Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Motherly Advice...How to be classy in ten simple steps....


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?


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39 comments:

  1. Dear Mimi, This is a big subject. I think manners matter above all else but then its whole picture. I am amazed at the number of people who have the clothes or the bag but chew with their mouth open, talk on their phone at the table etc. Eww. We see everyday in the media that money might only equal dressing like a $2 hooker and has nothing to do with class!
    Hair is a big one... dirty hair is my pet hate. Even new readers I have seen with terrible hair. The "Im going to vomit" ponytail day after day and dirty hair. Eww. This bewilders me as often these people actually have nice hair if only they washed, brushed it. Plus a ponytail can be lovely but not the one I mention which should be reserved for the above purpose only! lol
    Really the tiniest effort to look and smell nice and consideration of others instantly sets you apart.
    Other big ones that are awful are women drinking from a beer bottle and that kind of thing... I guess street fighting is also out! I mention this as even though it sounds hilarious that is a thing now... girls beating each other senseless. Hard to come back from I would say.
    Being lady like and feminine is politically incorrect now as airy armpits are proudly displayed on social media as proof women are "equal" to men and things like this. Good grief. I can be prone to despair. So your article is very welcome!
    With love Annabel.xxx

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    1. Hi Annabel! Yes all of that too. I like that you mentioned 'effort'. I see so many people giving their online life so much more attention and effort than their real life. I guess you can be anyone you want on line and not make too much of an effort at all. But it sure wreaks havoc with your real one. And street fighting? Well I guess I was peripherally aware of that one, but not really thinking it goes on. I suppose 'equality' means all kinds of things now! I think your auto correct has made something you typed, into 'new readers' as I'm sure your new readers don't have 'terrible hair'....lol...lol! Anyway, politically correct or not, I still believe that girls should behave like ladies, and if that's out of step with current thinking, well heaven forbid! Love, Mimi xxx

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    2. oh opps no I wasnt referring to readers! lol sorry readers!
      Well today the news has a report of a group of girls terrorizing and plane. I am sure they went to charm school. Can you believe these things?
      I wanted to say how lovely your Mum was. She is a tiny bit smaller than Lucy but much the same. She looks just gorgeous.
      I am very aware that feminine touches really stand out. I do not care what is trendy or thought ok now either. In fact it kind of makes me more determined to be ladylike and also speak to people nicely like the check out girl as I see how poorly many speak to them and others...
      Today I altered some silk and chiffon scarves for summer... a small help in dressing nicely and making jeans and a top look a bit dressed up! With love Annabel.xxx

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    3. Altered silk scarves? I have to see this! I hope it's a blog post in the making? Love, Mimi xxx

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  2. Yes, effort. BIG. Effort. You hit the bullseye on so many targets today. Classy and earning respect.

    I like to make the effort the night before and plan what to wear, press it, set out the shoes, etc. (I like to do this as a help to my husband, too.)

    I liked what Deb had to say here to her teenage granddaughter, too.
    http://talkingwhitetrash.blogspot.com/2015/05/praise-child-and-she-will-flourish.html

    *hugs*
    Kelley~
    Letters Unfolded

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    1. That's a great strategy Kelley. I think it makes the morning routine more pleasureable too. I adored that post by Deb, and thankyou for sharing it with us. Love, Mimi xxx

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  3. I LOVE this post. My Grandma was the person who gave her many granddaughters hints on how to shine socially, and I often find myself chanelling her as I try to help my daughters gain some gracious poise through the trying teenage years.. it is often a difficult task, and I sometimes get my nose bitten off, but I love it when I see my daughters displaying some snippet of good manners that I try to instil at odd moments.

    Truly, it is much kinder to teach our kids all these things at home rather than find themselves in a social situation where they don't have a clue how to behave. My 19yo daughter is leaving home to go to uni next year, and is not very confident with clothes, so I will be helping her to make sure she has suitable outfits for all occasions before she leaves, and knows what to wear when. It's quite a challenge!

