Sunday, January 24, 2021

Etiquette and “Smart” Fashion

“Smart” gloves for “smart” outfits — Certainly nothing sounds more idiotic than the description of a coat or costume as “clever.” It is a complete misuse of the word. Smart, equally so in its real meaning, is similarly excused by usage. 

One Woman’s Viewpoint

“Fashion has the power to appear temporarily in the guise of beauty though it is the antithesis of beauty nearly always.” – Emily Post
Fashion is really not smart, nor clever, but it is oftentimes, thankfully, short lived.

Do you remember how we used to qualify a disagreeably bright child as a “smartie?” when we were all playing together in the childhood games of memory? Just as it appears to me that the adjective “smart” has by evolution, come to be applied to an overzealous fashion type. You go to buy a hat and something absolutely absurd in its freaked “out of the ordinaries” is brought out and commended to your favorable attention by being dubbed ‘‘smart.’’ 

If you wish to describe a circle of society as pre-eminently eccentric in entertaining fads, fancies, etc..., you speak of it as ‘‘The Smart Set.” Anything crazy or unusual indulged in by it, is condoned because it is “smart.” Some people even go so far as to dub gowns “clever.” This being the synonym of smart. Certainly nothing sounds more idiotic than the description of a coat or costume as “clever.” It is a complete misuse of the word. Smart, equally so in its real meaning, is similarly excused by usage. The “smartness” alluded to is, however, very apt to cross the line and get into the realm of freakishness. 

A woman, longing to be considered smart, buys unbecoming clothes because they are not what everyone else is wearing. I heartily approve of individuality. But individuality to excess, lacking the qualities of good taste and becomingness, is as much a breach of etiquette as loud laughter. You may attract attention, but it is not always of the kind that a woman should seek. 

To study a distinctive style is commendable. It will make even a plain woman more attractive than the pretty one who wears just the ordinary things that anyone can buy or make. A study of one’s own style in dress, in speech, in manner is worth while. But “smartness” as represented by an extreme accentuation of anything, proclaims a desire to attract undue attention, which in itself is a breach of good form. — “The Hostess,” 1912


Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia


Saturday, January 23, 2021

A Gilded Age “Calling-Hat”

An English lady, one of the combination English set now here — the H.O. Bax-Ironside, Dunraven, Marlborough, Paget party— appeared twice in a fall hat of lace. Once it was at Newport and once in New York. The appearances were only brief “calling afternoons,” but the hat was much admired. American women are quick to pick up what is good, and immediately the lace calling-hat was adopted. “Not because it is English,” explained an American lady very earnestly to her milliner, “but because I see — what you have often tried to impress upon me— the becomingness of anything soft and full around the face.”

The Tulle Lace Hat of 1895

The Autumn winds which blew Lords and Dukes over here for various purposes of conquest, more or less successful, blew along a style that is much in vogue in London, but has never been popular here. This is the fashion for wearing the tulle or lace hat for dressy occasions. We like it for golf or tennis or the lawn party or the country drive. But Londoners like it for the theater, for the park and for the calling occasion.


An English lady, one of the combination English set now here — the H.O. Bax-Ironside, Dunraven, Marlborough, Paget party— appeared twice in a fall hat of lace. Once it was at Newport and once in New York. The appearances were only brief “calling afternoons,” but the hat was much admired. American women are quick to pick up what is good, and immediately the lace calling-hat was adopted. “Not because it is English,” explained an American lady very earnestly to her milliner, “but because I see — what you have often tried to impress upon me— the becomingness of anything soft and full around the face.”


As all who want a sudden lace hat for fall, who do not boast a regular milliner nor know one who would get up such a creation inexpensively, the rule for making it may be briefly stated. It is from the memorandum book of a Fifth Avenue milliner, who jotted it down the lines for aiding her head milliner, who was desirous of getting up a number of them.


