As a young girl I tried so very hard to be graceful. Poise and grace and appearance were very important to my mother. And I’m sorry to say I was probably a disappointment to her on more than one occasion. You just can’t let a girl play army with three brothers and their buddies in a trench in the back yard and then later expect her to put on a dress and walk with poise and grace! I spent most of my life climbing trees, working in the field, hitting my brothers, and taking care of animals. I still remember that most of the cute dresses my grandmother made for me were victims of “playground accidents”. I was forever tearing a sash or ripping a bow.
But look at photos of my mother, especially early ones, and she looks like a model even in work clothes. Always standing straight, always graceful. I don’t think she worked at it or even gave it a thought. I think it was just her natural style.
Yesterday when I was cleaning my office closet, I found a book, “Here’s to You With Poise”. It was published by the Cooperative Extension Service, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS, January 197_. (The last digit is scratched, but may be a 2.) I suppose the book was mine, but I’m not sure where I would have gotten it. I was already out of high school, married, living in CA by then. The book seems to be aimed at women with aspirations of becoming a model. I admit to thinking about it for a few brief weeks in high school, but only until my friend pointed out that I was short, not graceful, and had a nose like Bob Hope.( I had very supportive friends.) I’m not sure why mother would have had it either. The memory fades. No matter. It’s still interesting to read and brought back vivid memories of my high school home economics classes.
My teacher was new and young and eager. She was also divorced and from out of town- very tall, thin, blond. She was like an alien being to most of us. And she was a perfectionist! She wanted us to be young ladies. She wanted us to be confident and poised and graceful. She wanted us to go to college. She wanted us to succeed in life. So…we learned to cook and sew and balance a checkbook, but we also learned, or at least strived, to walk and talk and sit with style. We practiced walking with a book on our heads. We crossed our legs without revealing anything. We wore hats and gloves. We ate daintily. We shook hands properly. We worked toward the goal of looking and acting like Jackie. (If I have to explain who that is, you are too young to be reading this.)
“Here’s to You…” says that “American people place high values on graceful body movements and a good figure. Being able to move gracefully and to wear clothes will increase the quality of your confidence and make you feel good within yourself and with other people, too.” It has some simple graphics and sound advice for Graceful Body Movements, Basic Modeling Stance, Hand Positions, Walking, Simple Lines in Silhouettes, Sitting, How to Enter a Room, Taking Your Coat Off , Carrying a Handbag, Wearing Gloves, and Habits. (I was very disappointed that it didn’t include tips for wearing a hat.) I must begin with the closing paragraph, which is really an affirmation to be “read daily”:
“I know I have the ability to walk, stand, and sit gracefully. I know I can do these things, and I promise myself here and now to begin doing some of them at once. There can be no results without desire. I must guard my thoughts. Each one is a seed which will bring forth fruit after its own kind: Action and results of action.”
The book is filled with instructions and little tests to see if you are paying attention. Here is one of the questions from “Hand Coordination With the Feet”:
“When you walk, pivot toward the left, and stop with the left foot forward in a basic stance, where is your left hand?
My very favorite piece of advice concerns how to enter a room through an “open doorway”. Yes, there is also a page about entering through a closed doorway. LOL I know that this is a bit lengthy, but honestly, where else could you get this kind of advice?
“Through an Open Doorway: When coming into a room in a home through an open doorway, pause for a moment to orient yourself. You may need to improvise your pose to fit the situation. Assume this pose for an open doorway. 1. Place your left foot forward as in a basic stance. 2. Place your left hand on your hip in a loose fist position. 3. Place your right hand on the door frame, shoulder high. Your fingers will point upward toward the ceiling.
One way to position your feet for the open doorway pose is to place your right foot at a 45 degree angle. Your left foot is the last to come forward and points straight ahead. Your knees are flexed and your left knee is in front of the right.
Want to try it? Back up four steps or so out of the doorway. Approach the doorway and stop and pause just inside the opening. You must judge your steps so that you can gauge your step length.
If you have your purse to carry, you will be using one hand to hold your purse or purse and gloves. The other hand may be used to touch the doorway for a few seconds as a part of your pose in the open doorway.”
Okay, I’ll give you time to practice that and we’ll get to coats, handbags, and gloves another day. However, I just have to leave you with this last bit of truth found on page 17, “Silhouettes—All Sizes”:
“The short stout figure could look more slender by creating an angle which would slenderize that part of the body which is large.”
Words of wisdom indeed. Now if I could just find that angle!