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    1. Jo, I love what you said about it being kinder to teach our children these things at home. I've seen some truly cringeworthy, socially inept teens, and it's not their fault. School can't do it all, and as parents, it's our role to nurture these things. I love that you're helping your 19 year old with outfit choices, and even more so that she's listening! Mimi xxx

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  4. Another is not sitting down to eat - I cannot, nor can our children walk through the shopping center eating as we go.

    When I was 15 I had a part time job at Portmans - in those days they had a lot of basics and the clothes were suited for many ages. We use to have sheer scarves that the customers were requested to pop over their head and face when they were trying on garments - it meant that any makeup didn't transfer to the garments. Now it is not unusual to find that stores are selling garments with makeup stains on them.

    Another good blog post Mimi

    Lynette
    XXXXX

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    1. I remember the scarves in dressing rooms Lynette. Such a simple thing. I guess health and hygiene laws have got in there somewhere and outlawed the practice. That's my guess anyway. And YES....no eating while walking, or driving! Love it. Mimi xxx

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    2. I have NEVER seen scarves for this purpose in a fitting room. I take my half-slip off and put it over my head in the fitting room so I don't mess my hairdo up. (I don't make-up.) I have a hairspray scarf at home that I use to put clothes over my head, too, and not mess up my hair. And like you, I see make-up all the time on clothes in the store. I ask them to mark it accordingly on the receipt in the event the make-up refuses to wash out.

      *hugs*
      Kelley~
      Letters Unfolded

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  5. Lots of great ideas that are unfortunately mostly forgotten in today's society. Thank you for the reminders, Mimi! :)

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    1. My pleasure Tracy Lee. Thanks for stopping by. Mimi xxx

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  6. Great follow on from Annabel's post Mimi. Both of you make me want to try harder to be more feminine. I am so tired of looking like a blimp due to the cold weather and am planning my spring/summer wardrobe using what I have but also buying a few extra pieces in neutral colours.

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    1. I think we all get blimp-ish at the end of Winter Maggie. Never fear...Spring is here! Mimi xxx

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  7. Fabulous post. It seems like most people forget what Classy really is.

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    1. Thankyou Marty. I'm thrilled to see you here. Mimi xxx

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  8. I loved reading your post. I always told my children that being cultured and proper does not take money but learning and doing. It's wonderful that your dear Mom gave you such wonderful values. I think in today's world, life is so fast. And, I loved seeing the beautiful wedding photo. My best to you. Pat xx

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    1. Thankyou Pat. It is a lovely wedding photo isn't it? And it's such an important thing she did for all of us. Despite not growing up with a lot of money, we all learned social graces early in life and it's stood us in good stead. Love, Mimi xxx

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  9. Great post. It never ceases to amaze me how much we in this society are so quick to pounce on every little thing as "offensive". It's like you can't say anything today without "offending" someone. Perhaps, however, if more people were taught social graces and if more people appreciated the power of privacy there'd be far less offensive speech and far less offense being taken.

    I have two kids under two and it is an UPHILL battle teaching them good manners. But I know it will pay off big time in a few short years. It seems too many parents don't want to bother with the effort and that's so sad!

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    1. So true Jill! Social media has made us the least private society in history I think. Some of the things I see on Facebook....oi vay! It'd turn me grey if I wasn't already! Hence I don't 'do' Facebook much...lol! You will not regret persevering with teaching your little ones manners, and they will thank you for it later in life, believe me. Love, Mimi xxx

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  10. Such a wonderful post! We do our female children a great service by reminding them that being a lady is something to aspire to.
    Wishing you all the best, the 'other' Mimi
    http://inmyprimetime.blogspot.com/

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    1. Thankyou Mimi! So pleased to see you here. Yes, being a lady is indeed something to which we should all aspire. Love, Mimi xxx

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  11. Hi Mimi, I really enjoyed reading this post on how to be classy. I love the one about phone calls when out in public!
    Thanks so much for joining and sharing this at Cooking and Crafting with J & J.
    We hope to see you again.
    Enjoy the rest of the week.
    Julie

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    1. My pleasure Julie. Thanks for inviting me. Love, Mimi xxx

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    2. Eek I feel out of my league with this post Mimi!

