The Decorum Diaries

Unapologetically ladylike.

In Defense of Shorts

And the art of dressing appropriately.

Shorts have never been a go-to clothing item for me. In fact, I can't think of a single instance in my adult life that I've intentionally shopped for shorts. When six years into my marriage a friend gifted me a pair, my husband was bemused. It hadn't occurred to me how seldom I wore shorts until I slipped them on and he remarked, "I have never seen you dressed like that before." And it was years before he saw me dressed 'like that' again.

It wasn't a decision I'd made consciously; I've always kept a tiny trousseau and shorts just hadn't felt necessary. So if I didn't wear them in my teens, and I didn't wear them in my twenties, and I've made it nearly to the end of my thirties without wearing them-- why would I consider wearing them now? Now, when I'm pushing forty and on a quest to achieve dignity and refine my style? 

Well, as it turns out, adding the right pair of shorts to my wardrobe is helping me realize one of my number one goals-- the art of dressing appropriately. That might seem ironic if you have a knee-jerk reaction to the word appropriate; we tend to associate dressing appropriately with dressing modestly. And shorts do not come to mind when we think of modesty. But the actual definition of appropriate is 'suitable and proper for the circumstance.' And while modesty is important to me, and I appreciate modesty in others, it is an ever changing standard impossible to pin down, having more to do with motives than it does hemlines. Appropriate clothing, though, is definitive. How much more productive might we be if instead of preaching modesty to young people, we taught them about the appropriate dress for the occasion. 

It is not now, nor will it ever be appropriate to wear a parka to the beach on a 90-degree day, even though parkas are decidedly more modest than swimsuits. Humans grasp that so they should be able to grasp this: You can wear flip flops or a revealing top to a wedding, but it isn't appropriate to do so. While you may attend many weddings, this one, in theory, is the only wedding this couple is going to have. You've been invited to witness a ceremony that will change their lives forever and casual footwear isn't fitting for the event's significance. Nor are revealing, hyper-sexualized outfits because they detract attention from where attention belongs-- on the bride and groom. Jennifer L. Scott's guidelines for narcissistic audience members also applies to narcissistic wedding guests; we don't go to weddings to get noticed. Receptions are not upscale clubs-- you're not there to attract a mate or make your ex jealous. These concrete, reasonable rules of thumb are difficult to argue and easy to understand.

This spring my daughter and I walked into TJ MAXX to see if I could find a little gift for my nieces who were to visit during Mardi Gras. We were in the city on a Sunday for Divine Liturgy, and I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to shop. Nearly an hour later we emerged with gifts for my nieces and a couple of other pieces my sparse wardrobe needed-- and one item it didn't-- a pair of Ralph Lauren shorts.

There was just something so classic about the shorts. I couldn't pass them up without trying them on. 'Just for fun,' I told my daughter. I added two sizes to the pile of blouses in my arms, and we headed to the changing rooms. Since my 'Sunday best' always includes pantyhose, I was wearing a very nude pair of thigh highs. For the sake of time and our menfolk sitting in the car, I slipped the shorts on over the hosiery. Let me tell you, if we all wore hose under our shorts, we'd all be shorts wearing fools. I didn't feel overly exposed in the shorts while wearing stockings, but modest and dressy. And my legs looked great. I popped out of the changing room; my daughter cheered. I kept alternating sizes-- the smaller looked more tailored, and just fit me better, but I panicked last minute and grabbed the larger size reasoning that I might feel more covered up with the extra cm of fabric. (Rooky mistake. Choose the best fitting garment always, regardless of your size hangups.)

But by the time I got them home, I'd lost my nerve. I kept the shorts and the receipt in my car for ages, knowing I'd never wear them and should return them as soon as possible. What had I been thinking? It had been an impulse buy. Spring Fever. TJ Maxx was a product placement marketing minx! I tried to imagine wearing them around town, but couldn't even picture myself wearing them around the house. What if we had unexpected company? Would I feel comfortable or would I try to explain myself? Would I want someone from my church to see me in shorts? Would the sweet little Greek ladies that kiss my cheeks, compliment my prosphora, and tell me how well-behaved my children are think less of me if they knew I wore shorts?! And just how much of one's identity should be tied up in NOT wearing shorts before it becomes a sort of reverse narcissism? I put the heavy questions on hold; the shorts floated around the back of my car, and life went on. 

And then one day, just a few weeks ago, I came across an old photograph that changed everything.

That's me in front (wearing shorts!) circa 1980-81. I'm standing next to Willie Mae who is petting Honey, my grandparent's golden retriever. And standing behind me is Gene St. Romain, my Grand-Mère. She would have been 60 in this photograph. Grand-Mère, my very own Madame Chic: proper, southern, religious, well-traveled, warm yet distant, the matriarch of a large family, glamorous, and wearer of shorts. WHAT?! But the more I thought about it, the more I came to understand-- my idolized impression of her style wasn't because she always dressed well, which she did. I regarded her style because she always dressed appropriately. Her generation, the first to wear shorts, had a handle on that; they wore the proper clothes for the proper time. They wore what was suitable to the occasion. My grandparents had an adventurous and outdoorsy side to them, and throughout their lives, they spent time at their river camp. Some of my last visits with her were at the camp. I sat across from her at the ancient picnic table and watched her perfectly manicured hands with her iconic diamond ring, raise boudin on wonder bread to her mouth and wash it down with beer straight from the bottle. Being a woman of poise isn't synonymous with a closet full of tea length skirts, any more than it is synonymous with a diet consisting solely of tea and crumpets. The only real rule is to carry yourself well in the moment-- and wearing the right clothes will help.

That photograph of my Ma-Mère was illuminating. If shorts could fit so beautifully into her cultivated life-- why couldn't they fit into mine?

I retrieved the shorts from my car. 

I put them on sans hose. 

It wasn't so bad.

I slipped into a fresh pair of white tennis shoes fit for a duchess.

I felt confident. I felt comfortable.

Please, please excuse the silly photo. I'm writing this post from out of town and the only photo I have of me in the shorts is one I sent my seventeen-year-old son in a text that said, "Hey! Guess who is going to be a last-minute counselor at your summer camp!" He was not amused. 

Please, please excuse the silly photo. I'm writing this post from out of town and the only photo I have of me in the shorts is one I sent my seventeen-year-old son in a text that said, "Hey! Guess who is going to be a last-minute counselor at your summer camp!" He was not amused. 

Why had this revelation taken me so long? I started thinking about the one principal that has never let me down when it comes to outfitting my closet and wondered why I hadn't applied it to shorts. My goal is to have a classic version of an appropriate outfit for each occasion in my life. My wardrobe, while small, is full of suitable-for-the-occasion clothing.

Bird hunting with the boys? I have a shirt for that.
Shopping in the city? Pretty blouses and cute, comfortable flats aplenty.
A hike in the woods? I've got the boots.
Rainy day? Got it covered.
Business meeting? Dressed to impress.
Funeral attire? Wouldn't be caught dead without it.
Community Theater Date? See you at six!
Loading hay at the farm? Ready when you are.
Early morning walk? Nothing to slow me down.
Wedding? Not just yours-- mine too. 
A friend laughed at the true story I told her about my wedding dress--a simple white dress I already had hanging in my closet. 
"That doesn't surprise me in the least," she said. 

And now I have what I need for a backyard pool party with a few mom friends and our broods, which is precisely where I took my shorts on their first outing. A year ago, at the very same pool party, I wore jeans over my suit. I styled them for summer and felt put together-- but I wasn't as physically comfortable or confident as I was last week in shorts. And I was doubly thankful for minimal fabric as I walked in the gate and an enthusiastic tot soaked me from head to toe with a water cannon. 

