Monday, December 28, 2015

To Be a Good Neighbor

 

 "Neighbors bring food with death and flowers with sickness
and little things in between."
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Over the past few generations, American women have largely lost their sense of community.  Social media has made it easy to know what is happening in other people's lives without connecting with them in any meaningful way.  A woman may have hundreds of "friends" on Facebook, but not know any of her neighbors.  A lady knows that screen relationships are no substitute for flesh and blood neighborly bonds.

When my family first moved into our neighborhood, Carol, a retired school teacher three houses down, appeared on our doorstep with a friendly greeting and a loaf of homemade zucchini-pineapple bread.  I was forever touched, feeling first-hand how powerful a simple gesture of neighborly spirit can be.

Over the years I've learned from Carol two rules of being a good neighbor. They are an important part of a lady's code:

  • Extend a hand.  Be the first to introduce yourself, smile and learn your neighbor's name.  Show yourself friendly.  The response of some may not be as warm as that of others --- such is life.  Remember a lady's code is about defining your own principles, the way you will treat others, regardless of the code others adopt.  Your actions reflect who you are; their response reflects who they are.
  • Share what you have.  Whether it be material (we've received jam made from Carol's strawberry patch and cuttings from her lily of the valley) or know-how and experience (Carol has taught me how to can homemade pickles in her kitchen), share what you have with no strings attached.
A man that has friends must show himself friendly.  Proverbs 18:24

Principle:  A lady is a good neighbor, extending a hand and sharing what she has.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

To Know the Liberation of "Enough"


"He who knows that enough is enough
will always have enough."
Lao Tzu

A lady is free from the snares of commercial hype.  She is not always on the hunt for the next new and better thing.  Shopping is not among her regular pastimes; she doesn't spend her time aimlessly browsing catalogs that feed an insatiable desire for more things.

As a result, a lady is not encumbered with an increasing hoard of trappings.  Her life and possessions are well-ordered.  She possesses the exceptional beauty of contentment, with a mindset more focused on giving than forever getting.

Principle:  A lady is content with enough.


Art: Lady in White, Window Shopping by James Crandall

Saturday, December 12, 2015

To Write a Proper Thank-You Note

 


In this electronic age, a handwritten note of thanks is becoming a distinguishing hallmark of gentility.  Most will likely agree that a penned thank-you is the nicest way to express appreciation for the kindness of another, but so few follow through.

Perhaps this is because writing a proper thank-you is a skill that is seldom taught, and one is left to her own ingenuity to compose what she hopes will be an adequate acknowledgement of appreciation.  Suddenly, what had sounded simple enough now looms a larger, somewhat daunting task, easily procrastinated.  

For years I struggled to follow through in writing notes of appreciation because I felt compelled to write a short essay to adequately express my gratitude.  Imagine my liberation when, as a student at the American School of Protocol, I discovered that a proper thank-you note contains just four sentences.  Here is the simple formula, followed by an example:

Dear __________________ ,
  • A sentence that says thank-you for the gift.
  • A sentence that says something about the gift.
  • A sentence that says something about the giver.
  • A sentence that says something about the gift.
Closing,
Signature


For example:

Dear Sarah,

Thank you so much for the lovely dinner last evening.  The chicken cacciatore was superb, and I am still dreaming of your chocolate meringues!  You have such a gift for making people feel loved.  The time and effort you put into making the evening so enjoyable is truly appreciated!

Warmly,
Nancy

Additional tips for writing proper thank-you notes:
  • Don't be troubled about being eloquent.  Eloquence is found in simplicity and sincerity.
  • Keep note cards on hand for timely correspondence.
  • When writing on behalf of you and your spouse, begin:  "John and I wish to thank you for...", and end by signing your name only.
  • Timely thank-you notes are best sent within one week, and not later than two weeks, of receiving the gift.  But even late is better than never.
Principle:  A lady writes proper thank you notes.

