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
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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.

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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

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

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