“Take the wire frame of a summer tulle hat. The larger the frame the better, no matter what the shape, so long as the brim is flaring. Gather three yards of fine lacy chiffon upon the brim, letting the lace weave in and out of the wire until not an inch of wire is visible. This is done by laying the chiffon on top of the frame and pulling it through into big loose scallops. A few stitches hold it smoothly in place.


“The chiffon should be exactly the color of the trimmings of the fall suit. The very swell Newport caller chose white, embroidered in pale brown. Cover the top of the frame with the plain part of the chiffon. Now get two yards of striped velvet ribbon that includes all the shades of the costume, and make into a great, broad upstanding bow. Fasten with an emerald pin at one side of the crown and you have the the fall lace hat. It is simple enough and very becoming to everybody.” — San Jose Mercury, 1895


Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia


Friday, January 22, 2021

Society Etiquette of Gilded Age Calls

In accordance with her own ideas of etiquette, borrowed partly from the London set and partly from her native hospitable Southern training, Mrs. Alva S. Vanderbilt sent out 1,000 letters to friends telling them of her daughter's engagement, and as half of that number were within calling distance of the City by the Sea, 500 persons lost no time in calling. The exact wording of the announcement cannot be stated accurately, because it differed with the person and degree of friendship. 



Rush to See the Prospective Duchess
____________
Town A Silken Arcadie
___________
Mrs. Alva Vanderbilt Sent Out 1,000 Announcements and Had 500 Calls


Within 10 days after the announcement of the Marlborough engagement their drove up the roadway within the beautiful outer portals of marble House 300 fine equippages. And out of each their tripped from one to three elegantly dressed women. An American girl had stepped into the British nobility, and these calls were for congratulation, many wishes of joy and much felicity. In accordance with her own ideas of etiquette, borrowed partly from the London set and partly from her native hospitable Southern training, Mrs. Alva S. Vanderbilt sent out 1,000 letters to friends telling them of her daughter's engagement, and as half of that number were within calling distance of the City by the Sea, 500 persons lost no time in calling. The exact wording of the announcement cannot be stated accurately, because it differed with the person and degree of friendship. 

To 20 went the barest announcement of the fact; to another 200 a more elaborate wording, and to the others all over the world, went long private letters, which were the work of the indefatigable Mrs. Alva and her secretary. To do this sort of thing well, so that it gives satisfaction to all sets of friends, is a social art greater than leading a cotillion or planning a ball. It is very astonishing how short a time it takes to get new gowns. Late in the season though it may be, early in the winter though it may seem, busy though all of the modistes advertise themselves to be, yet new dresses appear as suddenly and as beautifully planned as though months of preparation had been put upon them.


All society wore new calling gowns to pay respects to the prospective Duchess. She, quiet slip of a girl, wore white with bunches of ribbon at her waist for the Newport calls; and for the New York ones, when she came down to the city for the trousseau planning, she wore a light material, crepon mostly, or the sheerest China silk. She wore them in black, in brown, in blue and in bright red, often figured. When she goes into the street, she wears a long double-breasted coat that hides the gown to below the knees. Very English, but not very dressy, her friends say!


But the calling gowns of those who put on their best smiles and their best gowns to go to see the little Duchess to be! One of them was a heavy corded silk. The skirt fairly rustled with stiffness. It was plain and beautiful. The cut was Princess in the back, showing no seam at the waist. The fastening must have been under the arm and at the shoulder, for it was Princess in front also. A very heavy white cord and a jet braiding went across both the front and the back of the waist, making a fine full figure, as any trimming along the bust or mid-waistline will, and there was a lovely thick crystal-edged ruching around the neck. Strange what an air of elegance is given to a dress by the addition of white corded silk sleeves! 

There is a New York woman who prides herself upon dressing with elegance upon a small allowance, who has four or five sets of these sleeves, differently trimmed, that can be quickly sewed into a gown by her maid. The sleeves of this one very stunning calling gown were of white silk, with small bits of applique work upon them. The applique was in black velvet. The bits were triangles of black velvet, with beads sewed upon them. They were appliqued upon the white silk with coarse sewing twist, and around them were sewed black jet beads and small jet ornaments. The effect was very rich.