Art:  Penning a Letter by George Goodwin Kilburne

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

To Treat Others Kindly Regardless of Station in Life

"Treat every person as the most important person on earth.
To them, they are the most important person.
 That’s the way we ought to treat each other."
Earl Nightingale

A woman's character is profoundly revealed in the way she treats those of lower station in life than her own.  Whatever a woman may have going for her, she is no lady if she looks down her nose at store clerks, waitstaff, or housekeeping personnel.  A lady shows respect for the dignity of others regardless of their job or social standing.  She neither ignores them, nor is demanding, but acknowledges through her words and demeanor that here is a human being of value with feelings and sensabilites like her own.

One of the most remarkably telling stories of a man's character is about President Ronald Reagan when, days after being shot and still weak from wounds, he spilled water from a sink. Entering the hospital room, aides saw the Commander in Chief on his hands and knees wiping water from the floor.  Questioning him, they discovered he was concerned that his nurse might get into trouble if the mess were found.  That is the heart of true gentility.

Likewise, noted designer Adele Williams remembered the kind of customer Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was, always "prefacing a purchase by asking in a very soft voice, 'Mrs. Williams, could I have that?'  Not 'Send that to me,' but 'Could I?' "

How does a lady show respect to others of lower socio-economic standing?
  • Recognize their personage by giving direct eye contact.
  • Give a pleasant smile and greeting.
  • Make requests quietly and kindly.
  • Be considerate by not unnecessarily adding to their workload.
Certain tasks are part and parcel of service, and patrons need not apologize for them being done.  For example: a store clerk bringing a different size in the dress you are trying on, a waitress bringing another fork after you dropped yours, a hotel housekeeper cleaning the lavatory.  However, a lady is conscientious in not adding undue burdens to those who wait on her.  After trying on garments in the dressing room, she hangs them back up as they were.  Before leaving her hotel room, she puts her belongings in order so that they are not in the way of the housekeeper's cleaning -- toiletries will not be scattered across the bathroom counter, clothing will not be left on the bed, or trash on the bedside table.  This thoughtful consideration of others who serve is a mark of a true lady.

Principle:  A lady treats others kindly regardless of their station in life.




Tuesday, November 17, 2015

To Nix Uncomely Mannerisms


"It's generally little things that spoil the picture..."
Janet Lane

As a firm rule, a lady never does any of the following in the company of others:

  • examine, pick, or bite fingernails
  • crack knuckles
  • scratch head
  • touch nose without a handkerchief or tissue
  • bite lips or inside cheek
  • play with hair
  • tap or click fingernails
  • play with jewelry
  • pick teeth
 Principle:  A lady never exhibits unsightly mannerisms.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

To Refuse the Chronic Casual Dress Code - Dressing to Inspire


 


A lady's paramount role is to inspire.  By inspiring a lady has profound potential to influence others to better themselves and aspire to all that is good, worthy, admirable, and lovely.  Not only does she hold the potential to inspire by the way she acts and speaks, but also by her appearance, and particularly her dress.  Herein lies a great misfortune of modern society:  women have largely lost their ability to inspire by the way they dress.

The chronic casual dress code of popular culture has left a dismal deficiency in feminine inspiration for people of all ages, particularly men and children.  There is nothing about women in sweatclothes to inspire a man to open doors like a gentleman.  There is nothing about teachers in graphic t-shirts and jeans to inspire a little one to her best while struggling to learn multiplication facts.  There is nothing about a mother in yoga pants to inspire children to enjoy the food their mother eats at the dinner table.  If a woman is not even pleasant to look at, how can she expect her loved ones to be inspired to her values and lifestyle?  How can she hope her daughter will wish to emulate her, or her son will want to look for a wife who is like his mother?

A lady does not slouch through life in leisure wear, but sees each day as an ocassion to be lived in loveliness. She chooses her clothing with care, always mindful of the mental image she is creating for those around her.  

Principle:  A lady refuses the chronic casual dress code and dresses to inspire others to gentle behavior.

