground here might be compared to the use of a ground in electronics, as a basic reference level. (At least as far as anything said about fashion makes sense :-)) – jamesqf Nov 9 at 4:26
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    This is accurate, but isn't limited to fashion specifically. For example, "Bill would have spent every night promoting his UFO conspiracy theores, but his wife kept him grounded, at least around company." – MooseBoys Nov 9 at 5:52
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    @MooseBoys Yes, that's a closely related usage, and probably the direct antecedent of the fashion usage. I'd draw at least a little distinction between the "eccentric-but-mentally stable" usage and the "fashionably adventurous-but-still tasteful" sense, though. It's another level of abstraction from the literal meaning of"grounded": Bill might be called "flighty" or said to have his "head in the clouds" or even to be a "lunatic"/"moonstruck", but there aren't such direct flight/sky-related terms for a tacky outfit. – 1006a Nov 9 at 7:23
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    A person who is "grounded" is well balanced and sensible. So by extension, clothing that is "grounded" is also well balanced and sensible. en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/grounded – Paul Johnson Nov 9 at 9:32
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    "his wife kept him grounded" in a different context could also mean something quite different: grounded (AE, slang): to be confined to your home as a punishment – dlatikay Nov 9 at 9:58

I would say this is the figurative use of grounding to refer to something being reliable and practical. When a person has their feet on the ground, it means that they're sensible and focused on the immediate practicalities of the world around them, as opposed to someone who has their head in the clouds, constantly thinking about abstract ideas or fantasies.

In this case, it sounds like the article is saying that the shoes helped make the outfit as a whole practical and useful.

Manolo Blahnik makes shoes, so the meaning is a pun. Shoes touch the ground, and in this case they also form the foundation of the ensemble.

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    @L.Moneta To elaborate, I think Robusto is saying that it is simultaneously using the definitions connect with the ground and give theoretical basis to. – GentlePurpleRain Nov 8 at 22:26
  • It’s not a pun at all. “Grounding” in this context is a common expression, it has nothing to do with shoes. For this to form an effective pun the connection between shoes and being grounded would have to be way more explicit. If the phrasing had been “keeping the look on the ground” I’d more likely agree. – Konrad Rudolph Nov 9 at 11:34

"Establishing a neutral-toned foundation" is my take, where "foundation" has the sense of "main underlying color".

P.S. grounding also may have connotations of basic simplicity. There's nothing "flashy" about taupe.

I have two possible answers: Grounding can mean establishing a center or base, as in "My college education was grounded in science." Grounded can mean down-to-Earth and practical, as in "He may look like a dreamer, but his career is very grounded."

First of all, fashion writing is often strongly stylised, playing with conventions (the quote reminds me of the Maestra fiction novels!). Here it is quite likely that the author is writing in jargon for two or more audiences: so as others have already answered, 'grounding' is a term used in colour design, but also provides the pun of connecting the body to the floor.

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