Stamped brocades in white silk are effective, but the cheapness with which they are produced makes them a little common for those who are desirous of making an individual impression. The applique bits of black velvet are not quite similar in appearance to the common brocades. Ladies who go shopping may like to walk, but those who go calling invariably likely to go in a carriage, even though it be but the two wheeler of the cab stand. The reason for this is the extreme elegance of the visiting toilet. Even the dinner gown is simple alongside of it. Nothing in the whole wardrobe is as fine as one's best calling gown. — San Jose Mercury, October 1895



Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia


Thursday, January 21, 2021

Dark Cold War Etiquette Humor

A. Never use aerosol cans or lighter fluid during a nuclear assault. The intense heat blast that often accompanies an atomic detonation can cause volatile items such as these to burst into flames and pose a threat to personal safety. B. In the mindless mayhem and chaos that follows a nuclear attack, the urge to commandeer expensive sportscars may prove irresistable... but remember, don't drink and drive. — In times of stress and high anxiety, laughter can be the best medicine!


Back in the 1980’s, Post Nuclear Anxiety Could Sometimes  be a Laughing Matter

Nothing spoils a young college student’s career ambitions quite like the asphyxiation and subsequent death that often accompanies nerve gas and other chemical weapons. It is with this in mind that I’ve developed this practical guide to World War III Etiquette.

I. Health and Safety Tips 

A. Never use aerosol cans or lighter fluid during a nuclear assault. The intense heat blast that often accompanies an atomic detonation can cause volatile items such as these to burst into flames and pose a threat to personal safety. 

B. In the mindless mayhem and chaos that follows a nuclear attack, the urge to commandeer expensive sportscars may prove irresistable... but remember, don't drink and drive. 

C. In the post-nuclear era, the upstanding citizen should always remember while digging for roots, scrounging through irradiated garbage piles or begging for sustenance from mutant beastmasters, choose only those items which are low in sodium and high in fiber content. This will lead to a healthier and happier you. 

D. During widespread enemy invasion and occupation, home protection will be essential. Be a responsible parent and make your children aware of the proper behavior around domestic tactical defense weaponry. Imagine the embarrassment of learning all too late that little Susan can't achieve maximum kill potential from her wire-guided TOW anti-tank missile launcher or that Johnny was using anti-armor rounds in his M-16 instead of the hollow-point wadcutters against infantry. Be safety conscious and help your children become familiar with the maintenance, loading and discharging of the household defense armory. 

E. Should you and your loved ones be caught in the untimely and unheroic proximity of a thermonuclear discharge, remember the U.S. Armed Forces' safety tips. 
1. Never look directly at a detonation. 

2. Duck. 

II. Rules and Regulations 

A. During peacetime, pedestrians have right-of-way at crosswalks. But a little-known bylaw explicitly states that Soviet T-62 Battle Tanks have right-of-way over pedestrians (so to speak). Imagine the embarrassment of being mercilessly flattened onto hot asphalt only to discover that you were in the wrong. This is known as a World War III faux pas. 

B. Be a safe and responsible citizen by obeying all driving regulations, even during wartime. 
1. Never park in front of a fire hydrant as it may be needed to hose down unruly protesters. 

C. Should you be captured and interrogated by our enemies keep in mind these simple rules. Your captors will appreciate the effort. 
1. Give your name and Social Security number, but never give up your credit cards. These ruthless commies hold no scruples about making fraudulent purchases. 

III. Social Niceties 

A. As socially responsible citizens it is in accordance with our upbringing to make the invading Communist hordes feel at home. Thus, prior to or coinciding with any counter-tactics remember to get ripped on vodka, strap on a red ice hockey mask and scream “up Siberia” at the top of your lungs. This way, when the carnage and butchery of the battlefield surround you, you can feel proud at having maintained the proper decorum. 

IV. Residential Life 

A. Should you unexpectedly find yourself in the "kill zone" of a nuclear blast while preparing dinner, there is no need to preheat the oven. Simply place the frozen entree in your mouth and wait for the wall of flame to envelop your house. 