Note: I am very grateful to Jennifer L. Scott, author of Lessons from Madame Chic, for her campaign to encourage people to "Be Presentable Always".

Art: The Pink Dress, Edward Cucuel 1875-1954

Monday, October 19, 2015

To Sit Like a Lady



Sitting with one's legs crossed at the knee has traditionally been considered masculine and not proper for a lady; yet today an estimated seventy percent of women sit this way.  While many may dismiss the traditional view, it is perhaps wiser to consider why it was widely accepted by past generations who knew better how to behave like a lady than the present population.

Unless a skirt or dress is long, crossing the legs at the knee is far less modest than the traditionally feminine way of sitting with legs together and uncrossed. Crossing legs at the knee raises the hemline toward the lap and exposes underneath the top leg. The result is always less attractive and less graceful than sitting with the legs parallel and to one side (see photo above).

Recently I had the opportunity to observe women sitting in folding chairs formed in a circle. Most of the twenty women sat with their legs crossed at the knee while two sat in the traditionally feminine position. Side by side comparison showed crossing legs at the knee gives the legs a strong, conspicuous presence (not discreet), whereas leaving the legs uncrossed, tucked slightly back, and off-center is a far more modest, unobtrusive, and elegant way to sit.

Principle:  A lady sits with legs together, uncrossed and slightly to one side.

Photo:  Jacqueline Kennedy, 1962.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

To Refrain From Speaking of Myself Unless Asked

"Speak as little as possible about yourself."
William Wilberforce

Our culture is steeped in social media venues which constantly encourage us to speak about ourselves.  We can barely imagine a society where it would be considered impolite to volunteer information about our current "personal status."  In a world where seemingly everyone is self-broadcasting, most have forgotten what was once a firm rule in polite society:  Do not speak of yourself unless asked.

A vital part of a mindset distinctly focused on others instead of self, this attribute distinguishes a lady from other women.  When consistently practiced, this gracious self-restraint will always be endearing and charming in a self-absorbed world. 

Principle:  A lady does not volunteer information about herself, but only speaks of herself when asked.


Art:  Young Women Talking, Renoir, 1878

Saturday, October 10, 2015

To Never Complain of My Loved Ones to Others


As a matter of principle, in social conversation, a lady does not at any time speak to others of the faults of her family members.  She considers the shortcomings and failings of those precious souls within her household a sacred trust, which she would not dishonor.

Those in a lady's family should always feel they have in their sister or daughter or wife or mother, the truest of friends, who may always be counted upon not to publish their failures, though she see their worst moments by virtue of living under the same roof.

He that covereth a transgression seeketh love;
but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends.
Proverbs 17:9

Principle:  A lady does not complain to others of the faults of her family members.

Artwork: Sisters, Frederick Morgan

Saturday, October 3, 2015

To Reject the "Why-Bother?" Attitude of Modern Culture


"The quality needed most of all, the universal attribute of all successful women,
is a zest for life ... a keen appreciation of all the pleasant things, 
great and small, which set us apart from animals to the degree that we are civilized."
Adele Williams

Nearly forty years ago, Adele Williams, in her book Gracious Living, posed the question, "Are We Becoming a Nation of Slobs?"  Bless her heart, what would Mrs. Williams say today?  Perhaps she wouldn't be too surprised because even then she wisely saw where the casual, why-even-bother mindset was heading.

Mrs. Williams tells the story of being at a dinner party with the food editor of a large metropolitan daily paper ...
"She was extolling the virtues of her Microwave oven. 'You see,' she explained, 'I can fix dinner and put everybody's serving in those individual sectional plastic trays.  They stack right on top of each other in the refrigerator, you know, then when anyone wants to eat he just puts his tray in the microwave oven and dinner is ready in a few minutes.' "

"I had to leave the table," Mrs. Williams later wrote.  "Maybe I'm a voice crying in the wilderness but what is this?  What happened to the attractively set dining table, lighted by candles, where everyone gathered for a pleasant meal at the end of the day?  What kind of people are we bringing up to run the world?"
Mrs. Williams wasn't against convenience in the kitchen, but she certainly knew nothing is inspiring about on-the-go meals stacked in the refrigerator on plastic trays.  Where was the inspiring atmosphere?  The loveliness that encouraged good conversation and an appreciation for good food, lovingly prepared?  Unlike the food editor (the irony!) of the large newspaper, Mrs. Williams understood one of the most powerfully influential roles a woman can possess is creating an atmosphere of gracious living for herself and her loved ones.