 Below are photos of our last family trip to the river camp with Grandparents present.
Left: Me (in a borrowed pair of shorts) Grand-père & my sister, also in shorts-- sitting like ladies, of course! Right: The Grand Dame herself, MaMère wearing camp clothes more typical of her taste.

 

HOMEWORK: Jot down a list of the various occasions of your life and how often or seldom they occur. The more repetitive events will require more suitable clothing options. Group the occasions by clothing type, say, for example, outdoor events. The shirt I bird hunt in is also one I can grab for a hike, or wear to trim trees at the farm, and now to the stables with my daughter. My funeral dress can be worn to church, and I can even don it with sandals, fun jewelry and a ponytail to a more casual affair. You don't need a separate outfit for each circumstance; you just need to make sure you have something to wear to the ALL of the events that present themselves. Pay special attention to the times you find yourself without something to wear, say to a winter wedding-- be specific about what's missing and put it on your list. Was it footwear? A winter dress coat?

Bonus tip: Looking appropriate for the occasion should never look costumey-- the clothes have to be suitable for you before they can be suitable for the circumstance.

When everyone from Duchesses to Duggars are wearing shorts-- you can't help but reevaluate.

HRH the Duchess of Cambridge has turned the art of looking appropriate for the occasion into a bonafide science-- if you're a bit lost on this way of thinking about your clothes, she's the specimen to study. Not for her iconic coatdresses and high heels, but for what she wears to sporting events, to travel, to run errands, even to the zoo. While she has more pieces in her wardrobe than you and I do, she wears the same styles on repeat, simulating a smaller wardrobe. As far as case studies go, the Duchess is hard to beat. The woman has never put her foot wrong when it comes to style. The woman also has an inconceivable budget, a large household staff, and the world's top designers at her beck and call so we won't get carried away in comparing oranges to apples.
 

Click on the gallery below for inspiration. Pay special attention to the footwear-- it's not all nude pumps for the Duchess-- in the first photo she's wearing her Supergas.  (I recently ordered a pair from Zappos and the pair of Converse you see in the first photo of this post. The Supergas are what I chose to keep.) My least favorite look is the cowboy hat. It's a little over the top, costumy even-- maybe because her husband is wearing a matching one? As someone who lives in a community where growing up to be a professional cowboy is an achievable goal-- this look shouldn't be so hard for me to swallow. But I think she would have looked better without the hat and with a toned down belt. I'm betting she hasn't had the occasion to wear either one since! 

An English Riding Lesson on Posture

I turned my head toward my daughter and raised my eyebrows slightly, the corner of my mouth tilting upward. "I know, I know momma." She was preparing to take her first English riding lesson, and the point the instructor stressed above all else was a familiar one in our house. 'Keep your bottom tucked, and your navel pulled in toward the spine.'

 

Millie's turn to ride came at the end of long line of girls. Once in the saddle, it was easy to see that while a healthy posture isn't automatic yet for her at home, flattening her shoulders and curving the spine inward at the bottom came easily when prompted to do so. Many of the children couldn't quite grasp what the trainer was asking them to do, but Millie had heard it all before.

For most of us, achieving correct posture will take concentrated effort. An effort we may have to remind ourselves and our accountability partners to make until it comes naturally. (I put up little pink post-it notes when I was getting started.) But a proper stance will come more effortlessly in time. I find that I'm carrying myself well almost as much as I catch myself not these days, a marked improvement. 

I loved the visual the instructor gave the girls on how not to sit in the saddle. They weren't to sit like ducks. The more I thought about it, the more appropriate the imagery seemed.

I loved the visual the instructor gave the girls on how not to sit in the saddle. They weren't to sit like ducks. The more I thought about it, the more appropriate the imagery seemed.

During a demonstration in the arena I looked down to see Millie sitting with her legs together, ankles crossed and tucked a little underneath her chair. She had pulled herself up to her full sitting height so she could see over the arena wall. She was beautiful. The other girls sat more casually, some of them sitting with one leg tucked under their bottoms for a boost, and others slouching over the rail-- all of them with legs splayed about. I'll be honest and say I loved that too. What's more lovely than children behaving like children? It was a picture of relaxed and comfortable innocence; a scene I was happy to witness. 

Even so, I cannot help but think the longer we walk around with rounded shoulders, drooping necks, and bellies pulling at our spines, the more challenging it will be to correct when we wake up to the fact that we need to. It's not as if posture is just about appearance and therefore easily written off. Posture is like other areas concerning our health, often what looks the best on us, is, in fact, the best for us. Sunburns and age spots are not as attractive OR as healthy as the skin of one who diligently where's a sunhat. 

Riding wasn't the first time we joined a new activity where the posture we were instructed to use was the exact posture we are supposed to be using throughout the day anyway. My first light bulb moment on carriage was in a Pilates class when the trainer told us to tilt our behinds toward the ceiling, letting our spines drop to the floor. There really is a universal, correct way to stand, sit, and recline for our health-- and yes, it also has a visual appeal. 

We are not horse people. My daughter, however, missed the memo. For years a desire to ride has consumed her. We hoped it would pass. We offered distractions. We talked about four-wheel pride. And just as she seemed to give up, we gave in. My husband and I discussed a compromise. Rather than the western style tradition that prevades our area, I would seek out English lessons. English lessons came with the benefit of not relying heavily on experts in the family as western does. In fact, Millie's instructor underscored this point for us, "In Europe, parents would never dream of teaching their own children to ride. You find a trainer; you learn the proper technique in the proper way. In western riding, your first experiences are with mom and dad in the backyard. You figure it out as you go and end up with a mix of what worked for them, and what works for you." 

 

Surprising her with lessons...

Since I am among friends, let me speak frankly and say that it wasn't just the formality of the lessons that drew me to English-- the formality of the clothes-- the jodhpurs and paddock boots clinched the deal. And I think the clothes won over my daughter too. When we announced to Millie that she was getting riding lessons, she first thrilled to the idea, and then immediately buried her face into her dad's chest and sobbed. A dream realized. She was so overcome with emotion, I must admit, for a moment I was afraid she might be crying because we told her she would be starting with English (rather than Western). I worried she might have been disappointed she wasn't going to be the windblown, rough and tumble cowgirl she imagined after all. Not for a while anyway.

But then we took one step into the tack shop and her eyes fixated on a black velvet helmet. It was beautiful. She was sold. 

The helmet, however, was not. And a more modestly priced one found its way home with us.

We'll have to earn the velvet.

As a clerk was helping my daughter get into her new boots, I leaned toward the shop owner tallying my bill and asked in a whisper which was her preference, English or Western? She stood opposite me across the counter, and with her tattooed sleeves and stretched earlobes and my starched blouse and modest pearls-- she stood opposite me in style too. I imagine it's not easy on children to have a mother always pulling them against the flow of current culture and I wanted the opinion of a riding expert with a modern vibe. Her answer gratified me, "Oh, English, definitely English! I ride both ways, but always go back to English; it cannot be beaten as a foundation for any style of riding she may want to do in the future. Starting with the best foundation is just so important, we always urge new riders to start with English." 

And so it is with posture. No matter the 'style' of living we may do in the future, starting with the best foundation possible, is just so important. 

How I Store Personal Care Products (And other tips worth knowing.)

Recently I came upon the supposition that the Duchess of Cambridge likely provides guests with bar soap and hand cream in the lavatory, as opposed to liquid soap. The thought reminded me of how my Grand-Mère kept small decorative bars of soap in her powder room as well. Grand-Mère was known for her talent in interior design, and I'm sure the soaps made an impression on me, year after year, because of the dish that held them-- a smooth and iridescent freshwater clamshell from the family's river camp. 