B. With the unavoidable food shortage that will ensue after a war, housebroken dogs and cats will become obsolete (not to mention consumable). But fear not, many families across our smoldering nation will find the household cockroach to be the sensible alternative. Let's face it, they're cute and cuddly and so economical. So whether you seek loyal companionship or glowing affection, the cockroach will stand by your side faithfully. 

C. Following the explosion of an ICBM in the atmosphere near your neighborhood many annoying things will happen. Not the least of which is that your car will not start. Don't fret, simply gather one or two of your more seriously irradiated neighbors and jump start the battery. This can be done by connecting the jumper cables to their fillings.— By Rick Grush and Daniel Philpot in the California Aggie, 1987



Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Skip the Fads When Entertaining

“At a recent dinner party the hostess, wishing to indulge in some novelty, had the cheese cut precisely in the shape and size of an ordinary piece of pie. When placed on the plate, it closely resembled a cut of custard pie. It was first passed to an elderly gentleman, who, without observing closely, took it supposing it to be pie, and put it down by his plate. After a time, the hostess sent the servant for it, and with a fork removed a small piece, after which it was passed to the other guests.” — Photo of a Victorian sterling silver cheese fork. 
— Source, Etiquipedia private photo library.



Hostesses Should Avoid Table Innovations

In these days, when the social aim and object of every hostess seems to be to get up something new, it would be well to have some way to indicate the use or management of novelties and thereby spare the guests much embarrassment. When dishes are to be served in any unusual way, some hint should be given to some of the guests, and others may take note of the manner of handling, and thus avoid confusion and awkwardness. 

At a recent dinner party the hostess, wishing to indulge in some novelty, had the cheese cut precisely in the shape and size of an ordinary piece of pie. When placed on the plate, it closely resembled a cut of custard pie. It was first passed to an elderly gentleman, who, without observing closely, took it supposing it to be pie, and put it down by his plate. After a time, the hostess sent the servant for it, and with a fork removed a small piece, after which it was passed to the other guests. 

There are few things more annoying than the consciousness that one has made some blunder at table. In some way, it has come to be an accepted idea that to go wrong in such things is to be in a condition of dense ignorance. As a matter of fact, there are so many changes, so many fads, so many new wrinkles and so much rivalry between ladies in the same society, that innovations are continually sought out and eagerly adopted. The wonder is not that people make mistakes, but that they make so few. 

At one time, the spoon and fork must be used in some special way. After a time, there is an entire change in this custom. People who go out but rarely cannot, or at least do not, keep up with the fads and fancies of the social swim and consequently are likely to do certain things in the old way, which is quite unlike the new, and of course are made uncomfortable by the discovery that they have violated some portion of the code of social etiquette. 

It would be well if eminent social authorities could prepare a set of rules and have them adopted and rigidly adhere to them. This would make things easier for entertainers as well as guests, and be much more satisfactory in every respect. Hostesses in places removed from fashionable centers should be specially careful about indulging in innovations. In nothing are genuine refinement and culture more clearly shown than in the avoidance of forms that may cause embarrassment to guests.—New York Ledger, 1894


Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Etiquette of the Gilded Age Musicales

The strictly fashionable, correct New York musicale is as solemn as an evening funeral and as stupid as a love scene in the original; no one enjoys it but the performers. I think, without question, that you can manage to spend more money and make a larger proportion of your guests uncomfortable at a musicale than at any other form of entertainment yet devised. 

How a Musicale is Run
Just What the Guest and the Hostess Should Find to Do

To the Editor of the Sun –
Sir: I was interested in the Sunday Sun’s article describing the etiquette of a New York wedding. Now, won’t you please tell us what they do at a New York musicale in a private house? — Etta Milford, April 25

The writer called on a woman well known in New York society, propounded the request as printed above, and this is the way the society woman rattled on in answer: 

The strictly fashionable, correct New York musicale is as solemn as an evening funeral and as stupid as a love scene in the original; no one enjoys it but the performers. I think, without question, that you can manage to spend more money and make a larger proportion of your guests uncomfortable at a musicale than at any other form of entertainment yet devised. In the first place there are the invitations, which must be engraved and read something like this:
Mr. and Mrs. Smith request the pleasure 
of Mr. and Mrs. Jones’ company on Monday at 3 p.m. 
 