A lady possesses a keen appreciation for the details that bring beauty and pleasure to every day living.  She understands the profound difference a few fresh blooms on the breakfast table or candlelight at dinner can make in the atmosphere of the home.  She rejects the "why bother?" attitude of modern culture and chooses instead to care

Principle:  A lady rejects the "why bother?" attitude of modern culture.

Cookbook Illustration: Kay Lovelace, Culinary Arts Institute, circa 1955.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

To Speak Impeccably - The Four Ps of a Pleasing Speaking Voice


A pleasant voice, which has to include clear enunciation,
is not only attractive to those who hear it ...
its appeal is permanent.
Loretta Young


Impeccable speech is not only about the words a lady says, but how she says them.  A voice that falls pleasantly on the listener's ear is an asset to which every lady can aspire, for the qualities that make a voice pleasing are within her control and are perfected with attention and practice.

The first essential quality of a pleasing speaking voice is crisp, polished pronunciation.  Distinct words or sounds are not blended together in what phonetics professors call assimilation. Dunno (don't know), hafta (have to), probly (probably), gonna (going to), wanna (want to), and ushally (usually) are common assimilation errors.  Care is also taken not to drop the d consonant from the end of words, as in used to, and supposed to.

A second quality required for a pleasing voice is balanced projection.  Many women speak too loudly; others use an irritating, breathy whisper.  A lady projects just enough for the listener to comfortably hear, but not so loudly that others beyond her circle of conversation can't help overhearing.  Perhaps you have witnessed women who are so caught up in themselves that they seem to think everyone, even strangers, will be interested in hearing what they have to say.  Ladies do not entertain such illusions.

A third indispensable quality of a pleasing speaking voice is sweet-sounding pitch.  A shrieky, shrill voice is not at all pleasant; neither is a high-pitched, cloying voice that is overly ingratiating.  A lady speaks in natural, low tones that convey sincerity, warmth, and expression. 

And finally, an amiable pace is the fourth characteristic of a pleasing speaking voice.  A lady's speech never sounds rushed to the listener.  It's rhythm is like a comfortable strolling gait - not a fast gallop, and not a slow crawl.  It is complimented by timely pauses, allowing both the speaker and the listener to breathe and engage in thoughtful conversation. 

Impeccable Speech Habit:  Speak with crisp, polished pronunciation and balanced projection, in a sweet-sounding pitch at an amiable pace.

Photo:  Audrey Hepburn receives elocution lessons in My Fair Lady, 1964.


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

To Speak Impeccably: Becoming Comfortable With Silent Pauses



"Well-timed silence hath more eloquence than speech."
Martin Farquhar Tupper


Many women find themselves uncomfortable with moments of silence in conversation.  We fear not knowing what to say and feel the need to fill empty space with something, anything.  As a result, we say things that are either mindless or better left unsaid.

A lady wisely understands that observing brief moments of silence has enormous benefits in conversation.  Silent pauses serve as moments of refreshment, when both parties are given the space to take in what has been said; to consider how they might next contribute something worthwhile to the conversation; to be sensitive to the other's needs; as well as to be mindful of the shared time and completely present in it.  None of these are likely to happen if one is worried about filling every little nook and cranny with chatter.

The more we practice small spaces of thoughtful silence, the more at ease we will become with them.  When tempted to say something just for the sake of avoiding silence, take a deep breath, look into your friend's eyes and simply smile.  It may be the most eloquent thing you contribute to the conversation.

