So what IS this idea of 'classy'?
Is it this quote above?
Or this one below?
Me? I think it's a bit of both.
When I was young, we girls were offered an extra-curricular deportment class at school. I didn't take it because I had two sisters and four brothers and money was a bit thin on the ground when it's divided seven ways.
Instead, Mum gave me her own version of deportment lessons. She was an Avon lady of the ilk of Dianne Weist in Edward Scissorhands. She was just about as adorable too.
Here she is, as a seventeen year old bride in 1959....
...see what I mean? 4 foot, 11 inches tall and pretty as a picture.
So she handed over her trusty Avon Representatives manual, and her samples and let me loose. From time to time she would drily comment that I had a 'tide mark' where my thickly applied foundation met my neck or jaw, or that perhaps green eyeshadow and coral lipstick weren't the best combination, but other than that she let me be. I learned. Hours and hours in front of the mirror with glossy magazine models in front of me to copy, and I learned.
But of course she knew that 'deportment' had more to it than 'makeup'. So she lent me her heels to wear around the house and told me to balance a book on the top of my head, imagining a string attaching both head and book, to a thread to the ceiling as I walked. That's a lesson in posture, and walking like a lady if ever there was one.
She told me to look people in the eye when I met them, and to shake their hand firmly. She taught me to introduce people to one another, always older to younger or professional to learner, as appropriate.
I learned to field a compliment graciously ("thankyou, how lovely of you to say so"), and to give one equally graciously that doesn't just sound automatic ("you look so polished today" or "I loved that piece of your speech where you said...").
She taught me that life does not have to be one long series of pleasurable experiences, and that in the long term, the things that seem less pleasurable, are actually the things that make you 'a good person', never mind a 'classy' one. Like visiting with a stressed young Mum and making her a cup of tea and taking the baby for a walk, or hanging out with your cranky Aunt, or spending an hour with that boy who fancies you madly but who really isn't your type. Giving people your time, and expecting nothing in return is a good lesson in altruism. (Altruism...selfless concern for the wellbeing of others).
As for that boy who fancied me madly, well I spent time with him, but I made it clear that we were to be just friends, and that whilst I was flattered by his affections, that there was no future in his undivided attention to me. He accepted that and our friendship gave him the confidence to move on to another young lady who returned his passion. Because Mum also told me that honesty is always the best policy, even when the truth is hard.
Of course the way you dress and conduct yourself is frequently what people think of when you say 'classy'. And that's so complicated isn't it?
I think that there are a couple of golden rules to this bit, no matter your taste, status in life, or fashion preferences.
1. Make sure things fit properly. Ill fitting clothing or shoes, not matter how expensive, are not a good look. Get a tailor or dressmaker to alter things for you if necessary, or learn how to do it yourself. I find the easiest way to alter clothing to fit, is to put it on inside out, and get someone else to do the pinning. It's not rocket science and you can learn to alter just about anything on YouTube. Small shoulder pads (not of the eighties huge vintage), can help a blouse or dress or jacket or coat just sit more neatly. The right length can make pants or skirts just look more elegant, so get to know what the ideal length is for YOU, not as dictated by fashion.
2. Wear good underwear. By which I mean not just 'nice' but again, appropriately fitted and appropriate for the clothing you are wearing. I won't tell you to wear this sort over that sort. I will say that visible underwear, either outside or under your clothing is simply not classy.
3. Wear what suits the occasion. This is even harder nowadays than it once was, when a certain outfit was expected for mornings and afternoons, never mind the movies or the theatre. It seems like anything goes now. For my 15 year old, I've set a couple of general rules of thumb:
Don't wear to the shopping centre or movies or theatre, what you would wear to the beach or the pool.
Leave a little (or a lot preferably) to the imagination.
And the fact that everyone else is wearing is as good a reason as any for you NOT to.
4. Go easy on the accessories. Generally speaking you don't wear earrings, hair accessories, necklace, belt, bracelets and rings, all at the one time. Draw attention to your best features and go simple if in doubt. Pearl studs or simple hoops are the jewellery du jour around here. We do love a bit of gratuitous bling here too though, but if we're bling-ing, we bling one piece, or maximum two pieces, at a time.
