Friday, February 22, 2008

This is the post that inspired the idea for the Online Ladies Finishing School. It was written by Emma.

Ladette to Lady...

While flipping through the channels tonight, I came upon a program that I wish that I had known about sooner on the Sundance channel. It is called Ladette to Lady. It is a British reality show about modern girls becoming a proper ladies after going through an old-fashioned finishing school's curriculum.


Here are highlights from the five episode series:

Episode One
  • The girls are shoehorned into the Eggleston Hall uniform: a tight-fitting tweed suit, sensible shoes and pearl necklace and introduced to the curriculum: deportment, elocution, needlework, flower arranging and cookery.
  • They've got just four days to prepare for their first big test: a shooting party at Burton Agnes, one of Yorkshire's finest country estates, at which they will be expected to show what they've learnt at Finishing School so far, and in particular how to behave around gentlemen.
Episode Two
  • At the start of their second week at Finishing School seven ladettes are faced with a daunting challenge: The ladettes must create quail and pheasant ravioli; nine bird roast with dauphine potatoes; and sherry trifle and langues du chat. Under the fearsome tutelage of cookery teacher Rosemary Shrager, the girls – none of whom can even cook scrambled eggs – have got just five days to master some of the hardest techniques in haut cuisine.
  • Liz Brewer, Egglestone Hall's etiquette teacher considers the forthcoming event: “The whole objective is to actually make yourself attractive and desirable to these young men that are coming to dinner.” “You've got to be sexy, but not obvious. Titillating but not tacky.”
  • Assessing the girls, Liz quickly realizes that this might be their biggest obstacle and the group are all packed off for a mini makeover in order to make themselves appear more presentable and feminine.
Episode Three
  • This week the ladettes get the chance to be chalet girls in Verbier, one of Switzerland's most prestigious ski resorts. Being a chalet girl was a rite of passage for Finishing School graduates... The ladettes soon discover that being a chalet girl is no holiday. They'll have to prepare gourmet meals on an extremely tight budget, keep the chalet in impeccable condition and play hostess to eight demanding men.
  • Meanwhile at Eggleston Hall, scouser Louise Porter, Chelsea Fan Laura Hearsum and barmaid Rebecca Squire have been set an unforgiving timetable of deportment, elocution and flower-arranging lessons.
Episode Four
  • This week the teachers leave the five ladettes alone at Eggleston Hall to host a country house weekend. They will be provided with domestic staff including a butler and must lay on two days of well-planned hospitality for a selection of eligible bachelors. According to Debrett's Guide to Etiquette and Modern Manners “At its best the country house weekend probably represents the pinnacle of Anglo Saxon culture; at its worst it can be torture beyond compare for all concerned”. Leaving the ladettes in charge of Eggleston Hall is a huge gamble and there's little sign they are up to the challenge.
Episode Five
  • Wearing dresses they have made Eggleston Hall the ladettes will each make an entrance and be judged on their poise, grooming, confidence and elocution by a selection of aristocrats.
  • Iin addition to preparing for the Ball the girls must pass exams in all subjects in order to graduate. They've got just four days left to perfect their flower-arranging, elocution, deportment, and to make a gigantic seven-tiered cake which will be on display at the ball threatening to collapse spectacularly if they get it wrong.
Warning: The ladies on this show can be very crude. I don't recommend watching this program with children.

Finishing School: Personal Presentation...

by Emma

Wardrobe

The final entry for our week on Personal Presentation will be on a lady's wardrobe. There is a bit of an obsession with wardrobe size, style, and fit in today's society. One can hardly flip through a magazine without coming across at least one or two blurbs on creating the perfect style or flawless wardrobe. There are even countless tv shows and websites dedicated to the subject!

How a lady dresses really depends on what she needs to do with her time. If a woman works outside the home, she will need to have more variety than a woman who is a homemaker. This is NOT to say that a homemaker should allow herself to become stuck in a clothing rut. Your family and home is your job and you should dress like it! Remember, it takes the same amount of time to put on a well-fitting and stylish top and bottom as it does to slap on a pair of sweatpants and a ratty tee shirt.

Though it is a bit outdated, I have found Helen Valentine and Alice Thompson's book Better Than Beauty: A Guide to Charm to have one of the best explanations on wardrobe planning I have ever read. Here it is for your enjoyment:

Planning a Wardrobe
"How does one do it? Many women's magazines have a blissful way of attacking the problem as though money grew on trees. They tell you how many dresses and pairs of shoes you will need, what hats and coats to choose, and what accessories. But most of us cannot afford a whole new wardrobe at one time. And even women who could afford it would think twice before they threw out a few favorite frocks or a good coat and started from scratch.

Planning begins at home, right in front of your clothes closet. But even before that, there is one important step. Sit down for a moment and think. During the coming season, where will you be going, what will you be doing? exactly what types of clothes will you need the most?