Principle:  A lady is comfortable with silent pauses in conversation.


Art: Afternoon Tea, Edward Cucuel

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

To Speak Impeccably - Eliminating Slang


"Remember that you are a human being with a soul
and the divine gift of articulate speech:  that your native language
is the language of Shakespeare and Milton and The Bible;
and don't sit there crooning like a bilious pigeon."
Professor Higgins

Slang is the junk food of language.  As a cheap substitute, slang lacks the rich nourishment and interesting range of flavors that real words possess.   In slanguage, everything good is cool or awesome.  Whereas real language offers a full spectrum of sweet, sour, salty, and savory descriptors.  Slang takes the sugar and spice out of our conversation.

A lady is a connoisseur of words.  She reads quality literature, observes meaningful words, and makes them her own.  She resists pedestrian slang as she would a steady diet of processed convenience food. Instead she delights in the beauty of real language.

Below is a sampling of unladylike words to avoid.
                                                   
hey
yeah
it's like
I/she/he was like
yeah right
cool
hang out
have a blast
freak out
gotcha

Impeccable Speech Habit:  Eliminate slang.

Photo:  Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady, 1964.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

To Speak Impeccably - Throw Away the Crutches!

 
Crutch words are words we say when we're deciding what to say next.  Meaningless fillers we repeat when we need to pause ...  um, uh, like, so, you know ... They can pop up every time we need to take a breath or collect our thoughts.  If a lady wishes to speak impeccably, then she must eliminate crutch words.

Saying "you know" has the immediate, albeit subconscious, effect of lowering the speaker's credibility in the listener's mind, implying that we're unsure of either what we're saying or how to say it.  When repeated ad nauseum crutch words become a major detractor from our speech.   

Beware of mindless words used like crutches to lean on; they make speech lame.  Take a breath, collect your thoughts, and simply let the pause be.

Impeccable Speech Habit:  Do not use crutch words when speaking.

Photo:  Elizabeth Taylor, circa 1944.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

To Speak Impeccably: The Eloquence of Understatement

 "...genius for language lies in understatement ..."
Walter Kirn

Language suffers from chronic exaggeration.  Words which once swelled rich with meaning become deflated and worthless.  Impeccable speech, however, is marked by well-measured words, and is eloquent in its simplicity and reserve.  There is eloquence in understatement.

A beautiful example of the eloquence of understatement is found in the opening text of the Bible, where the creation of this magnificent earth is described in measured tones: "... and it was good." The restraint of the word good infuses it with rich meaning and touching eloquence.

Contrast this with popular handling of the word awesome.  Here is a word which should be reserved for things that leave us wide-eyed and speechless with awe, but is mindlessly thrown about on things like t-shirts and cheeseburgers.  When words are flung carelessly, they become meaningless and make our language lifeless and dull.  If a tasty cheeseburger is elevated to awesome, what is left to describe the marvels of a baby's birth or the vastness of the Milky Way?

A hallmark of impeccable speech is a tone of understatement rather than hyperbole.  Popular and exaggerated words, including love, amazing, unbelievable, and incredible are avoided.

Impeccable Speech Habit:  Carefully measure words to avoid exaggeration.

Monday, September 14, 2015

To Speak Impeccably: Stop It, "You Guys"!


"Eliza, you are to stay here for the next six months
learning to speak beautifully, like a lady in a florist's shop."
Professor Henry Higgins

One terribly unrefined habit of speech in American culture is addressing a group of people as "you guys". A few generations ago, it was considered bad form to call a young man a guy, let alone any member of the fairer sex.  But now it has become so commonplace that I once heard a young school administrator address a group of senior citizens visiting the elementary school on Grandparents' Day as "you guys". No one seemed to notice anything improper about addressing a congregation graced by many silver-headed grandmothers as you guys.

This brings us to the first pillar of impeccable speech: Words are handled carefully to be fitting and proper in the given situation.  The French have a word to describe the idea of a thing being fitting and proper: comme il faut (kaw-meel foh) which means as it should be.