5. Learn some table manners beyond using the right knife and fork. Did you know that rattling your spoon around in your tea or coffee cup is really not on and is very bad manners? Or that elbows don't belong on the table, or that you really should put down your fork and knife between bites and learn to savour each mouthful of food? Do you feel comfortable when confronted with multiple plates, glasses and cutlery on a table? Don't wait for a formal occasion to be sprung upon you to learn these things. Set your table beautifully at home and practice every day!
6. Be genuinely interested in people, in their differences and their commonalities with you. Give the person who is speaking to you, your full attention. Don't be looking around, waiting for a pause in conversation so that you can jump in with your bit. Even if you're not particularly interested in what someone is saying, it's important to them to say it, so give them your undivided attention. Make the other person feel important!
7. Be clean and fresh and smell nice. Bathe daily, brush and floss, carry a lightly scented body spray with you always. In the Summer humidity where I live, I even go so far as to carry a little facecloth and travel soap in a ziplock bag everywhere I go. I know my deodorant can only do so much when it's 39C and humid as all heck. So a discreet visit to the ladies and a quick onceover of the armpits and décolletage` saves embarrassment. I'd usually follow this up with a spray of the aforementioned lightly scented body spray. If you don't like fake scents, then perhaps carrying a small neutral talcum powder is more your thing (I adore Johnsons Baby Powder and it has the same frangrance notes as my other favourite, Chanel No. 5!). Or in desperation, use some baby wipes to keep the offending areas a little more fragrant!
8. But don't smell like a department store! I'm a fan of fragrance layering, but this does NOT mean, as I've read of late, wearing several fragrances on top of one another. Anyone that advises you to do this, just wants to sell you more perfume! Layering your favourite perfume means that you can apply it ONCE in the morning, and still smell divine at 5pm. It means having a body wash or soap, a talc, a body moisturiser and an Eau de Parfum in the same fragrance. NOT three or four different ones. If you can manage your shampoo and conditioner in a similar scent, well, perfect. This is not as difficult as it sounds. I buy a Smell-a-like concentrate at Wellington Fragrance Company....click here to see their list of smell-a-likes, and add my favourites to home made soap, and neutral Castille shampoo and conditioner, as well as to home made talc (and I'll share how to make that in an upcoming post!). I even add this to my own custom scented fabric softener. Truly!
So your routine for layering your fragrance, would be:
(a) Wash in the shower with a shower pouffe` and just one or two pumps of your body wash or a lather of your soap. Wash and condition your hair if doing so.
(b) Once you're dried off, apply body lotion. Let that absorb while you dry or style your hair.
(c) Apply a light dusting of talcum powder...I have a lovely idea for making talcum puffs here, or you can see Annabels idea on her blog The Bluebirds are Nesting. Annabel has some gorgeous ideas.
(d) Finally, spritz one or two sprays of your favourite perfume into the air in front of you and walk through the cloud of scent.
That's it. No more.
If you hate the smell of deodorant, and some deodorants do seem to make you more 'stinky', then try using the same layering idea, but without the perfume as it will sting your underarms. This method will require re-applying as the day wears on though, particularly in heat and humidity.
9. Don't share every intimate detail of your life with others. I know in todays social media world, that's considered the done thing to share the highs and lows, the breakups and the make-ups. But really. Come on. A little mystery is a good thing. Take a page from Nicole Kidmans book, who when asked about her famous and public breakup with Tom Cruise, simply said 'I'll leave it to Tom to explain'. It irritated everyone enormously at the time, but it did force all interested parties to move on more quickly. Another one that raised a few eyebrows round here, was a recent post on Facebook by a young lady I know quite well, who chose to share ...um... very natural photos of the birth of her child. In arty black and white, granted, but still eye poppingly graphic and possibly not what your Nanna would want to see (not that I'm her Nanna, but you know....). Guard your privacy jealously. There's not much that isn't public these days and a classy person, retains a little mystique.
10. If you must answer your phone in a public place, please please please, do so quietly and discreetly, excusing yourself from the table if necessary. Complete the call quickly and return to your meeting or friend without feeling the need to explain. See 9. above. Really...preferable...don't answer the phone. When did we have to become so available??
So they're my top ten. There are lots more that I could share, but I'm thinking your own Mum probably shared most of those with you.
What do you think makes a person classy?