Friday, March 25, 2016

Etiquette and No Chicken Salad, Please

Unless, of course, the Cesar Salad is better!

When I saw the advertisement above for the first time, featuring a newly published, two-volume book of etiquette from the early 1900s, I smiled. I often use a story that involves my grandmother and chicken salad when talking about restaurant etiquette with my students. I share the story with kids, young adults and adults alike. I use it to illustrate a point about good manners when invited out to eat, and how to look for cues and clues of what to do in different situations when one is a guest.

Years ago my mother called to say that my grandmother, her mother, wanted to take all of the ladies in the family to lunch in celebration of the upcoming Mother's Day. When I was growing up, we frequently had seasonal "Ladies' Lunches" at one of my aunts' homes, or in our home. I even hosted a few after getting married and starting my new family. This was the first time a restaurant was suggested, and my mother said that grandma was insisting on paying for everyone's lunch.

My grandmother was on a fixed income after my grandfather passed away. It was very small, so I immediately questioned the generous offer.  My mother told me that she and her sisters had both pointed that fact out to their mother, but grandma was insistent. She also chose the restaurant she wanted to take us to, and it was not known for its low prices.

When we arrived at the restaurant and were seated at our table, we were handed our menus. Within a nano-second, one of our party (either oblivious to grandma's financial situation or just sharing her enthusiasm for her favorite dish) said, "Ooooh.... they have the best prime rib here!" while opening her menu. 

Before I could nudge her under the table and give her a look usually reserved for my children and students, my grandmother quickly closed her menu, the faux leather menu holder practically snapping everyone to attention. "I think we should all have the Chicken Salad," she said. The guest itching for the prime rib seemed to deflate right before my eyes and closed her menu along with everyone else at the table. Everyone at the table except for me.
Third from right, standing next to my grandmother, in a 1980 snap after one of our seasonal lunches.
I was never a fan of Chicken Salad, but I certainly knew a cue from a hostess when I heard one.  I just happened to have the menu open to the page with the featured luncheon salads. I quickly looked down at the price of the Chicken Salad. Way back then it was $6.95, so I needed to work within that "price point." I spotted a Cesar Salad for $5.95, and said, "You know... I think I'd like the Cesar Salad instead. As I recall it is fairly good here." 

Grandma's eyes got big and looking a bit ruffled, she quickly reopened her menu. She spotted the salad's lower price, and said very enthusiastically, "That is a good choice!" Everyone else was reopening their menus, and perusing the salads, while I quietly closed mine.

The luncheon turned out to be a fun affair, with all of us enjoying our salads and chatting away about how we needed to get together more often. I am not sure how many in our party wound up with the suggested Chicken Salad, but the bill was rather low and we convinced grandma to at least allow us to each chip in a small amount for the tip. There was also a surprise dessert that arrived at the table for each of us. No one confessed to ordering it, but I have always had my suspicions.

We haven't had a "Ladies Luncheon" in several years now, what with grandma gone since 1999, all of us spread out in several states, and some of us younger ladies even becoming grandmas ourselves. I will always have sweet memories of the luncheons though, and even have a great instructional tale for my etiquette students and future generations to learn from, about reading and following a host's or hostess' cues.





Monday, March 21, 2016

Outlander Etiquette and Dress

The bergère hat (also known as a Shepherdess hat) and the ornate dress, are pretty much on target for Louis XV's reign, but a lady never held hands or linked arms with a gentleman. The women’s skirts were so wide, she was to place her hand on top of the gentleman’s bent arm as they strolled through the gardens and chambers of Versailles.

With excitement building for the upcoming new season of Outlander, as with other well done period dramas, I will try not to kill the enjoyment of watching the storyline by fussing over historical inaccuracies I catch in dialogue, wardrobe, or the odd blooper every now and then. 

For one thing, I know it drives my husband nuts. For another, the crews and casts do work very hard to make such shows look so very good. However, I cannot help but notice little details. I spotted the first error in my recent copy of Entertainment Weekly, and the new season hasn't even started. I am hoping the etiquette blooper above is simply a one-off, from a publicity photo shoot – a photographer thought it would look better for them to link arms, or ??? I will most likely never know. So from this point on, I will simply try to ignore anything that rudely jumps out at me and keep my popcorn consumption to a minimum.