To speak impeccably one must choose words thoughtfully, considering whether or not their true meanings make them fitting in the circumstances.  This is the antithesis of sloppy use of language, such as addressing a group that includes grandmothers as you guys.  Impeccable speech avoids the phrase "you guys", especially when addressing any other than a group of pubescent males.  Instead, simply use the word you; or if that seems ambiguous, and you wish to clearly indicate that you are speaking to everyone in the group, say "all of you."

For example, when speaking to a couple:  "Would you guys like to come over for coffee after dinner?"  Instead, say:  "Would you two like to come over for coffee after dinner?"

Or when speaking to a group of mixed company:  "Would you guys like something to drink?"  Instead, say:  "Would anyone like something to drink?"

Impeccable Speech Habit:  Avoid the phrase you guys.

Photo: Audrey Hepburn takes elocution lessons from Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady, 1964. The Kobal Collection

Sunday, September 13, 2015

To Speak Impeccably



“Language most shows a man:  Speak, that I may see thee.” - Benjamin Johnson

Speech is exposing, and in the end, brutally honest.  I may dress looking every inch a lady; but as soon as I open my mouth, my speech begins either to confirm or deny my appearance.

How painstakingly we polish our outward appearance, while scarcely giving a thought to refining our speech. Yet it is our manner of speaking which better defines us.  Many flawlessly coiffured women fall headlong in estimation once they open their mouths.

In his brilliant play Pygmalion, the famed playwright George Bernard Shaw depicts a society which marked a lady or gentleman by his or her manner of speaking.  In the story, phonetics professor Henry Higgins makes a wager that he can reform a bedraggled Cockney flower girl to pass for a duchess at an ambassador's garden party by training her in gentility, the most important element of which, he believes, is impeccable speech.

When it comes to impeccable speech, we are closer to becoming a society of bedraggled Cockney flower girls than guests at the ambassador’s garden party.  Perhaps we can pass as dukes and duchesses as long as we keep our mouths shut.  But alas, few of us do that very well.

So, what makes a lady's speech impeccable?  Tomorrow we'll begin to "codify" impeccable speech in the form of habits which will prepare even a Cockney flower girl to attend the ambassador's garden party.

Principle:  A lady speaks impeccably.  

Photo:  Promotional picture of Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle in the musical film adaptation of My Fair Lady, by Cecil Beaton, 1964.

Monday, September 7, 2015

To Listen More Than I Speak

If you make listening and observation your occupation
you will gain much more than you can by talk.
Lord Robert Baden-Powell

One of the distinguishing traits of a lady is that she has learned to listen well, and to listen more than she speaks.

A lady is not concerned with being brilliant, witty, or funny in conversation, but in carefully hearing what the other person is saying.  She quietly observes, listens, and asks questions, always with a sensitivity to others' feelings and a desire to learn from what she hears and observes.  She never volunteers advice without being asked for her opinion, and never interrupts when someone else is speaking.

Principle:  A lady listens more than she speaks.

Be swift to hear, slow to speak.
The Bible - James 1:19

Art: The Conversation, Mary Cassatt, 1914

Monday, August 31, 2015

To Not Recount Trifling Incidents


Trifling incidents should be thought of as petals that have fallen from a bouquet -
sweep them away and enjoy the beauty of the remaining blooms.

A woman who adopts a policy of not rehashing trifling occurrences, such as small disappointments and petty annoyances, will always bring a refreshing air to social conversations.  She will be sought out by friends for her pleasant, good-humored, and uplifting nature.  People will find that they always seem to feel better for having been in her company.

Rehearsing the disagreeable, irritating details of daily life is selfish and tiresome.  Seldom useful, it usually creates a downward spiral in conversation and sucks energy from our spirits.

On rare occasions when such occurrences are mentioned, they should be recounted in a light-hearted, good-natured way that reflects an optimism that, though things sometimes go awry, a lady can laugh at her mishaps without getting her pinfeathers too ruffled.