No one except you can plan your wardrobe. But here are a few general ideas which may help:

Let's go back to your clothes closet. Take out everything you have left from last year. Let us suppose that it is an autumn and winter wardrobe you are planning. Out comes the old coat (how board you are with it!), the crepe frock, the brown wool sweet dress, the tired dinner gown, the suit that was such a bargain but really not much fun to wear. What a collection! This is the time when familiarity breeds contempt! You'd like to bundle them all up and send them to a worthy charity. But you can't. So, sit down and do the next best thing.

If you can sew, you're in luck. If you've never tries to sew, by all means make an effort. Or, if you don't want to sew, find an inexpensive seamstress. You have no idea how much money you can save if you've never tried this most practical of all ways to use leftovers.

Take that old coat. You really do need a new one. But let's not make a decision about it until we've considered the whole problem. Put the coat aside for a moment. If you can manage to salvage the suit, perhaps you'll be able to get that much needed coat. Your suit wasn't a success. The skirt was never becoming because it bulged in the back, though you did like the jacket. And it was a good looking tweed. How about the old wool dress? You never realized how nice it's plain nubby surface looks next to that nubby green tweed. Why not make a new skirt out of the wool dress? Sometime that merely means cutting at the waistline and mounting the skirt on a belt. Sometimes it means a complete remaking. But even that is less expensive than buying a new skirt.

Well, if that works, you won't have to spend as much on a suit. So there's something saved toward that new coat.

How about the crepe dress? Is it beyond redemption? Well it's black and that's a help. But the collar looks worn and gray. Cleaning can't change that. How about ripping the collar off entirely and putting on a small one of heavy white silk? Don't sew it in. Put it on with snaps, so that you can remove it easily. Why not have several collars? A dusty pink or a soft yellow would look lovely on black, if those colors look well on you. At any rate the old black crepe will do to start the season. So again you've saved something toward the coat.

The dinner gown is a lovely color, but you've worn it so often. And it's skirt has a decidedly last-year look. Must you wear it another season? No- you have a plan. You'll get a coat. It will be black, because your last one was brown and also because the wardrobe that includes only one coat can stretch itself the furthest on black. You'll ask the store to get you enough extra fabric from the manufacturer to make a simple skirt. The neighborhood tailor will make it for you for very little. The old dinner gown can be cut up to make a really lovely blouse to wear with the new skirt. And you doubtless have other blouses or sweaters that will do nicely with the black skirt and give you a well-put-together look when you wear them with a new black coat.

That leaves a dinner gown to be bought. And, when you get some extra money, a street dress or two.That is the way to plan.

Of course, your closet will reveal an entirely different set of props, but the theory holds just the same. Too many women look dowdy merely because they do not make the effort to pull their wardrobes into shape. It does take thought and effort. But the results more than justify them. Chic can easily be a triumph of mind over money."

Homework: What five things can you add to your wardrobe to make it a bit more easy for you to get dressed in the mornings? Do you enjoy purchasing accessories (shoes, bags, jewelery) more that you enjoy purchasing clothing?

Finishing School: Personal Presentation...

by Emma

Now that we have gone over feminine attitude, health, and posture, we will be focusing our attention on grooming. While caring for one's general tidiness is probably the least difficult thing one can do, it is often the most neglected.

How often have you looked in the mirror to realize that your eyebrows needed plucking, you hadn't taken the time to get your hair trimmed, and your nail polish was chipped? With the exception of appointments at the salon, most of our beauty routines only take a few minutes at a time... and once they are done, we feel like a million dollars.

There are several different ways to make sure that you take care of your basic grooming needs. One way is do lock yourself in the bathroom once every week or so and work on everything at once. Another method is to take care of things little by little, day by day. Perhaps you do your nails on Monday, your eyebrows on Tuesday, and your exfoliation on Wednesday, etc. Still another way of taking care of yourself (and sadly the category that I fall into most frequently) is the "wait-until-everything-looks horrendous-before-I-take-care-of-myself" mentality.

Many of us need a game plan for taking care of our home and it is the same with our bodies. Often, there are times in our life when we are on top of our grooming game (usually when we are dating someone special, have just gotten a new job, were just married, etc.) and we need to make sure that we take that enthusiasm for our personal presentation throughout our lives. We have to realize that we are walking billboards for ourselves and our families.

The first step in preparing our game plan is to think about all of the things that we do for our bodies on a regular basis. Once that list is drawn up, you can go through each item and decide when you need to do each item. To help illustrate my point, I will give you some examples:

  • Daily: Moisturize, Brush and Floss Teeth, Wash Face and Moisturize, Makeup and Hair
  • Every Other Day: Shower, Shave, Clean Ears
  • Weekly: Eyebrows, Manicure and Pedicure (if needed), Clean Jewelry that is worn daily, Biore Pore Strip
  • Every Three Months: Trim bangs
  • Every Six Months: Hair cut/trim
Some time ago, I also posted and entry on my blog that I found fascinating: Your One-Night-A-Week Beauty Routine (for both Housewives and Working Girls)... Enjoy!