R. S. V. P.                     Music.

You send these invitations two or three weeks ahead to insure the presence of some of your guests, for people always avoid a musicale if possible, as they do an appointment with a dentist or an interview with a creditor. Then you set about procuring your talent for the occasion, and mortgage most of your property to pay them. You must send a carriage for every artist separately, for they are usually such antagonistic rivals that they couldn’t be expected to ride the length of the block in the same vehicle. You furnish them with flowers, add your unbounded gratitude to the modest sum you pay, and dress yourself in some quiet home dress, with no bonnet or glove, to receive your guests. Sometimes you give a musical luncheon, where you vary the programme by inviting a small number of your most intimate friends to luncheon, and have the music afterward, to which it is quiet comme il faut to invite as many people as you can accommodate in your rooms, though they were not present at the luncheon. 

Musical breakfasts are on the same general order, occuring a little earlier in the day, though 1 o’clock is the fashionable hour. Sometimes the music precedes the breakfast, and sometimes a band of concealed musicians play through the meal as well. The style of music is extremely classical and very heavy. We are so cultured and melodious now that we don’t enjoy any harmony that we really can understand, and we talk very knowingly of shading and motives, touch and phrases and expression, though, of course, we don't know what any of it really means. The others do not understand either, so it doesn’t signify; no one knows if you make a mistake. 

The stylish musicale is hardly complete now without the Hungarian band, and the leader of that institution has been so battered and feted in America that he forgets sometimes that he was once hired as a kind of upper servant by the Countess Esterhazy’s father, who employed him to entertain his guests as he hired the butler to pour out their wines. Mrs. Hicks-Lord was conversant of the fact, and when, on a recent occasion, she paid $200 to $300 for his services, and he asked in addition to be presented to her guests, she aired her knowledge of his former situation with promptitude. The girl violinist is a very stylish creature of the musicale this winter, because she is such a picturesque and beautiful object and really doesn’t play the violin any more execrably than any other instrument. She has a pretty fashion of getting herself up in an artistic, flowing sort of a gown, with large sleeves falling away from the bare arms, and is a very delicious vision, quite reconciling one to listen to her.

If you really want to spend money on a musicale, you can invite your personal friends to entertain the guests instead of hired operatic stars. Of course they don’t charge you anything, as they are not professional; you just make them some trifling presents of a brown-stone block, a carriage and horses, a diamond tiara, and some other little things of that kind, and remain forever under a burden of gratitude besides. It is like having tickets sent you for the theater or opera by a friend; you have to give them something in return that costs more than a box in the grand row. A musicale returns any kind of an obligation—a dinner, luncheon, reception, or tea and costs more than all of them in one. Some people give a series of musicales, three or four in number, but one handsome musicale in the season is all that is really required or often given. The programmes must be also engraved and closely followed, and no refreshments are served of any kind. 

S0 much for the hostess; now for the guest. She must go dressed in her richest garments, as to the handsomest receptions with bonnet and gloves; she must keep her engagement, if she accepts the invitation, almost as carefully as to a formal dinner; she must come in time, and on no account leave the room after she arrives until the entire programme is completed. Usually, the house is filled with uncomfortable little folding chairs, into which you crowd your draperies as best you may and sit with your lower extremities paralyzed and prickling from the pressure of the bar across the front of the chair, with the delightful consciousness in your heart that your are ruining your best gown and that you can’t go until it is over, through one, two, three and sometimes four hours of agony, applauding and encoring every selection and smiling like a ballet girl upon every performer. If you don’t care for the programme, you can’t leave as you would a public hall where you bought your ticket, but must remain to tell your hostess at the close that you spent such a delightful evening. 