"Let your speech be always with grace..."
Colossians 4:6

Principle:  A lady does not speak of trifling incidents.

Monday, August 24, 2015

To Refuse Boredom

The world is so full of a number of things,
I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings.

"Happy Thought", A Child's Garden of Verses, Robert Louis Stevenson


A lady possesses a sense of wonder and interest in the world around her, so that boredom is simply foreign to her.  So keen is her sense of awe and reverence for the marvels of creation that, to her way of thinking, boredom would be an insult to her intellect and to her Creator.  She does not need or expect to be entertained, but is capable of finding something interesting and useful to occupy her wherever she finds herself, even if it is nothing more than keenly observing her surroundings.  She has a teachable spirit, ready and eager to take up a subject matter of which she knows little, and can find in it some wonderful thing to benefit her ready mind.

"There is not a blade of grass that springs uninteresting to me."
Thomas Jefferson

Principle:  A lady is never bored.

Artwork: The Crab,William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1869

Monday, August 17, 2015

To Dress Discreetly


In style ... the supreme excellence is simplicity.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Discrete is the watchword for a lady's wardrobe.  Her clothing is remarkable for its simplicity and restraint; and she is careful that everything she wears is in keeping with refinement and tact.

The following ground rules will guide a lady to be discreet in her dress:

1.  Choose clothing with simple, classic lines.
2.  Do not wear garments displaying messages or images.
3.  Never draw attention to the posterior with flashy beadwork or ornate stitching on backside pockets.
4.  Solid colors tend to be more discreet than patterns.
5. Avoid showy ornamentation, flaunting necklines and hems, and clinging materials.
6. Select designers with hidden labels.


Discretion should never be confused with drabness ...
A discreetly dressed woman attracts a passing glance at first;
but the glance returns immediately
and notes that every detail of her ensemble
is in perfect harmony.
Genevieve Antoine Dariaux

Art:  On the Heights, Charles Courtney Curran, 1909

Monday, August 10, 2015

To Avoid Sarcasm

Sincerity lends a quality of loveliness
to the countenance that nothing else can duplicate.

Our English word sarcasm derives from the Greek word sarkasmos, which means "to strip off the flesh".  Although originally it indicated a sharp and cutting remark intended to wound, today what we call sarcasm often involves mock praise or irony.  Women are frequently sarcastic in an attempt to be clever and witty. 

In the world of rhetoric, sarcasm can be effective in condemning social and political agendas.  But in interpersonal relations, sarcasm often creates walls that distance.  It is sincerity that builds bridges that encourage others to open their hearts and nurture meaningful relationships.

Sarcasm makes a woman like a porcupine:  the porcupine's sharp barbs may be impressive, but one doesn't wish to get too near.  For this reason, a true lady avoids sarcasm, and speaks sincerely.

Principle:  A lady avoids sarcasm.

Art:  Portrait of a Young Girl with Cherries, Charles Amable Lenoir

Monday, August 3, 2015

To Dress Like a Lady

Know, first, who you are;
and then adorn yourself accordingly.
Epictetus


One of the misfortunes of our culture is that for many, the beautiful distinction between the clothing characteristic of women and men has been muddied.  Sweatshirts and jeans have gained a foothold in many a female wardrobe.  Oh, how much loveliness is missing!

There remains however, a remnant who know themselves to be distinctly feminine creatures, and dress according to their unmistakable identity.  This bright circle glows with a soft, attractive charm that delights in being members of the fairer sex, and this is reflected in their choices of clothing.

A lady's clothes will not have a mannish cut (boxy or baggy) but will reflect her feminine shape. The overall effect of the cut, color, and material of a lady's clothing should be soft, shapely, and becoming, just like her personality.

Adornment is never anything but a reflection of the heart.
Coco Chanel

Principle: A lady does not dress like a man.

Art:  Jeune Fille Lisant, Alfred Stevens