Homework: Plan out your grooming routine and tell us what will work better for you - doing everything at once or spreading the tasks out. Also, what is the beauty ritual that you enjoy performing the most?

Finishing School: Personal Presentation...

by Emma

Posture

As I sit here at my computer desk beginning the third entry for this week on personal presentation, I feel I must be honest with you. I do not have the greatest posture in the world. I walk with a relatively straight back, but I slouch when I sit - without fail.

So, since I need this lesson more than anyone reading this entry, I am going to use two of my favorite writers to teach us about the art of beautiful carriage!

A Guide to Elegance - Genevieve Antoine Dariaux

"Years ago, every well-bred young girl was given posture lessons, and even today when we send our young daughters to dancing school it is usually in the hope that they will grow up to be graceful young women rather than prima ballerinas.

The models who present a fashion collection adopt a curious kind of extremely unnatural walk and posture, with their shoulders slightly hunched, their tummies hollowed and their hips shoved forward to form a kind of figure S. They glide rather than walk and the entire effect is deliberately striking and artificial. But you can be sure that as soon as these beauties leave the spotlight, they assume a perfectly natural walk and posture.

In normal life, it is always to a woman's advantage to hold herself straight, as if she wished to stretch her height by several inches, even if she is already very tall. A rounded back, sagging shoulders and a drooping chin create an image of extreme lassitude, or discouragement with life... and of being ten years older than you really are.

When a woman is trying on clothes, she almost always holds herself beautifully erect in front of the dressing room mirrors. If afterward she hollows her chest and lets her whole body slump, she should not be surprised to find that her new dress does not look at all as chic as it did when she tried it in the shop."

Better than Beauty: A Guide to Charm - Helen Valentine and Alice Thompson

"When we think of women who stand and walk and sit with distinction, our minds visualize the late eighteen nineties and early nineteen hundreds. They certainly stood up and sat straight, those ironclad, corseted-to-the-chin mothers and grandmothers of ours. But rigid ramrods are out of date. Non of us is going back to that painfully restricted era. Neither have be hours to spend walking with books on our heads, nor the leisure to practice how to sit down gracefully.

Rigidity is not necessary when you are aiming at good posture. It isn't even a good goal. But most of us have at least one ugly and easily changed fault of our carriage.

Are you the toil worn type, the woman who walks with bent shoulders and a drooped middle? Get rid of the mental attitude, tuck in your stomach, and watch your body straighten! Are you the inquiring duck-neck carrying your head about three inches ahead of your body? Back up against a wall and make your head touch the wall, too. Get the feel of this proper position, and check yourself as you pass reflecting windows and mirrors.

Do you toe out in the genteel, outmoded fashion of 1912? make a conscious effort to get those toes straight ahead. Have you the arrogant bustle walk, your hips thrown out behind? Start today, learning to walk as though someone were about to spank you - and watch those hips go back where they came from.

Your walk should be distinguished by it's lack of outstanding qualities. You don't want people to notice your posture, good or bad. You want them to see you. So correct the faults that attract attention and forget the rest.

Much the same rule applies to sitting. No one will wait to watch how gracefully you lower yourself into a chair. No one cares. But if you drop in a manner to frighten the owner of the chair, you will get plenty of attention. And if you insist on sitting either like a disapproving maiden aunt or a licentious Roman diner, people will notice you, too. But it won't be your charm they notice. the most prevalent and the ugliest of all sitting faults is the frog-leg squat- and squat is the only word. You know it. The feet are either together or apart, but the legs are widespread at the knees.

Learn to walk and sit in an apparently effortless, graceful manner. Then you can be sure you will have learned to carry yourself well."

Posture Highlights (1950)



Homework: Practice walking, sitting, and standing as you go about your daily routines.

Finishing School: Personal Presentation...

by Emma

Health

When I was a teenager, I became enamored with the idea or femininity. I loved the forties and fifties and happened upon a book entitled Emily Hunter's Christian Charm Course. It was full of sweet little line drawings and outdated information and I LOVED it! One of my favorite parts of the book was a chart of feminine attributes and masculine attributes. Many of the points on the list had to do with health... something that I really never thought of as having to do with femininity. Here are a few samples from the list: A Trim and Disciplined Body, Vitality, Abstention from Tobacco, Abstention from Alcohol, Self Control, and Sexual Purity.

Though the list in it's entirety was rather quaint, one cannot help but realize that the points on Hunter's list that deal with the health of one's body are right on the mark.