      I class myself as a good person with good values. I am kind, loving and caring to my fellow earthlings. I dress simply, but nicely.

      My parents raised me with good manners and I raised my children the same way. I can tick most of what is in your list, and would like to think that I am not judged because I am not a certain class of people.

      Classy means stylish and sophisticated, this is something that I am not lol!

      Here is me, take me as I am :)

      xTania

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    3. Dearest Tania...I cannot imagine why you'd feel out of your league! You strike me as exactly the person you've described yourself to be. Manners, good values, kindness, a caring nature and an honest heart....all of that adds up to sheer class in my books. It's actually not about sophistication at all. I've met plenty of sophisticated people who thought they were 'classy,' and their behaviour showed them to be more common than they imagine...Love, Mimi xxx

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    4. Why thank you Mimi :)

      I think you are right about people's behaviour, it is definitely a telling point about their personality. There seems to be a lot of rude people around these days.

      Sorry Julie, I somehow managed to encroach on your comment. Talk about butting in lol! Silly me :)

      Love Tania xo

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    5. That's so true Tania. It makes no sense. Why be rude when you can just be nice. It actually takes less effort I think. Mimi xxx

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  12. This is such a great post!

    Thanks for joining Cooking and Crafting with J & J!

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  13. Dear Mimi,
    This is such a great topic. I am so happy you posted this. Firstly, your Mum was the tiniest bit of gorgeousness! What a dress and beautiful bride! I love all she taught you. Yes, yes, and yes to all you said. The manners do start at home to be sure. We work so hard on all of it. Graciousness, elbows, cutlery, all.of.it. I am sad when I see cluelessness in the adults around me because most of them have children and they don't miss a beat. I should know as my own children question me (in the most polite way) if I am doing something I teach them NOT to do. They keep me on my toes. I don't understand seeing people in the store in their p.j.'s and slippers. Dirty hair everywhere. Cell phones at the table in restaurants while sitting with others. Worst of all? People being outright rude to cashiers, waitstaff, etc. We always take the time to greet those serving us and look them in the eye with a smile, and thank them. I know we don't have to be perfectly coiffed and wearing our best every moment. But a little bit of effort goes a very long way in how we look and act. "Do unto others" is so simple and if you didn't learn it at home you definitely did at least by kindergarten or first grade. Thank you for the reminders. I'm printing this one for my notes.
    Love,
    Colette xxx

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    1. Thankyou Colette. She was a sweet thing, my Mum, wasn't she. Now...dirty hair? PJ's at the shops? Cell phones...don't get me started! Yes, what has happened to just playing nice in the world. It is mind boggling! Mimi xxx

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  14. Great post. Your mother sounds like a delightful woman who taught you well.

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    1. Thankyou Debbie...indeed she was. Mimi xxx

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  15. Dearest Mimi, what a lovely post! You word things with such beauty, elegance, and gentleness. My dear mother taught me from a young age how to be a lady....I remember having lessons on manners {{smiles}} To this day I still remember her sweet teachings and I am thankful for women like you and her who are the perfect examples of what a classy lady is. Thank you for sharing with Roses of Inspiration. Hugs, my friend!

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    1. Thankyou Stephanie. As always, your comments just make me smile. Mimi xxx

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  16. Thank you for visiting my blog, and for your lovely comment. This topic is very interesting. It seems so many people today are looking to social media for cues on how to behave and the result is not pretty. Thank you for some much better advice.

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    1. Hi Betty. Yes social media is possibly not the best place to learn good manners....lol! Thanks for visiting. Love, Mimi xxx

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I love hearing from you! I always respond to comments, so don't be shy! Mimi xxx