Clothing and Etiquette at Versailles:

When Louis XIV came to the throne in 1643, the fashion capital of the world wasn’t Paris, but Madrid. Taste tends to follow power, and for the past two centuries or so Spain had been enjoying its Golden Age, amassing a vast global empire that fueled a booming domestic economy. Spanish style was tight and rigid—both physically and figuratively—and predominantly black. Not only was black considered to be sober and dignified by the staunchly Catholic Habsburg monarchy, but high-quality black dye was extremely expensive, and the Spanish flaunted their wealth by using as much of it as possible. They advertised their imperial ambitions, as well, for Spain imported logwood—a key dyestuff—from its colonies in modern-day Mexico. While Spain’s explorers and armies conquered the New World, her fashions conquered the old one, and Spanish style was adopted at courts throughout Europe.

At Versailles, a strict code of court dress and etiquette ensured a steady market for French-made clothing and jewelry. Louis has been accused of trying to control his nobles by forcing them to bankrupt themselves on French fashions, but, in fact, he often underwrote these expenses, believing that luxury was necessary not only to the economic health of the country but to the prestige and very survival of the monarchy. France soon became the dominant political and economic power in Europe, and French fashion began to eclipse Spanish fashion from Italy to the Netherlands. French was the new black.

A lady of Versailles never held hands or linked arms with a gentleman. It was in very bad taste and nearly impossible because a woman’s skirts were so wide. She was to place her hand on top of the gentleman’s bent arm as they strolled through the gardens and chambers of Versailles. Ladies were only allowed to touch their fingertips with the men.
  
— Sources - Atlantic Monthly and Etiquipedia Etiquette Encyclopedia

Monday, March 14, 2016

Gilded Age Party Etiquette

The ornately designed goblet and cover that was issued a patent, was a multi-purpose drinking vessel. When the goblet was tilted to drink from, the attached cherub "pulled" back a cover, revealing a rim to drink from, while allowing the drinking rim to stay relatively hygenic and it could keep a gents mustache clean and dry, all the while remaining uniquely beautiful.

Gilded Age Etiquette 

for

Evening Parties

Evening parties are of various kinds, and more or less ceremonious, as they are more or less fashionable. Their object is or should be social enjoyment, and the manners of the company ought to be such as will best promote it. A few hints, therefore, in addition to the general maxims of good behavior already laid down, will suffice.


1. Invitations


Having accepted an invitation to a party, never fail to keep your promise, and especially do not allow bad weather, of any ordinary character, to prevent your attendance. A married man should never accept an invitation from a lady in which his wife is not included.

2. Salutations

When you enter a drawing-room where there is a party, you salute the lady of the house before speaking to any one else. Even your most intimate friends are enveloped in an opake (sic) atmosphere until you have made your bow to your entertainer. You then mix with the company, salute your acquaintances, and join in the conversation. You may converse freely with any person you meet on such an occasion, without the formality of an introduction.

3. Conversation

When conversation is not general, nor the subject sufficiently interesting to occupy the whole company, they break up into different groups. Each one converses with one or more of his neighbors on his right and left. We should, if we wish to speak to any one, avoid leaning upon the person who happens to be between. A gentleman ought not to lean upon the arm of a lady's chair, but he may, if standing, support himself by the back of it, in order to converse with the lady partly turned toward him. The members of an invited family should never be seen conversing one with another at a party.

4. French Leave

If you desire to withdraw before the party breaks up, take "French leave"—that is, go quietly out without disturbing any one, and without saluting even the mistress of the house, unless you can do so without attracting attention. The contrary course would interrupt the rest of the company, and call for otherwise unnecessary explanations and ceremony.

5. Sports and Games

Among young people, and particularly in the country, a variety of sports or plays, as they are called, are in vogue. Some of them are fitting only for children; but others are more intellectual, and may be made sources of improvement as well as of amusement. Entering into the spirit of these sports, we throw off some of the restraints of a more formal intercourse; but they furnish no excuse for rudeness. You must not forget your politeness in your hilarity, or allow yourself to "take liberties," or lose your sense of delicacy and propriety.

The selection of the games or sports belongs to the ladies, though any person may modestly propose any amusement, and ask the opinion of others in reference to it. The person who gives the party will exercise her prerogative to vary the play, that the interest may be kept up. If this were the proper place, we should enter an earnest protest against the promiscuous kissing which sometimes forms part of the performances in some of these games, but it is not our office to proscribe or introduce observances, but to regulate them.

No true gentleman will abuse the freedom which the laws of the game allows; but if required, will delicately kiss the hand, the forehead, or, at most, the cheek of the lady. A lady will offer her lips to be kissed only to a lover or a husband, and not to him in company. The French code is a good one: "Give your hand to a gentleman to kiss, your cheek to a friend, but keep your lips for your lover." Never prescribe any forfeiture which can wound the feelings of any of the company, and "pay" those which may be adjudged to you with cheerful promptness. – From 1887, Samuel Well's,"How to Behave"