While I don't claim to be someone with vast stores of knowledge on the subject of health or someone who exercises daily, guzzles water, pops vitamins, and swears off fast food, I can tell you that making painless changes in your daily routines can give you better health both inside and out!

One of the easiest ways to improve your health is to move more. I don't know about you, but I hate the idea of traditional exercise routines (going to the gym, aerobics videos, classes, etc.). I much prefer taking a walk, jumping rope, going for a swim, using my pedometer to count the steps or miles I take throughout the day, and bike riding. There are hundreds of ways you can add more movement into your day without breaking a sweat. As Nike says, Just Do It!

Another simple thing to add to your life that will improve your health is to drink more water. You probably don't drink enough! Often we don't even realize that we are dehydrated. Here are a few tricks you can use to help make sure you are getting enough water during the day: Have an 8 oz glass with every meal, fill a pitcher with ice water and try to get through it by the end of the day, keep a water bottle with you when you head out the door, each time you go into the kitchen try to remember to pour yourself a glass... you get the picture!

While many of us try to eat healthfully, we may be falling short just a bit. Talk to your doctor and decide if a multi-vitamin is something that will help to give you all the nutrients you need to keep fit and strong.

Eating well is a more complicated step in the quest for better health but there are several simple ways to ease the burden. One of the things that I have found the most helpful is to limit the time that I spend in the center aisles of the supermarket. If I can stick to the outer rim, I know that I am going through the produce section, meats, and dairy. I can often eliminate the process foods I used to toss into my cart with glee. A second way eliminate the temptation of unhealthy foods in our home to to simply stick to the list you make and not bring them home.

One of my favorite authors on the subject of health and eating is Mireille Guiliano, author of French Women Don't Get Fat and French Woman For All Seasons. The author's perspective on food and life is one that I admire greatly. I gleaned a great deal of information from her books and was particularly impressed with the Fifty Percent Solution, which she talks about in her second book, French Woman For All Seasons.

Please remember that it is important to speak with your doctor before embarking on any changes you make with regard to your health.

Homework: What healthy habit have you formed recently? How did you go about this?

Monday, June 25

Finishing School: Personal Presentation...

by Emma

The Feminine Attitude

One of the more difficult aspects of becoming feminine in one's presentation is learning how to posses a feminine attitude. Aside from the fact that it is extremely hard to teach ourselves to be disciplined enough to remain feminine in all situations that may arise, we often find that our society looks down upon women who choose to be feminine. Women who truly want to be feminine must learn to celebrate their femininity without a thought what anyone thinks!

Before embarking on some practical ideas to encourage the development of a feminine attitude, I will go over some of the more obvious traits of a women in possession of a feminine attitude.

The first (and perhaps most important) trait of a feminine woman to be kind and compassionate. I certainly wouldn't characterize a woman as ladylike who cussed out a driver that cut her off (though I admit I have been guilty of that!) or who glared at someone that made a mistake. The image that comes to mind for me of a kind and compassionate woman is one who consistently tries to come to the aid of others whether they deserve it or not. She doesn't think twice about going out of her way to help out and relieve the burden for someone else.

Another trait of a woman with a feminine attitude is the discernment to know when it is right to stand up for herself, those she loves, or her beliefs. It is not a feminine trait to become a doormat (nor is it one to become egotistical... such a fine line!). She can easily cover the faults of others while still staying true to herself and all those she loves and believes in.

A feminine woman thinks before she speaks and remains controlled. There will be no screaming fits for her! However, we must remember that we can often remain very controlled on the outside and still be throwing a hissy fit on the inside. The trick (and one I doubt I'll be able to master) is to embody such a feminine spirit that even our minds and souls remained unruffled by difficult circumstances.

Possessing a feminine attitude is something that has to be learned and practiced... it cannot be purchased like well-fitting clothing, perfect make-up, or the right haircut. It must become ingrained within a woman through constant attention!

Often, the best way to learn how to become feminine in attitude is to look to a fine example of femininity for imitation. Though it seems like these examples are few and far between in our everyday life, they really aren't! One can find many books with characters that portray feminine grace and attitudes wonderfully. Another often overlooked way of studying femininity in action is through movies and television (mostly period ones). Watching a woman move gracefully, dress prettily, and act in a lovely manner on the screen makes it very easy to imitate and put into action what one sees! We are also very blessed to be living in a time when the Internet is so easy to obtain. There are multitudes of websites, blogs, and forums dedicated to encouraging femininity.

One of my favorite things to do I find myself reverting to an attitude that isn't even remotely feminine is to read The Wife by Washington Irving. It is a short story that perfectly illustrates what a blessing it is to possess a feminine attitude and what a joy that attitude is to others. If you have time, I encourage you to read it!

Homework: Tell us who is a wonderful example to you of feminine attitude and why. The person could be someone you know or even a character from a book or movie!