Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Manners 101

Since I've gotten older (and my mother doesn't remind me anymore), my manners have been getting more and more lax. Even though our society doesn't really value or uphold manners anymore, I still want to make it my goal to be a well-mannered young lady who puts others first. So in 2009 I made a list of resolutions, one of which was taking a refresher course in etiquette. (You can read that post here.)

Though I didn't sign up for Manners 101, I did find several old etiquette books in my grandmother's basement that I've been reading. The one I'm going through now is called Amy Vanderbilt's Complete Book of Etiquette, a Guide to Gracious Living. It was written in 1952 and given to my grandmother in 1955. Even though our society has changed a lot since then, amazingly, most of it still applies today! The following are some excerpts from chapter 23, "The Fastidious Well-Mannered Woman."

A Practical Beauty Routine
"A woman is well-groomed when she looks fresh, neat, clean, and well-pressed. This means a daily...shower or bath [and] fresh underwear and stockings daily...Hair must be brushed morning and night with a clean, firm brush and combed with a good comb that, like the brush, is frequently cleaned...A dirty comb or brush is as repellent as a bath towel used beyond its initial freshness." (I always reuse my bath towels :P)
"The fastidious woman understands how much the appearance of her hair has to do with that of her whole person...She has it styled in the way that stays neat and attractive longest, and she never combs her hair or does her nails in public." (I usually brush my hair, let it air dry and leave it down--the lowest possible maintenance. I also comb my hair and do my nails in public all the time...hehe.)

Changing for Dinner
"Every woman should change for dinner, if only into a clean house dress. Dinner is the high point of the day, the forerunner--it is to be hoped--of a free evening...Fresh clothes and make-up, even if you are to be alone with the children for a simple meal, are psychologically sound and bring a needed change in the day's pace. Fresh grooming for evening is one of the criteria of gentility." (This is one I fail horribly at. Most of the time when cooking dinner, my hair is usually a mess from rushing around the kitchen, my clothes often covered with flour, water, grease, or whatever ingredient I've been using, and I certainly don't appear "fresh." Yet a new change of clothes and a freshening of the complexion was standard for this age!)

How to Sit Comfortably and Gracefully
"You never see a product of Victorian days sprawled in a chair. Women trained in the austere etiquette of that time will invariably select the straightest, most uncompromising chair in the room and sit on it, spine straight...feet parallel and flat on the floor. On entering a room, try to select a chair or sofa that suits your height and figure...If you do sit on [the deep, wide, modern-style sofa] don't flop, then squirm back into position. Instead, seat yourself on the edge, then, placing your hands on the sofa, ease yourself back with a lifting motion." (I always flop and squirm into position when the sofa is deep. Oops.)
"There are good reasons to avoid [crossing the legs] as much as possible. creates unattractive bulges on the leg and thigh crossed over. Secondly, it is said to encourage varicose veins by interfereing with circulation...It is much more graceful to sit, model-style, with the toe of one foot drawn up to the instep of the other and with the knees close together...[Crossing the legs] should not be done at the dinner table, in church, or at any formal occasion...When the legs are crossed, attention should not be called to the fact by bouncing the free foot." (Out of all the others, this area is probably the one where I have the most trouble. Because it's tiring to keep the knees drawn together all the time--especially through a long sermon!--I can frequently be found with legs crossed and the free foot bouncing energetically away!)

So far I've found this book extremely helpful (and embarrassing since I'm always doing what she says a lady ought not to!) But with Amy Vanderbilt guiding me and a lot of practice, perhaps I'll manage to pass for a lady someday. ;)


The Kings daughter said...

Thanks for sharing those passages Catherine. I think we should try to be as lady-like as possible in this modern society.
However, I would not get too caught up in it. I think that people in the Victorian society were so consumed with their manners and etiquette, that's all they were about.
Ultimately, our hearts are the most important thing. Yes, it's good to act mannerly, and I think that is a great testimony, but don't sweat it too much if you cross your legs every once in a while. lol!

Hannah said...

Wow... I'm guilty of a lot of these, too. The main reason I don't usually change for dinner is actually because I hate doing laundry... :D

Anyway, I think I still have one of your etiquette books (still unfinished...) on my shelf... this post reminded me about it. Do you want it back this Sunday? I'm not sure when I'll get around to finishing it. :\

Catherine said...

Don't worry, Joanna. I'm won't get obsessed or carried away with good manners and etiquette. It's just an area I've noticed myself getting lax in and one of my goals is to be more graceful and ladylike.
I don't think I'll ever completely change for dinner (unless my clothes are actually dirty) but I think I would like to try "freshening up" beforehand.
I didn't even know you had one of my etiquette books, Hannah. Lol! What book is it?

Hosanna said...

Oh, I am so ashamed of myself.... after reading this. Especially this time of year, I look quite frumped out by dinner, and half of the time I don't even care.
I will usually change, or freshen up for dinner, if we're having family or company over. And another bad habit we've gotten into it eating on the sofa every night! How terrible! *sigh*
And I am Sooooo guilty of crossing my legs too much.
Thanks for this post. I needed to hear it. :D