As I write this today, thinking of that creative, and lovely way Ma-Mère contained soap for her guests, I wonder how she may have stored other -more personal- items.

One of the conundrums of adhering to ladylike etiquette is that there are certain sensitive subjects we usually do not discuss, except for with the closest of friends and female family members. Some topics we won't even venture to discuss with them. Many years ago when I decided to troubleshoot some feminine hygiene annoyances, I was left to wing it, preferring not to canvass the neighborhood or survey my girlfriends. 

Here, however, in our little corner of the internet where few today will venture (I lost them at Decorum) we can discuss all things feminine and lovely-- and maybe even private. 

I'll go first.
 
 

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This post is worth reading if you:

  • haven't put any thought into storing feminine hygiene products.
  • don't have a convenient, private storage spot.
  • run out of products mid-cycle or find you don't have what you need at the start.
  • flit from brand to brand or just grab the first items you see.
  • are inconsistent with the amount of product you buy each time.
  • have no idea how long your purchase will last.
  • routinely have accidents that stain or make cleaning your undergarments difficult.                 

From dishwasher powder to toilet paper, I've come to believe in brand loyalty as a way to keep clutter at bay, keep your storage spaces organized, and streamline your shopping. If you're buying different feminine hygiene products routinely and in various package sizes, you may find yourself running out of products and into storage issues.

The cure is a three step process:

Survey the available storage space.
Consider containment.
Buy the same products in the same amount on repeat.

I store my feminine hygiene products in my bathroom's linen closet when not in use. The closet is a few feet from the commode so when it is time for my cycle I move them to the toilet tank lid to keep them off the floor and within reach. However, I do not store them on the toilet throughout the month because I prefer keeping the toilet clutter free and easy to clean.
 

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I store the products inside a decorative box with hinged lid. It is just large enough to rest on the back of my toilet when needed. Most of the guests invited to use my bathroom would never give the box a second thought-- it sort of blends.

I know that my container stores just over three small packages of my preferred tampons. (I buy three different absorbencies.) It will also hold one box of panty liners and nearly one box of thin pads. Knowing what I can store makes shopping a breeze. I have a visual queue when it's time to buy, which is before I run out, but after making enough room to store the replacements. 

The goal is to consider the consumable items we use and shop for upfront so that we never have to think about it again-- at least not until a product or package is discontinued. If this idea appeals to you, I've written more about it here

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Brainstorm other items you may wish to store in your personal care container before getting started so you can consider your storage volume needs.

Here are some ideas to get you started:
A small calendar and pencil.
Pregnancy Tests or Anti-Fungal Ointments
Vaginal Boric Acid* and Acidopholus Suppositories
 

Until you get the hang of shopping for the space you have, you may have a bit of product overflow. When I have extra feminine hygiene products I do a few things. First: I make sure my travel pouch is full. Every menstruating woman needs a travel pouch. I'm able to discreetly remove mine from my purse and carry it to the bathroom if I'd rather not take my whole handbag-- say while visiting a friend's home. I also like how it keeps the items contained and not floating around loose for the world to see if I need to dig in my bag while in public. I'm certainly not embarrassed by menstruation-- but there's nothing quite so pulled together as a woman who keeps private things private. 

Says the woman currently sharing photos of her feminine care products on the internet.
 

Next, I stock my car with any products that I cannot store in my bin, which has saved me more times than I can count. Living in the middle of nowhere, Texas as we do, we spend a lot of time on the road. I can tell you, far from my mind when we're leaving for a day-trip is whether or not I may start my period while we're gone. Since I rotate purses and often carry a small clutch, my car is more dependable than my travel pouch. But I usually only think to take it when I've already started my cycle. 

One more idea for the tender-hearted: I read recently that one overlooked need of female homeless is feminine hygiene products. Can you imagine? My family and I do not encounter a lot of homeless people since we live rurally, but we've discussed putting together a few small sacks of goods to offer when we do. If we happen to encounter a woman, I may be able to slip a few pads into the bag from my car stash before handing it to her.

Bonus tip for those of you that made it this far:

The flow of my cycle is only predictable in its unpredictability. It was rare that I could get through a period without ruining an undergarment. About six or seven years ago I finally wised up and switched to wearing black panties daily. My undergarments always look fresh now. (And talk about streamlining your shopping!) I prefer synthetic fabrics because of how long they look like new-- but I insist on 100% cotton gussets. The gusset is the fabric that covers the crotch; for our health, it is important that the gusset material is breathable. I am always disappointed when I've ordered a panty that is advertised as having a cotton gusset only to find that the gusset is lined on the outside with the synthetic fabric of the brief. 

(I do keep one nude pair as a just in case, or for wearing with white slacks. I also have a stack of 100% white cotton undies in case I need to treat a yeast infection. These can be laundered in high temps and even ironed to kill any lingering yeast.)

The idea of wearing black panties now feels so elegant, natural, and mature that I've decided to switch my daughter to black undies as a rite of passage when she crosses the milestone of needing them. As a young person, I had anxiety about anyone seeing my dirty laundry, or stains on my clean laundry. Black undergarments prevent stains from showing and, knowing her, will be just novel enough to feel like a celebration for outgrowing the flowers, pale pink bunnies, and powder blue horses she's sporting now. There are many things about womanhood I'd love to rescue from this sex-obsessed culture of ours. Welcome to practicality, authentic feminity, and innocence, black panties! We're glad you're here.

*If you suffer from yeast infections, please do research and ask your doctor about Boric Acid suppositories. They are an alternative to creams such as Monistat and made all the difference for me. 

Poses For Promenades

How NOT to Pose for Prom, and Why.

This post is dedicated to A., thank you for the encouragement. The results of which appear below.

Bethany is a competitive athlete and poised to finish her high school career at the top of her class. Jack and Beth have been friends since Kindergarten and while they cut loose and enjoyed the night immensely, I noticed from start to finish a certain formality between them, which was fitting of the occasion, and true to their personalities.


There are a few areas of decorum in which I still prod my seventeen-year-old son.  

'Don't be afraid that offering help will offend, offer it anyway.' 

'Eat slowly.'

'Never call anyone HOT, unless you're taking their temperature.' 

I often do this by pointing out some of the consequences he and his peers may face if they carry on with an off-putting behavior. Most recently we were discussing prom photos of all things.

This spring Jack had the honor of escorting three charming and accomplished young ladies to their respective dances. I offer his being a sought after date as proof that carrying yourself with dignity and exhibiting respect for others pays dividends, even for teenage boys. He had an absolute ball, and I was greatly encouraged by his generation's ladylike young women. In fact, at all three dances, I happily noticed a trend toward elegant, timeless, and more modest dresses. These girls will be sitting pretty in college, having a sophisticated frock in their wardrobe ready to go.  
 
At any age, it is wise to think at least five years into the future when considering formalwear. If a piece is too on-trend, loud, or uncomfortably revealing, odds are you won't wear it again. No one wants to attend their first formal wedding as a young adult, in a dress that screams high school prom or a brand new dress that wasn't in the budget. If you have little women in your house, shopping with them for formals presents an opportunity to pass on the wisdom in thinking ahead, which too many of us have had to learn the hard way. 

Jenna is an accomplished ballerina and carries herself with such poise. Look at that posture! She and Jack had only met once before and I was in awe of how the two of them conducted themselves with a relaxed confidence (on the outside anyway) that would be the envy of many adults.

 

So no, it wasn't the dresses that had me in a tither. It was the pose a few of them struck while wearing those dresses. I do hope this isn't the beginning of a new trend, but I have my concerns. No doubt they were merely mimicking what they've seen on television and online formalwear catalogs. These kids did not dream the poses up themselves; for they looked unnatural and unsuited to Main Street, America. (Which was precisely where the photos in question were taken.) Nevertheless, as the photographs began to show up in my newsfeed, I was taken aback. 

I've paused in writing this, wanting to put this criticism delicately, knowing it isn't a reflection of those involved but of our culture in general. I'm reminded of how very many things I did in my youth that I'd rather forget, and rather still, never have done. Even so, if I am to write honestly and dependably on the topic of decorum, which fascinates and eludes me in equal measure, I am going to have to write frankly about my observations. And ironically, that's going to come off as rude. But the lack of authority on the subject of modern etiquette is what's got us here, so it's time for those of us concerned to be that voice. I'm thinking about Emily Post and her 1928 book, Etiquette. She made no bones about calling out the poor behavior of young ladies who had taken to touching up their makeup in full view of the public at the theater. (And absent her admonishments, the line between public and private behavior has all but disappeared. )

So I will make no bones about this--

It is a mistake to engage in a passionate kiss in photographs before you're married. And since I'm being frank-- and because the memory of my wedding kiss still haunts me, a passionate lip-lock isn't appropriate for weddings either. Save passion for the honeymoon suite! Even a matrimonial kiss should be demure. And high school prom photos should be the sweetest and most innocent of all. 
 

In one of the pictures that hurt my heart, a smiling girl in a white lace dress had been picked up and thrown over her date's shoulder, his arm holds her up by her bottom, which is resting next to his grinning, baby face. If not for the baby faces of both you would have thought this their wedding night. Even the photo quality and lighting brought wedding bells to mind. But, stick with me for a minute, what if these two teenaged lovebirds don't end up tying the knot? They certainly won't have the luxury of shredding the photos as we did when good sense prevailed. Will they be comfortable showing their future family their old prom photos? And how on earth will they top them for their actual weddings? --Of course they'll want their wedding photos to outshine their prom pictures, wedding photos should outshine prom pictures!

Why, oh why, do we encourage and respond so passively when we see our children forcing milestones prematurely? 

Pre-mature. As in, not yet mature enough. It is time we remember that there are seasons to childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood, and as parents, it is ours to set the pace. Not all things are for all times. And rushing moments can water down, or worse, spoil future moments.

Working up the stamina not to crack himself up.

...nailed it.
Alli was sure a good sport to go along with his silly poses-- hey when there's a pitchfork just laying there, how can you NOT do American Gothic? From the stories they told afterward, the theme of this particular date was mirth.  Alli's was a prom for homeschoolers (as was Jenna's) and I loved hearing how well the kids mingled and got to know the other attendees. And I was flabbergasted to hear that Jack attempted 'every waltz, and most of the swing dances.' Hey, he's a good sport too!

 

My son, to his great chagrin, does not have a passive mother and has been prodded into right behavior since toddlerhood. He wasn't surprised to hear of my disappointment in the photographs of that night.* But instead of defending the poses, he convinced me I needn't say any more on the matter. "On that subject mom, your job is done. I wouldn't dream of posing like that." Jack is loyal, accepting, and the least critical person I know-- for him to phrase it in that way hushed me on the topic for good. (With him, anyway.)

You get little relief when parenting teens today. I'll take mine where I can get it. We'll mark that box checked.

If you're raising children, or are otherwise instructing teenagers, please take Jack's response as encouragement that they are listening to us, and do take your wisdom to heart. Since our conversation, other photos of Jack with his peers have come to mind. One of my favorites is a photo of Jack with a large group of buddies; their arms draped over one another as the snow falls around them. Most of the boys are holding up hand signs or sticking out their tongues in the trend of the time. Jack stands confidently in the back. He's wearing a mischievous grin, and a twinkle in his eye, but his fingers are relaxed and his tongue out of sight. Some of those boys may feel a twinge of embarrassment in a few years looking back at the albums full of rock band tongue and play-gang finger poses. And some of them may still be posing in the same way, never considering any reason not to.

Which is why in this day of Ivy League schools retracting acceptance letters based on social media posts, and employers scouring the internet for glimpses into the character of prospective hires, we must train our children to pose for every photo with enough dignity to last a lifetime. And we'll do well to remember to do so ourselves.

*Nor was he surprised at my distress that a few of them missed the opportunity to practice formality when they opted for whimsical getups instead of traditional tuxedos-- to which he reminded me, "It's their prom, Mom."

That it is, dear one.

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Do you feel differently about this topic? I'm truly interested in the opposing view and welcome it in the comment section. ~Anna

Beauty In, Beauty Out: The Importance of Choosing Quality Entertainment

Most mornings I wake up with a prayer on my mind and lips. It's a simple prayer I learned years ago that's meant to be said on repeat, almost like background noise for daily life. Often as I drift off to sleep, I find myself saying this prayer, and I almost always wake up with it on my lips without intention. "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." (You can read more about this prayer here: https://gravitycenter.com/practice/breath-prayer/) 

 Well, here is my confession. This morning I woke up with angry arguing in my half-conscious mind and even shouted swear words. (These words were in my head, not out loud. I can only imagine what my husband would have done had he woken up next to a loud, swearing woman. ha!) This unexpected way of waking up startled me in its stark difference from my usual prayer, and I laid in bed, more asleep than awake, trying to think of why that noise had entered my sleeping mind. And then it hit me; we had watched "Suits" before going to bed, and that program is one PROFANE shouting match after the other. 

 So why do we watch such a show? Two reasons. First: The clothing is stunning. I could write an entire article on the clothing alone. Many pieces are better suited to an evening out than a day's work at an attorney's office, and some of them miss the mark altogether, but in general the clothing is swoon worthy, and the costumes rival anything else on television in its genre. I feel that sloppy dressing on television fuels sloppy dressing in real life, so I cannot help but appreciate beautifully dressed characters. We also watch the show because it is devoid of graphic violence. (Every so often there is a busted lip or black eye.) There are better written, better played shows out there that I refuse to watch because of the gratuitous displays of violence and sex, but as far as those issues go, this show is mild. In fact, I'm starting to believe the characters shout and swear so much to make up for lack of any real drama in the show.

Garbage in, garbage out, was my last thought this morning before opening my eyes. It makes perfect sense to me that I would drift off to sleep with those angry words in my head, and wake up with them there too. What a shame! 

Oh, but what hope that gives those of us striving for feminine poise and polish! If garbage in, garbage out is true, then so must it be in reverse? If we fill our minds with beautiful things, beautiful things are bound to radiate out of us.

To that end, I want to recommend two entertainment options to you, my comrades on this journey. 

ANNE OF GREEN GABLES
Ladies, Anne with an E is the red-headed PATRON SAINT of rising above your circumstances and improving yourself! The book is so beautifully written and feminine, and almost every page delivers some moral, absent from modern life. Anne of Green Gables is a book I believe should be read once during every decade of a woman's life. I just finished reading it aloud to my daughter. She hung on every word. We laughed and cried, and the words have had a noticeable effect on our natures. We recently began the next Anne book in the series, Anne of Avonlea, and the lessons through entertainment continue.

THAT GIRL
A sitcom filmed in the 60s; That Girl is the story a young woman who leaves home and begins her career as an actress in New York City. The show is funny without being crude. That 'girl' stands up for herself when needed beautifully. She is a loyal friend. Her dating relationship is proper and dignified while being so, so fun. She brings honor to her parents. She is invested in her career and shows respect for her employers, without disrespecting herself. Her hair and makeup are always presentable, and her clothing is as ladylike as it gets. Even her heels when she wears them are feminine and PRACTICAL. Unlike the four-inch heels we see in programs like the show "Suits". No wonder women have given up on getting dressed every day. The only examples of dressing up we see in current 'art' is impractical and uncomfortable. I cannot recommend "That Girl" enough. It is a show my daughter, and I watch together, but my husband will happily sit through an episode, and my sixteen-year-old son wandered in the other day and laughed out loud at something one of the characters said. If you have a teenage son walking the halls of your home, you know what high praise an actual laugh out loud is! That Girl is available for free to those with an Amazon Prime subscription. 

Below I've shared this blog post's companion video. While filming it we were on our way to get haircuts. I ended up getting an inverted bob. Years ago in a hormone induced frenzy, I came home with the shortest pixie cut imaginable. Ever since, my husband gets a little anxious when I go in for trims. I snapped this photo at the salon to reassure him. ha! 
 

What programs and books are you entertaining yourself with these days? I want to check out your recommendations! 


Afterward, my daughter and I had our nails painted (we were disappointed and resolved to do them ourselves from now on). I also exchanged a lampshade and we browsed
jewelry and handbags before settling on a cookie instead! Here is a rug we are thinking about for her room. It's the rug on top with the blue-green thread running through the sisal.

And here is a photo of her rugless room! Do you think the one we've chosen will work in here? I do!

And here is a photo of her rugless room! Do you think the one we've chosen will work in here? I do!

 

What programs and books are you entertaining yourself with these days? I want to check out your recommendations! 

What Emily Post Thinks About My Dressing Room

The only safe measure of what is good, is to choose that which has best endured. ...In the same way examples of old potteries and china and glass, at present being reproduced, are very likely good, because after having been for a century or more in disuse, they are again being chosen. Perhaps one might say that the “second choice” is “proof of excellence.
— 1922 Post, Emily (2012-05-11). Etiquette (p. 86). . Kindle Edition.

Okay, so Emily doesn't really have an opinion on my dressing room, but because of the above quote I can guess that she would approve.
 
Below you'll find my second ever youtube video and a few photographs of my dressing room. I even threw in a bonus shot of our master bath before the updates. (So those who watched the video could see the subway tile and original sink I mentioned.) The photo captions below have additional information on the updates.

As I mentioned in the video, I will soon be adding a makeup vanity and stool to my dressing room, (I think a cozy rug is in order too) and I will be sure to show you the updated photos when I do!

But first-- Today when my husband needed me to shuttle him to a tractor and back, I was able to hop in the car and head to the country before we had even hung up the phone. There's no way I would have been ready to go when he called had I not resolved to begin each day presentably dressed.

Here's a snapshot of my day. It's a photo of me following my sweet husband to our shop. I have a soft spot for this particular tractor. She's older than I am and my husband bought her while we were newly engaged. He's moved onto bigger and newer tractors for most jobs, but this girl still pulls her weight on the farm.

Here's a snapshot of my day. It's a photo of me following my sweet husband to our shop. I have a soft spot for this particular tractor. She's older than I am and my husband bought her while we were newly engaged. He's moved onto bigger and newer tractors for most jobs, but this girl still pulls her weight on the farm.

 

 

Classics like grasscloth and marble subway tile in a herringbone pattern feel right at home in this 1929 Lady's Dressing Room. Behind the chair, you'll notice the pass-thru laundry chute.

Classics like grasscloth and marble subway tile in a herringbone pattern feel right at home in this 1929 Lady's Dressing Room. Behind the chair, you'll notice the pass-thru laundry chute.

 

My "placeholder" folding table now sits under the window. The chair has been moved to my study, and the étagère has been moved upstairs to my children's bathroom.

My "placeholder" folding table now sits under the window. The chair has been moved to my study, and the étagère has been moved upstairs to my children's bathroom.

 

 

Here is a better view of my built-ins. (One without my head blocking the view!) You can see from the clothes hanging in the closet that my wardrobe has had a few updates, but is still fairly minimal.

Here is a better view of my built-ins. (One without my head blocking the view!) You can see from the clothes hanging in the closet that my wardrobe has had a few updates, but is still fairly minimal.

 

 

This is the view from our master bath looking into my dressing room. As you can kinda-sorta see in the before shot below, the original floor in the dressing room was oak. It was tough to choose to replace rather than refinish the hardwood, but my intention was to make the bathroom appear larger. The shift from marble to oak visually chopped the room in half, the new floor fools the eye into seeing a larger space.

This is the view from our master bath looking into my dressing room. As you can kinda-sorta see in the before shot below, the original floor in the dressing room was oak. It was tough to choose to replace rather than refinish the hardwood, but my intention was to make the bathroom appear larger. The shift from marble to oak visually chopped the room in half, the new floor fools the eye into seeing a larger space.

 

 

This before photo that shows the original subway tile, sink, and original floor that I mentioned in today's Youtube video. Had this been your bathroom to redo, what choices would you have made? One option I thought of, but eventually resisted, was taking out the wall behind the sink, and placing a new vanity centered between the bathroom windo and the dressing room window. The master bath would have been made much larger, and felt more modern-- but I would have sacrificed the original design for the dressing room.

This before photo that shows the original subway tile, sink, and original floor that I mentioned in today's Youtube video. Had this been your bathroom to redo, what choices would you have made? One option I thought of, but eventually resisted, was taking out the wall behind the sink, and placing a new vanity centered between the bathroom windo and the dressing room window. The master bath would have been made much larger, and felt more modern-- but I would have sacrificed the original design for the dressing room.

 

 

I forgot to take photos of my placeholder vanity but you can get a glimpse of it here in these photos my 8-tear-old took this evening. As I resisted pulling my hair out trying to figure out editing and uploading to Youtube-- she busied herself with twisting and braiding it. She then picked tiny flowers from the Lantana in our garden, working them into the braids. She photographed it with my phone so I could see what she had done. Unfortunately, the flowers were super stinky, so the look didn't last long.

I forgot to take photos of my placeholder vanity but you can get a glimpse of it here in these photos my 8-tear-old took this evening. As I resisted pulling my hair out trying to figure out editing and uploading to Youtube-- she busied herself with twisting and braiding it. She then picked tiny flowers from the Lantana in our garden, working them into the braids. She photographed it with my phone so I could see what she had done. Unfortunately, the flowers were super stinky, so the look didn't last long.

Mise-En-Place Your Night Cream: 6 Steps to Creating a Sleeping Beauty Routine

“My friends and I have been talking,” my mother-in-law said to me, “we think you’re becoming more attractive as you age.” I nodded my thanks and suppressed a smile. I had a secret.

Be honest. How often do you skip steps to your evening beauty routine, or worse, ignore it altogether? After years of neglecting to adhere to a nightly skincare regimen, or even form one, I happened onto a trick that made picking up the habit a breeze. Now I look forward to my evening routine, and the improvements to my 35 year old complexion are not only noticeable, they’re undeniable.

Mise en place, the French phrase meaning “put in place” is a well known expression in kitchens around the world. Many top chefs and talented home-cooks owe much of their success to their habit of mise en place. But the practice shouldn’t be reserved for baking ingredients. Here’s how I kicked the bad habit of nightly skincare neglect..

Step 1: Consider your nightly habits. 

Do you sit in the living room for some family tv time each night? Do you curl up in bed and browse the internet while your husband reads? Where you find yourself just before lights out is the “place” of mise-en-place. 


Step 2: Know your needs.

My goal was to never fall asleep with makeup on, or un-flossed teeth. I wrote out my ideal routine, and then made a list of the ‘ingredients‘ I’d need at my fingertips to ensure success. I wanted something for the nights I had skipped washing my face the traditional way. I wanted something for removing makeup, and I didn’t want to forget about my teeth and nails. I was also guilty of forgetting to take nightly medicines and so I wanted to include in my kit current Rxs and vitamins.
 

Step 3:  Consider containment.

You’ll need a basket, drawer, or pretty container to hold the ingredients for your recipe. Because my nightly routine includes sitting in bed for an hour or so before lights out, I chose a drawer in my nightstand to contain my goodies. When I’m ready, I pull out the entire drawer and place it next to me on the bed. I read articles, or watch television as I pamper. You might choose a basket on a shelf in your living room. Whatever you store your potions & lotions in, make sure they are kept within reach of your nightly perch. (See step 1)

Step 4:  Mise en place. (Stock your drawer or basket.)

Below are the items I keep my drawer stocked with.  Some of these I will buy again as I run out, some I will seek out a better replacement for. 

  • Stretchy headband & ponytail holder
  • A rinse free makeup remover (Clinique's Take the Day Off Cleansing Milk)
  • Oil of Olay Regenerist Cleansing Cloths (I usually only have need for a half or quarter of each cloth.)
  • Clinique’s Clarifying Lotion
  • Oil of Olay's Regenerist serum
  • Dr. Brandt's "Glow" night cream (Will not be repurchasing.)
  • Rose Hip Oil (I dot this on particularly dry areas.)
  • Lanolin (I'm a mouth breather at night which causes unsightly, chapped lips. I use the lanolin layered over rose hip oil, to wake up with a smooth kisser.)
  • Teeth whitening strips, used only once per week or less to keep my smile bright, yet natural shade of white.
  • Q-tips, Cotton Balls, Dental Floss
  • Dusting Powder (Feels absolutely elegant on a balmy summer night.)
  • Body lotion
  • Polish remover, nail file, clippers, and OPI's Bubble Bath nail laquer.
  • Multi-vitamin, Current RXs, and melatonin for night sleep won't come.
  • Black silk eye mask

I also keep a decanter of water, and pretty glass on my night table. But a plastic bottle of water in your basket or drawer would work too.

Other items to consider: small mirror, tweezers, small trash receptacle.

Step 5: Multitask that face mask.

Now that you've put in place the items you need to complete your night routine, enjoy an evening in your comfy chair, slathering on face lotion while watching Downton Abbey. Or relax in bed next to your love, spending the last moments of your day chatting while you dot your cheeks and lips with rose hip oil. 

There was a reason you repeatedly skipped your nightly beauty routine in the past. Maybe you never thought through your needs much past a bar of soap and toothpaste. Perhaps standing one more moment on the hard tile floor after a long and hectic day of being your feet was more than you could take. Many women find it hard to tear themselves away from the chatter and time spent relaxing with loved ones. Regardless of the reason, our worthy and achievable goal is to make nightly skincare an easy, luxurious part of our day. 


Step 6:  Beauty Sleep

Alright, Sleeping Beauty, if you're not in the habit of getting a goodnight's sleep, there's no night like tonight to start. Muster all of the self-discipline you possess and turn the lights out in time for you to wake feeling rested and cheerful. Soon, the routine of nighttime skin cleansing and moisturizing will signal bedtime has arrived. Bedtime rituals don't just work magic for toddlers, as you will soon discover.
 

 

And they all lived happily ever after.

Brand Loyalty: The Lady's Guide to Organized Storage

As a young adult, I read a study that noted how my generation isn't brand loyal. From makeup to cleaning supplies, foods to medicines, we happily flit from product to product, brand to brand. Observation tells me that this is true (maybe even more-so) for younger generations.  Our shopping practices are decidedly ADHD, as we often purchase, and begin using a new brand before finishing the last. The result? Wasted time and money, and embarrassingly overstuffed cabinets. My mother on the other hand has bought the same brand of sugar (for example) for decades. Content in her choice, she is not swayed by sales, flashy ads, or the lure of a new label.  There are pros and cons to each method of shopping, but for the purpose of streamlining and creating clutter free homes, developing brand loyalty is key. 

In the photo of my linen closet above, you can see 26 bars of the same soap. It will be over a year before I have to rethink and/or purchase bath soap. Once you've chosen a brand to be loyal too, keeping your cupboards stocked and free of clutter is a breeze. 

 

  • Brand loyalty prevents poor, experimental purchases ending up as consumable clutter hiding in the back of your cabinets. (We'll talk more about consumable clutter in a future post.)
  • Brand loyalty will lead to using each product up before moving on to the next bottle. (If you have three different kinds of shampoo open in your shower right now, I'm talking to you.) 
  • Brand loyalty automatically muffles another kind of clutter: the barrage of ads we're faced with every day. It calms the mental clutter of an angsty brain that is always on alert for something better while feeling guilt over the junk not used. 
  • Brand loyalty simplifies and brings consistency to your organizing routine. It is so much easier to store products when the size and shape of the packaging remains consistent, and you know exactly how much product your storage space will allow.
  • Brand loyalty can even slow the INFLUX of clutter since it changes how you shop for, and stock household products. Since I can easily store a year's worth of bath soap (and other products), I have drastically cut down on trips to the store and the subsequent impulse purchases.

Cleaning supplies, grocery staples, toiletries, makeup, undies, socks, shoes, regularly used OTC meds- most products not meant to be a permanent investment can benefit from brand streamlining. Once you get the hang of the process, and find products you absolutely love- you'll start looking around for what other products you should be expecting more from.

To get started streamlining by embracing brand loyalty, begin to think about which products you're most picky about. (Bath soap is one of mine, so we'll use it as an example below.) Then think about what it is you want out of that product. Jot it down in list form if that will help. 

 

  • Simple, whole ingredients. My soap has a total of three ingredients (olive oil, salt, and water) which all happen to be edible. If it's good enough for my belly, it's good enough for my skin.
  • Paraben and fragrance free. I like the scents of soap to be a byproduct of the quality ingredients instead of an addition, but if I were going to choose a scented soap I would look for scents that were plant derived and not manufactured fragrance. 
  • Function then form. While I have nothing against pretty soap- I'd prefer my money go toward quality over style. So I don't put a lot of consideration into product packaging, color, decoration, or shape when making a purchase, unless it will sit out on the counter. Besides, fancy soap isn't much prettier than good ol' utilitarian soap- which to me is beautiful in its simplicity.
  • Multipurpose.* I don't want a separate soap for faces, so our soap has to have everything covered from head to toe. Even hair in a pinch. Multipurpose is something I aim for in most of my purchases, consumable or not, that's a clutter clearing strategy in its own right. 
  • Budget friendly.  My bar soap cost me 27 cents an oz. with shipping. For such a quality product, the price cannot be beat. -Knowing what your products cost an oz instead of a unit can make decisions so much easier.
  • Stewardship. I want a soap that's easy on the environment, especially since we sometimes shower outside. (Muddy farmers here, y'all.) My soap's simple paper packaging was a bonus.
  • Streamlining. And because my ultimate goal is streamlining, I want one bath soap that will work for everyone in the family, from my husband with eczema, to my daughter with product allergies. 

    As you can see, I expect a lot out of my products, but what's important is that I KNOW WHAT I EXPECT out of them. 

    Your soap list might look different. You might want to make sure yours is non-comedigenic. The social practices of your chosen label might be important to you. (Easy enough to look up.) Or maybe you want your soap to leave you smelling like a tropical paradise. I'm sure there's one out there for that. 

    Stopping consumable clutter, just like we'll talk about with clothing clutter, is about creating guidelines. Now that you have your guidelines in place you can begin searching for a product that meets your needs. 

    While hunting a better dishwasher soap I spent quite a bit of time googling phrases like "best detergent for hard water", and checking out sites such as The Queen of Clean's, to see what she had to say about cloudy dishes. I didn't commit to a brand overnight either, but I was on alert when anything detergent related crossed my path and tuned in so I could make an informed choice. 

 

  • The final step:

    Once you find a product that fits all of your criteria, you won't even consider experimenting with the next big thing, and product clutter will become a thing of the past. 

 

*One caveat: Parts of this technique were developed years ago for an article I wrote with the goal of helping young families on a budget, streamline their life. I've aged since, and have a more flexible budget, so my purchasing habits have changed too. Looking for multipurpose products was key in my early life, when I had small children, a smaller budget, and very little free time. Now though, my face soap is different than my body soap, and I don't share it with my eight year old. However, brand loyalty is still a huge part of how I organize our home.

 

Twenty-Something Ways to be a Standout Twenty-Something

"Youth is something very new: twenty years ago no one mentioned it."

                                                                                               -Coco Chanel

  

  1. Don't Slouch. It makes you look sloppy and insecure. 
  2. Stress Happens. Budget For It. A $1,000 emergency fund is a reachable and worthy goal. From tooth fillings to new tires, twenty-somethings often forget to expect the unexpected. Perhaps it is because they've spent the last twenty years not having to think about those things. Perhaps it is because they still have someone that will swoop in if they're in a jam. Wean yourself from that help by planning ahead. Instead of financial assistance, have your parents help you brainstorm potential financial pitfalls that are difficult to foresee. 
  3. Make Eye Contact & Smile, Smile, Smile. To do that you'll have to...
  4. Look Up Not Down. Stand in line at the bank. Don't pull out your phone. Go on a date or hang out with friends. Don't pull out your phone. Witness history in the making. Don't pull out your phone. Sit in a waiting room. Don't pull out your phone. Visit your Grandma. Don't pull out your phone.
  5. Embrace Trends with Hesitation, Master the Timeless.
  6. KNOW WHAT YOU WANT. Have a vision for your life. Your desires may change, but the people that are most dissatisfied with life, are those that never knew what they wanted out of it to begin with. Without realizing it, having a clear vision will affect every decision you make in ways big and small until one day you look around and realize you're right where you want to be. 
  7. Try New Foods.
  8. Wear Conservative Clothes For Nights on the Town. Heels you can't walk gracefully in, and a dress you're tugging at all night isn't the look you're going for. I know, I know, you looked amazeballs standing still in front of the mirror; but try going for a more sophisticated look and just see if you're not every bit as stunning. You won't only turn heads, the heads you'll turn will belong to people worth attracting.
  9. Serve Others. Serving others doesn't necessarily mean devoting one day a week to the local food pantry. You can serve others simply by holding open a door, or picking up a dropped item. Serve others by distracting that toddler approaching meltdown mode. Serve others by allowing someone who appears to be in a hurry, or only has a few items to purchase ahead of you in line. Serve your neighbors by sharing that batch of brownies you just baked. 
  10. Use Pet Names CAREFULLY & SPARINGLY. Here's a secret older people are too polite to let you in on: Pet names can sound condescending. Never call a woman older than you sweetie or hun. Never call someone you are serving in anyway a pet name. Ma'am, Miss, Sir, and even "Excuse me, Mr.?", are all fine and respectful choices to pull out when you need to address someone you do not know. Pet names are protective and maternal. If you are a 22 year old waitress, your job is not to mother the impeccably dressed forty year old woman you're serving. 
  11. Polish Your Grammar & Refrain From Slang.  While I still routinely make mistakes, I've improved by integrating fun grammar lessons into my social media feed. Captain Grammar Pants is a favorite. Speaking of which...
  12. Text using proper spelling and punctuation. Even teenagers are catching on to the value of this one.
  13. Stop Blaming Everyone Else. Gratitude always.
  14. DO Read great books. DON'T watch junk television. And vice versa.
  15. Resist swearing. More often than not, swearing is unbecoming and communicates a lack of intelligence. If you're going for shock value try using that excellent vocabulary of yours. If you're letting off steam-- try on a persona that is so cool, calm, and collected-- it rarely has steam to let off. Talk about shock value.
  16. Make friends with his parents. Genuinely grow to enjoy and appreciate them.
  17. Stay in the Church. It will ground you. Humble you. Empower you. Too many step away from the Church in their twenties (when they could most use the support) then return when they have children. Please do for yourself what you will do for your babies someday. There is so much more to church than Sunday school and youth group socials. Navigating the faith from your newfound adult perspective will allow you to engage with it like never before.
  18. Skip the Ink. In years past it was only the rebels and a few servicemen who permanently altered their appearance with tattoos. Now the rebels are the few who don't. Think back to your pre-teen years, what tattoo would you have chosen then? Are you happy you're not sporting it today? So it may be when your 30 and looking back over the tattoo choice of your twenties. I for one am thankful I do not have a tiny pixie, kissing the mole on my back. Oy vey.
  19. Be a Lady. Figure out what that means. It's deeper than you might imagine.
  20. Be patient.
  21. Eschew Debt. When I married in my twenties I did not owe a dime to anyone. (And it wasn't because of parental help or scholarships either.) I had just paid off a newish but modest Toyota Corolla. My husband had a few business notes, and a very small house note. We paid for our conservative wedding out of pocket, and took on very little debt in the early years. We were Dave Ramsey Gazelles, long before we'd heard of the term. It paid off. 
  22. Edit Edit Edit your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. Curate these accounts until they are a true and shining representation of who you are and who you want to be. (See #6) These accounts should bring honor to your parents, your former teachers, mentors, your current employer, and your spouse (real or imaginary), above all they should bring honor to you.
  23. Don't Take Offense
  24. Be Cautious. Value Your Safety
  25. Get Dressed. And by dressed I mean, in something other than loungewear.  In the opening scene of When Harry Met Sally we see a beautiful and well-dressed young woman carpooling from college to her new home in NYC. It was a 16 hour car ride but the scene is completely void of yoga pants. From the 90s on twenty-somethings have been missing out on the good that comes from dressing respectably on a daily basis. Try it and see.
  26. Get Enough Sleep. Drink enough water. Eat things that don't come wrapped in a graphic design.
  27. Learn How to Care for Your Skin. Start tonight. Did no one love me enough to give me this advice in my twenties? Or did I just not think it mattered enough to listen? Take it from me, start caring for your skin now. It's going to matter.

The Lady's Guide to Funeral Attire

A woman who attends a funeral dressed in a conspicuous manner shows proof of a total lack of good taste and good manners.
— Genevieve Antoine Dariaux

I am 36 years old. At 10:00 this morning I will attend the funeral of 18 month old, Lily Grace. This will be our small community's 4th funeral in eight days time. As we age and build deeper connections, we find that funerals are a heart-wrenching part of life's routine. If anything could be called alarmingly regular, it is death and the funerals that follow. And yet, many of us seem to be caught wholly unprepared for the event. 

You should have in your wardrobe appropriate attire to wear to a funeral held at any time during the year. While you can get away with dark colors, solid black is always an appropriate choice. The comment that, "No one wears black to funerals anymore", is false, and even so, a lady concerns herself with what is proper and dignified, regardless of what others may do.  I've attended funerals held by traditional families, and was thankful to be dressed in conservative, black clothing, as I would have stood out wearing anything else. It is not usually a lady's goal to draw attention to herself, and while attending a funeral this is especially so. 
 

This set photo of Emma Stone from The Amazing Spider Man 2 is a fine example of classic  and understated funeral attire. 

This set photo of Emma Stone from The Amazing Spider Man 2 is a fine example of classic  and understated funeral attire. 

Because words of comfort often ring hollow, a concerned countenance and our dress is the most unobtrusive, and clear way to convey to those closest to the deceased that we are mourning the passing of their loved one, that the loss matters to us; and that this day, the day they bury a part of themselves, is significant. Wearing black is the same as pulling over when you see a funeral procession approaching. It is a way to display your respect and compassion, simply and beautifully. Below you will find a list of suggestions to get you started. The time to begin assembling your funeral attire is now, and not after you've received news of a loved one's passing. If you are very close to the deceased, thinking through an outfit choice will be the furthest thing from your mind; and if you are a more distantly related to the deceased, you may be busy with other things, or not hear the news in time to prepare.

  1. Lingerie: This should include hosiery (always keep unopened backups in your drawer). Depending on the time of year I either wear nude, sheer black, or opaque black tights, semi-opaque black hose are also appropriate. A slip allows a dress to move and drape the way it was fashioned to,  it allows an unlined dress to glide across hosiery without catching, while adding a layer of warmth in the winter, and providing modest coverage for thin summer dresses. A properly fitted brassiere in black or nude, with secure straps and full coverage cups, which will prevent the unsightly appearance of a demi-cup under a scoop neckline dress. (It should go without saying that funeral dress is not décolleté.) You shouldn't have to give your underclothes another moment's thought once you put your dress on, thinking ahead will prevent fidgeting with bra straps and other no-nos. 
  2. Dress: A black crepe sheath dress with a scoop neckline that hits at the knee or below is one appropriate choice. A black crepe dress can be worn year round and will be easy to find in a wide range of price points. The dress should be adornment free. For the most adaptability, and to stretch a limited budget, a sleeveless dress can be worn underneath a jacket in cooler temperatures, and a dress coat in winter.  I prefer dresses for their simplicity but a suit, or skirt and blouse, if that is your preference, is also an appropriate and elegant choice. 
  3. Shoes: Medium height to low, black wedges are the most versatile funeral shoe. Suede is one option, and an appropriate daytime choice year round. A low wedge is well-suited to the occasion since it is a conservative choice that also supplies a respectable level of formality. But wedges are my go to choice for funeral dress because of their practicality: a quality pair will be comfortable enough for standing throughout the graveside service, and will be secure underfoot while walking in uneven grass, without sinking into the ground like pumps are apt to do. While attending a funeral your attention shouldn't be torn between grief and your feet. Choose a closed toe shoe.
  4. Handbag: A small black clutch or purse without ornamentation, in either calfskin or suede (chosen to match your shoes) is a sound choice. My clutch is imitation suede, while owning quality, timeless pieces is my goal, an imitation piece was the most practical choice for my budget, allowing me to spend more money on quality shoes. Your clutch will hold your keys, a linen handkerchief, and your gloves while indoors. Under no circumstances should your handbag contain your phone.
  5. Jewelry & Makeup: These should be kept minimal and discreet. Avoid perfume on this day; scented soap, lotion or powder will suffice. Fingernails should be of modest length and without polish or in a classic color. Clear or nude polish is always appropriate. A watch is fine if it is your habit to wear one, avoid checking the time during the service.
  6. Hair & Hat: On a windy day you may choose to wear long hair pulled back if you will be attending the graveside service. There will not be time during the funeral to fuss with windblown hair in private. Wearing a modest hat to a funeral is perfectly appropriate. But choose headwear with care. In some regions wearing a hat today would be considered conspicuous and draw attention. In this case wearing a hat should be avoided. Consider the local customs and regional level of formality. 

The following are seasonal additions that should be considered for graveside services:

  1. Sunglasses: If you choose to wear sunglasses they should only be worn on bright days in the car traveling to the funeral, and at the graveside service if you are not under the canopy provided for family. Sunglasses should not be worn indoors, and certainly not inside the church. While offering condolences to the family while outdoors, your sunglasses should be removed and stowed in your handbag. Choose a classic frame in black or tortoiseshell with modestly tinted lenses. If you choose not to wear sunglasses to the graveside service, consider the angle of the sun as you approach, and position yourself accordingly.
  2. Gloves: Simple, black leather, or thick, quality nylon gloves (shine free) are appropriate and even necessary at graveside services during winter months. Gloves should be properly fitted and without trimming. Gloves should be removed upon entering the funeral home or church. Leave gloves on for the entire graveside service; do not remove them to greet others or offer condolences while outside. 
  3. Coat & Scarf: A knee-length tailored dress coat in black will be worn for years as a staple of your wardrobe and is especially nice to have on hand for winter funerals. Choose as timeless and well fitted of a coat as you are able to find, avoiding trends.
  4. Umbrella: A black umbrella may be carried to funerals when there is a potential for rain. Be aware of your position in relation to others while your umbrella is in use, and while it is closed by your side if you are guided to walk through a receiving line to offer condolences.
  5. Parasol: In extreme heat a neutral or black parasol without ornamentation may provide some comfort, allowing you to focus your attention on the service. If you arrive at the service and feel that using the parasol will draw attention, either stand toward the back of those gathered, or leave your parasol closed and by your side, using it only to walk to and from your vehicle. 


If you're just starting out and have a limited budget, I applaud any effort you put forth in presenting yourself appropriately at a funeral. In my early marriage, during our financially lean years, I wore dark brown, navy, or gray to funerals, with conservative, comfortable shoes and whatever peacoat I owned at the time. Doing the best with what you have is not only acceptable, it's gracious and will be received as such. Perhaps the greatest etiquette instruction, and only advice we need while visiting others in their time of grief, can be found, surprisingly enough,  in Romans chapter 12 where we are advised simply to 'rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn'.

*Authors note: Romans 12:17 continues with the dispensation of etiquette tips when we are reminded to not be haughty in mind. Your funeral attire may be impeccable, but if you look down your nose at the woman standing next to you in flip-flops and loud colors, your attempt at elegance and grace has been for naught. 

Welcome to Class

I sit on the porch of our 1929 Colonial, surveying the neighborhood around me. I narrow my eyes and frown sideways;  little remains of the genteel society that once inhabited our small town. What's survived is mostly architectural, all but gone are the refined behaviors and courtesy based relationships of years past. Were we better off fifty to seventy-five years ago? Decidedly not! Who could say yes, with a straight face? But if ever there was an instance of throwing out the baby with the bathwater, surely society's current behavior code is it. 

I am well aware that beyond our brick paved street, other communities large and small are suffering from this same loss. Common etiquette has all but eroded away, and I cannot help but mourn the passing and ponder the aspects which ought to be saved. 

 My home, a rescue we purchased six years ago for a song, was built for a different time. With servant quarters in the back, and subsequently a kitchen built for service as opposed to family, many of her features are outmoded and needed a gentle push into the current century. But oh! the character, warmth, and timeless grace she possessed. Certainly she was worth the tedious hours we put into salvaging her. Might it also be so with classic femininity? Can we not usher out the affected and ostentatious mannerisms of the past, the submission for submission's sake, while reviving the characteristics worth salvaging? Of course we can, and I submit that we should.

My daughter's pink cheeks bring my attention back to the present. She has been kicking a large, purple ball around our yard and needs a drink. The screen door swings shut behind her. What measure of femininity and grace will I be able to pass onto her? I vow to make a study of it, internalize the lessons for myself, and pass on what I may. The Decorum Diaries are born.

                                   Welcome to Charm School, ladies, class is in session.