That’s the musicale genteel, correct and fashionable, but a bachelor friend of mine knows how to give the musicale enjoyable. In the first place, he doesn’t invite any more guests than he can accommodate without crowding them. The chairs are not arranged in solid phalanx, but distributed about the room here and there. People move about and talk with their friends, or partake of some of the dainty trifles scattered about the punch-bowl on a side table. There is no evidence of a stilted programme. People sing or play whenever it occurs to them, and after it is all over, you are taken into another room to the most delicious little supper. There are musicales and musicales, and, while they may he the most enjoyable of occasions, they usually are extremely fatiguing and stupid.— New York Sun, 1889



Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia


Monday, January 18, 2021

Wheeler Etiquette and Femininity

 

“Of course, some of the fashionable women have learned to ride. They are continually seeking for some new distraction. But you can be very certain that they will ride in private schools or on their own private grounds and not through the streets of New York or in the public parks. They are too wise to make guys of themselves for the benefit of the general public.” — A mere 5 years after this article appeared, etiquette books were promoting a more feminine look for ‘wheel-women’ as there was no turning back at that point.
Photo source, Etiquipedia private library

Women as Imitators

With the tailor made girl an easy walk came in—a walk that did not have a suggestion of a stride, but still, as it was swinging, was perfectly feminine and easy. It was much prettier than the mincing steps attained by walking the ribbon. By the bye, it does seem that while women are talking so much about their rights, they have left very few to men. They have taken his loose, heavy stitched gloves with the big buttons. They have taken his shirt front, his tie, his scarfpin, his watch chain, his cigarettes, his coat pockets, and if some of the bicycle riders continue to divide their skirts, they will have taken his trousers. 

I have tried my very best to be convinced that a woman looks well on a bicycle. She does not. The attitude is an ungraceful, strained one, and if the rider happens to be a fat woman her face gets fiercely red, and she does look an object. No matter how much care may have been given to the get up, they all look pretty much alike, and most of the riders have an untidy look—tumbled hair, negligee cap, and, well, the general loose get up being far from natty looking. Riding the iron and steel horse may be popular, but certainly it is not pretty. 

Of course, some of the fashionable women have learned to ride. They are continually seeking for some new distraction. But you can be very certain that they will ride in private schools or on their own private grounds and not through the streets of New York or in the public parks. They are too wise to make guys of themselves for the benefit of the general public. Occasionally they might do it among their own crowd, but be very sure that they are not going to let tho hoi polloi see them make fools of themselves.— Editor Woman's Page, Boston Globe, 1895


Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia

Sunday, January 17, 2021

The Etiquette of Russia’s Royal Widow


“The costume is completed by a cap à la Marie Stuart, (aka Mary Stuart), the material being crepe, and a band cut into a point to hit the shape crosses the forehead.” — This style of cap became quite fashionable and even became part of a woman’s formal mourning dress, right up until the Victorian era, when Queen Victoria’s mourning attire set the fashion standard. — Mary Stuart depicted in the cap named after her. A Mary Stuart cap (or attifet) is a type of hat which was made popular in the Elizabethan era, due to its frequent appearance in portraits of Mary, Queen of Scots.


The widowed Empress of Russia, according to the strict etiquette of the Muscovite Court, will wear during the first six months of her mourning simple dresses of black flannel. They are made high and plain, with sleeves in what is known as Charles VI style, fastened tight at the wrist, but cut wide and loose so as to reach the ground. A train some three yards in length trails from the waist, and broad collars, cuffs and streamers of white cambric can trail with the gloom of the rest of her attire. 

The costume is completed by a cap à la Marie Stuart, the material being crepe, and a band cut into a point to hit the shape, crosses the forehead. A crepe veil, shrouding the whole figure, is used on ceremonial occasions, but a shorter one is substituted for everyday wear. All the toilet accessories are, of course, black. Except as regards the length of the train, the Czarina's mourning differs in no way from that prescribed for the Grand Duchesses and the ladies belonging to the four upper grades of the court circle. —St. Petersburg Correspondent, 1895


Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia