Quite Continental Charm School: Day 16 – On Table Manners: Purse Placement

26/03/2013 § 2 Comments

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

QC Charm School: Table Manners: Purse PlacementGrace Kelly admires her Best Actress Oscar for “Country Girl,” 1955.
Photo by George Silk for Life Magazine.

Day 16: On Table Manners: Purse Placement
For most people, carrying some sort of bag is a daily occurrence.  My daytime purses grew exponentially in size when I made the transition from Los Angeles to New York, owing to the fact that I lost the storage capabilities of the backseat when I traded my car for a Metrocard.  But today, we aren’t talking about the study tote you carry all over town.  Instead, I’d like for you to turn your attention to formal occasions, and the teeny tiny evening bag.

Usually bejeweled with sparkles or rhinestones or feathers, evening bags are just about the most useless member of the purse family.  Relegated to the back of the closet until it’s time for a formal affair, there isn’t much that’s going to fit inside them, aside from your phone and maybe a tube of lipstick.  Most frequently they are some sort of pouch or fold-over flap clutch — or you could go all Upper East Sidey and carry a cupcake or a rubber ducky by Judith Leiber (please note: you do so at your own risk of judgment) — and usually they are without any kind of strap.  So where’s a girl to put her purse when it’s time to eat?

When seated at a formal event and not using your purse, the general rule is that it should be placed in your lap beneath your napkin, or behind the small of your back in your chair.  It isn’t to rest on the table or hang on the back of the chair (tacky), nor is it to touch the ground (tacky, dirty, AND bad luck).    Whenever you’re in doubt, just remember this photograph of Grace Kelly.  The dinner table is for your Oscar, not your purse.

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life
Advertisements

Quite Continental Charm School: Day 6 – On Table Manners: Fork Technique

06/02/2013 § 1 Comment

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

QC Charm School: Table Manners

Editor’s Note: I’m very pleased to introduce our second guest speaker!  Lizzie Garrett Mettler is the exceedingly talented journalist, writer, and founder of the amazing blog Tomboy Style.  She’s also a dear friend who I love to pieces (and force to hang out with me whenever I am visiting Los Angeles).

It goes without saying that Tomboy Style is one of my absolute favorite places on the internet.  It has been a daily read for me for years and I always marvel/get jealous at the amazing things Lizzie discovers and discusses.  A compendium of all things adventurous, rebellious, fashionable and female, the blog is an expertly researched and magnificently cross-referenced guide to embracing your inner Françoise Hardy or Diane Keaton.  If you are not yet familiar with Lizzie and Tomboy Style, it is my pleasure to introduce you.

Without any further ado, Lizzie’s tip for a charmed life.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Day 6: On Table Manners: Fork Technique – American vs. Continental
Over the years, I’ve toggled between the two ways to properly hold a dinner fork. Before this riveting topic puts you in a boredom-induced coma, let me first say that although there are technically two acceptable ways (according to traditional etiquette masters), I also feel that it’s a free God Damn country, so hold a fork in a way that makes you happy. So yes, there’s two styles, the Continental Style, which is favored in Europe, and the American Style, more prevalent stateside. According to Forbes Magazine, some say the American Style is actually traditional to pre-Napoleonic Europe, while others argue that the pioneering Americans created it to be different.

A quick refresher: the American Style, also known as “Switch and Switch”, demands the diner cut her food with the fork in the left hand and knife in the right, then puts down the knife and switches the fork to the right underhand position before taking a bite. The Continental Style allows the diner to cut her food in the same manner, but then can go directly from fork to mouth while still holding the knife in her right.

Emily Post, if I recall correctly, like other authorities of etiquette, note that both styles are equally acceptable. Growing up outside of Chicago, literally in the middle of America, I was watched like a hawk at the dinner table by my mother. If I didn’t put down my knife and switch hands, I was made aware. So naturally, once I was out of the house, I switched from the American Style to The Continental Style— if there’s a better way to rebel against your mother in your late teens, I’d love to hear about it.

Today, being the open-minded and well-grounded adult that I am (one who opines on minor differences in fork grips), I have to say there is a time and a place for both. If you’re looking to have a nice leisurely metered conversation while eating, go for the American Style. If you’re aiming to be less clumsy and more efficient, opt for The Continental Style—this is great, for example, if you’re eating a Croque Madame with a fork and knife, or if you like to gesture crazily like an old Italian grandmother while holding a steak knife in your hand and suffer no social (or legal) consequences. If you’re a “When in Rome” type, take on The American Style here and switch styles when traveling abroad, because, that would of course be so quite continental of you.

by Lizzie Garrett Mettler, of Tomboy Style

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

Quite Continental Charm School: Day 4 – Unexpected Compliments

05/02/2013 § 1 Comment

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

QC Charm School: Unexpected Compliments“Why sir, that is an amazing hat!”
“Funny, I was just about to say the same thing to you!”
William Jennings Bryant and friends. Via SDASM.

Editor’s Note: Today I am very pleased to introduce our first Charm School guest speaker for 2013!  Stephanie Madewell, the brilliant mind behind the exceptionally erudite blog even*cleveland, is with us this morning for her second Charm School appearance (you can find her 2012 entry here).

It is difficult to describe even*cleveland, which is probably why I love it so much.  Somewhat thematic in nature, Stephanie explores various topics (e.g., swans, works in miniature, Louisa May Alcott, winter) through the lenses of art, literature, photography, museum collections and fashion, connecting dots I didn’t know existed.  I find I am frequently staggered at the breadth of this lady’s knowledge about…well, pretty much everything!  Aside from that, she’s also a great source for information on cultured happenings in New York and usually posts awesome weekend tunes.  If you are not yet familiar with Stephanie and even*cleveland, it is my pleasure to introduce you.

Without any further ado, Stephanie’s tip for a charmed life.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Day 4: Unexpected Compliments
I don’t know about you, but for me, nothing saves a crummy day like an unexpected compliment, especially the kind that comes totally out of the blue from a total stranger.

Since I’ve moved to New York, I’ve noticed a lot more random compliments zinging around. My theory is that they operate on some kind of karmic exchange, and that you have to pay them to get them. Funnily enough, I’ve found paying strangers compliments is almost as good as getting a compliment myself. Brightening someone’s day is pretty awesome.

Simone Weil said that “attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” Paying a compliment to a stranger may seem like a small thing, but telling someone you notice their kindness or even their cute shoes is a small but mighty action that adds a little light to the world. What’s more charming than that?

by Stephanie Madewell, of even*cleveland

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

Quite Continental Charm School: Day 2 – Forms of Address

02/02/2013 § 3 Comments

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

QC Charm School: Forms of AddressLittle girl mailing a letter, 1920. Via the Smithsonian.

It is not titles that honour men, but men that honour titles.
–Niccolò Machiavelli

Day 2: Forms of Address
In an age that is dominated by electronic communications and a very simplified @-addressing system, it can be a bit overwhelming to try to remember the etiquette that governs correctly addressing correspondence. However, when one has his or her forms of address well in hand, it is a small gesture that demonstrates the proper respect by acknowledging a person’s professional and personal statuses.  Moreover, it will add a certain amount of elan to the lovely and disappearing practice we now call “snail mail” — and when properly employed with electronic messages, notice how it imbues a thoroughly modern mode of communication with an air of nostalgia and refinery.

Sidenote: was your first thought that today’s tip endorses a outdated system that traditionally prioritizes men and their titles (e.g., “Mr. and Mrs. John Doe”)?  If so, you’ll be happy to know that as part of a shift in general convention that largely took place in the second half of the last century regarding the status of women within society, the accepted ways to address women has also changed over time, placing men and women on more equal footing…on the back of our envelopes.

  • Ms. is the default correct way to address a woman, unless she has already indicated that she prefers Mrs.  Miss is typically used for girls.
  • It is equally correct to refer to a married woman who uses her husband’s last name as both Mrs. Jane Doe and Mrs. John Doe — i.e., using her own first name.
  • When addressing a couple, you need not refer to the man first.  However, if one spouse “outranks” the other, the higher rank is listed first.  For example, all of the following are correct: Jane and John Doe, John and Jane Doe, Mr. and Mrs. John Doe, Ms. Jane Smith and Mr. John Doe (married, wife uses maiden name), Dr. Jane Doe and Mr. John Doe, Drs. Jane and John Doe/Drs. John and Jane Doe, The Doctors Doe
  • Do not use Mr. or Ms. when indicating a professional designation.  For example: Jane Doe, Esquire; John Doe, CPA.  However, designations are not used in conversation or socially.  In those cases, use Mr. or Ms.
  • The traditional way to address a widow is by using her husband’s first name, for example: Mrs. John Doe.  Of course you should use her own first name or Ms., if you are aware of her personal preference.
The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

Quite Continental Charm School || Matriculation Day 2013!

31/01/2013 § 1 Comment

Quite Continental Charm School

Great Caesar’s Ghost, it’s January 31!  How on earth did that happen already?  As we get ready to turn the corner on February, you may already know what that means around here – the annual return of Quite Continental Charm School!!

Every year in the month of February, I endeavor bring you a daily tip to generate more class and fabulousness in your everyday life, spanning the topics of fashion, travel, beauty, etiquette, relationships, and whatnot.  Charm School is my modern guide to creating a charmed life, where you learn about things to do, to see, to think about, to taste, to buy, to read, to listen to, and to experience.  And as I definitely don’t claim to have a monopoly on such knowledge, you’ll have a lovely slate of guest instructors, each chosen for their class and fabulousity.

Charm School is my absolute favorite time of year, and I hope you will consider joining us this time around!  For those students who are in need of a bit of a catch-up, you can find the last two years’ lessons below – but don’t you worry, there won’t be any math on this exam.

FEBRUARY 2012

Day 1: An Attitude of Gratitude

Day 2: Class Up Your Bedroom

Day 3: Get a Library Card
by Stephanie Madewell of even*cleveland

Day 4: A Firm Handshake

Day 5: Winterize Your Skin

Day 6: Be Fashionably Punctual
by Lizzie Garrett Mettler of Tomboy Style

Day 7: The Hostess Gift

Day 8: Your Family Jewels
by Christine Mitchell of N’East Style

Day 9: A Life Lived With Purpose

Day 10: A Proper Foundation
by Sarah of Style On The Couch

Day 11: Travel Elegantly

Day 12: A Proper Lie-in

Day 13: Know Thyself
by Kate Arends of wit + delight

Day 14: Write Love Letters

Day 15: Keep a Travel Journal
by Jen Swetzoff of Parenture

Day 16: Select a Signature Scent
by Anne of Ritournelle

Day 17: Take Your Seasonal Accessories Seriously

Day 18: Date with Great Charm

Day 19: Find Balance
by Jodi Fournier

Day 20: A Proper Lunch

Day 21: Drink More Gin
by Marisa Zupan of The Significant Other

Day 22: Eat Chocolate
by Sarah of Edelweiss by Sarah

Day 23: Go Out and Play

Day 24: Stretch

Day 25: Travel Light

Day 26: How to Score Vintage
by Jahn Hall of BKLYN Dry Goods

Day 27: No Contest

Day 28: Be Enterprising
by Jessica Goldfond of The Shiny Squirrel

Day 29: The Icing

FEBRUARY 2011

Day 1: Get Your Passport

Day 2: Own a True LBD

Day 3: Social Stationery

Day 4: The Red Lip

Day 5: Keep A Diary

Day 6: Champagne!

Day 7: Give Back

Day 8: Tie a Tie

Day 9: Move It

Day 10: Fresh Flowers

Day 11: Calling Cards

Day 12: Perfect Your Signature

Day 13: Pearls

Day 14: Be Your Own Valentine

Day 15: Wear Pajamas

Day 16: The Trench

Day 17: Thank You Notes

Day 18: Disconnect

Day 19: Try a Bit of High Art

Day 20: Une Bicyclette

Day 21: Fix Your Face

Day 22: Have a Signature Dish

Day 23: Fly Solo

Day 24: Get a Tailor

Day 25: Watch Classic Films

Day 26: Smell Pretty

Day 27: How to Stock a Proper Bar

Day 28: C’est Fini

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

Quite Continental Charm School: Day 18 — Date with Great Charm

18/02/2012 § 2 Comments

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life
Mariemont High School Prom, photo by Francis Miller for Life.

Day 18: Date with Great Charm
Dating: the inescapable social custom most all of us go through to find a mate.  In this era of Match.com and sexting and status updates, the world captured in the photo above can seem like light years away.  While I’m definitely not advocating we all go back to the 1950s, I do believe dating has definitely lost a bit of the charm it once had.  We will have to take it upon ourselves to spark something of a revolution.  Below, a few humble suggestions on how to be a dater with great charm:

The Ask

  • First and foremost, make clear that you are asking for a date.  Obvious?  Count how many times you’ve heard: “Well, I’m not sure if it’s a date…”  A charming dater will make sure the datee knows they are being asked out.  It makes the datee feel more secure and frankly, more desired.
  • Make concrete plans in advance.  When a charming dater asks someone out, they have a plan in mind.  They don’t vaguely promise to text them next Friday to “figure something out.”  This is apt to make a datee feel like a lower priority.  If you can’t be bothered to think of what you’d like to do with them, why should they wait around until you figure it out?
  • Give notice.  A charming dater will give their desired datee a few days notice, so as not to disrupt plans already in place.
  • Anyone can ask.  Men are not always required to ask, and if a lady take it upon herself to ask, the same rules on clarity, plans and notice definitely apply.
  • Make a personal gesture.  Asking in person is best, followed by a telephone call…where you actually talk to the person, no messages left on their voicemail, please.  Your charm diminishes inversely if you rely upon: texting, Facebooking, Tweeting, and all other forms of social media.
  • Accept or decline promptly.  Period.  And thank them either way.
  • If you accept you go.  Barring any serious emergencies, you should go on a date you have accepted, even if Brad Pitt himself appears on your doorstep.  A charming datee honors their commitments.  And Brad will wait because you’re obviously that fabulous.
  • Have high standards.  If you receive a request that falls short of the above, ask for a revision.  They will either respect you for having high standards or think you a pain in the ass and lose interest.  I humbly suggest that someone who considers these tiny requests too onerous will likely prove not worth your while in the long run.

The Date

  • Be on time.  No matter if you are arriving to pick them up, or being picked up, or meeting there.  Being prompt shows respect.
  • On a first date, avoid the topics of religion, politics and past relationships.  A first date is for figuring out if you actually like the person, and you’ll have plenty of time to discuss such matters at a later time…if the date goes well.
  • No introspective soliloquies.  You already know all about yourself, a charming dater will want to find out what makes their prospective partner tick.  Ask thoughtful questions, listen, and remember.  Conversely, your prospective partner should be doing the same to you.  Beware dates who can only talk about themselves.
  • If it is not a love match, be gracious.  Even if you don’t sense any chemistry, you can definitely be polite and have an enjoyable time.  They might prove to be an excellent friend or know someone you might be better suited for or be a good business contact.  At any rate, burning bridges is for short-sighted, uncharming people
  • Whoever asked, pays.  However, this rule has one gender-specific corollary for hetero dates: in general, a gentleman pays — but the lady should always go for “the reach.”  I agree it isn’t fair, but it is social custom.  If you feel strongly about it, there’s no need to adhere to it.

The Close

  • Always leave them wanting more.  Do you best to end the date on a high note.  First (and even second) dates don’t need to be epic 18 hour affairs.
  • Positive affirmation.  If you had a good time, let your date know.  Similarly let them know if you’d like to see them again.  A charming dater affirms that they enjoyed the evening because it will reinforce the fact that they are interested in the datee, leaving no vagaries to be endlessly dissected at brunch the following morning.
  • Sexytime is at your discretion.  No hard and fast rules here, as I’m definitely not a priss.  I’m not against a first date kiss or three, but I might caution against first date sexytime though.  I believe that relationships are defined by early actions, so if you sleep with someone early, your relationship might end up revolving around sex.  If that is what you want, go forth.  If you want something more, be purposeful in deciding when to make the love.

For the Veterans

  • If you make it special, they’ll feel special.  Long-term relationships can easily fall into a rut, but you can recapture some of the magic by applying some of the tips I mentioned above.  Call your partner at work and tell him you’ve made reservations at his favorite restaurant for Friday.  Ask her about her day and really listen.  Bring flowers.

What are your dating rules?  How do you make or keep it special?

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

Quite Continental Charm School: Day 7 – The Hostess Gift

07/02/2012 § Leave a comment

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

Photo via the National Archives of Norway.

Day 7: The Hostess Gift
The first time I ever formally encountered the topic of a hostess gift was upon the occasion of my first visit to my high school boyfriend’s home, to meet his family.  As I breezed toward the door, my mother casually asked what I had gotten his mother, by way of a hostess gift.  A hostess gift? My uncharming 16 year-old self asked. What on earth for?  And when she explained that when visiting someone in their home, it was customary to bring the lady of the house a small token, I found myself caught unawares.  Luckily, my mother was prepared — as mothers often are — and I presented my new boyfriend’s mother with a small crystal vase my mother had on reserve.  Crisis averted.

Fast-forward to present day, and you’ll find that the hostess gift is a social custom that I still religiously follow.  If I am invited to your home I will first ask what I can bring, and even if you admonish me to bring only myself, I will still appear bearing a gift.  It truly is the classy thing to do and today I humbly suggest you observe it as well.  When someone opens their home to you, it is the gracious thing to acknowledge the gesture.

**Also** please do not be put off by the name of this gift – if a host happens to extend the invite, he definitely deserves acknowledgment.  I’ve decided, and do so declare, that hostess can mean host, just like mankind includes us ladies.  Done!

A few gifting guidelines:

  • The gift should correspond to the kind of event you will be attending.  A birthday party obviously requires a birthday gift, while a bottle of wine will suffice for dinner party, but a hostess gift for a weekend stay will need a to be a bit more substantial.  Also, keep in mind a hostess gift is generally consumable or related to the home.
  • Your entry point into the world of hostess gifts is a simple bouquet of flowers.  High impact and relatively low cost, a pretty arrangement will brighten the home and last for a few days after the party has ended.
  • The next level up in the echelon of hostess gifts is a bottle of wine, but do not expect to open this bottle that evening, as your hosts may have already specially chosen wines to accompany the food they are serving.
  • Better than wine, try to give something you know they will love: if your hostess has a special interest in a type of liquor, a nice bottle for her bar will be greatly appreciated; if she has a sweet tooth, bring her a finely wrapped box of macarons.
  • If you’d like to do something even better than that, let your relationship and budget be your guide — creativity and presentation will go a long way.

And for future reference, I’m quite partial to bourbon…

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

The Quite Continental Charm School

29/01/2012 § 5 Comments

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

“A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.”
Coco Chanel

I am pleased to announce the founding of the Quite Continental Charm School.  Every year in the month of February, guided by the wise words of Coco Chanel, I will bring you a daily tip to generate more class and fabulousness in your everyday life, spanning the topics of fashion, travel, beauty, etiquette, relationships, and whatnot.  Most important is the “whatnot,” bien sûr...

Formerly called my “28 Days of Classy & Fabulous Things,” the new name reflects two epiphanies.  First, it is a leap year this year and there are 29 days in February.  I hear this kind of thing happens every 4 years or so.  Second, when I discovered pictures of young ladies at charm schools in the 1940s and 1950s, I found myself wishing we still had them today, but that they would offer the modern girl of today a bit more substance than how to balance a book on your head.  Perhaps I am wrong, but to me the charm schools of yesteryear seem especially focused on outward presentation, with an emphasis on catching a mate.  Of course, looking great and having a satisfying relationship remain important to a lot of people — but that is not the end-all, be-all for most of us these days.  So let’s take the idea and make it better, shall we?

Enter, the Quite Continental Charm School: a modern guide to creating a charmed life, where you will learn classy and fabulous things to do, to see, to think about, to taste, to buy, to read, to listen to, and to experience.  And as I definitely don’t claim to have a monopoly on such knowledge, you’ll have lovely guest instructors, chosen for their class and fabulousity.

While it is my earnest hope that we’ll be a coeducational establishment, some boys might like to supplement their studies with a look at Valet’s Handbook, an excellent collection of tips and tricks that was one of the original inspiration sources for this feature.

Questions? Comments? Suggestions?
Reach me via email at contact@quitecontinental.net

FEBRUARY 2012

To be continued…

FEBRUARY 2011

Day 1: Get Your Passport

Day 2: Own a True LBD

Day 3: Social Stationery

Day 4: The Red Lip

Day 5: Keep A Diary

Day 6: Champagne!

Day 7: Give Back

Day 8: Tie a Tie

Day 9: Move It

Day 10: Fresh Flowers

Day 11: Calling Cards

Day 12: Perfect Your Signature

Day 13: Pearls

Day 14: Be Your Own Valentine

Day 15: Wear Pajamas

Day 16: The Trench

Day 17: Thank You Notes

Day 18: Disconnect

Day 19: Try a Bit of High Art

Day 20: Une Bicyclette

Day 21: Fix Your Face

Day 22: Have a Signature Dish

Day 23: Fly Solo

Day 24: Get a Tailor

Day 25: Watch Classic Films

Day 26: Smell Pretty

Day 27: How to Stock a Proper Bar

Day 28: C’est Fini


Moppets Charm School, taken by Arthur Rickerby for LIFE Magazine.
Images via the LIFE Archive.

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing entries tagged with Etiquette at Quite Continental.

%d bloggers like this: