Elegant Books ~ “Put on Your Pearls, Girls!”

lulu better

Put On Your Pearls, Girls! is a fun, cheeky pop-up book for grown-ups written by Lulu Guinness, a British fashion designer famous for her unique handbags. It was published by Rizzoli in 2005. The beginning of the book offers an inspiring acrostic definition for the word pearls ~ Poised. Elegant. Attractive. Radiant. Ladylike. Sophisticated.

You’ll be enamored by Lulu, the main character of the book who the author says, “is a fictional character, based on myself, except that she is timeless, ageless, and has long legs I can only dream of possessing.” 

Illustrations by Martin Welch make the book an absolute delight as Lulu goes through her day from the time she gets up (Lulu is not a morning person) to the time she goes to sleep, counting her blessings. In the pages between, we see her meditate, bathe, dress, work, shop, entertain, garden, daydream, and party like the elegant, glamour girl she is. 

In one of my favorite parts of the book, Lulu offers these twelve suggestions  ~ 

  1. Create a style that is uniquely yours – don’t be a slave to fashion.
  2. Money does not equal style.
  3. Mix vintage with modern – couture with chainstore.
  4. If you’re feeling fat – why not shop for accessories?
  5. Carry bags of personality.
  6. Never take fashion or yourself too seriously.
  7. Mutton dressed as lamb is never a good idea. (This is an especially good point for those of us well over fifty.)
  8. Less can be more – but sometimes more is more.
  9. Beauty comes from the heart – not from a jar.
  10. You can be too rich or too thin.
  11. Be who you were meant to be – not who others think you ought to be.
  12. Put on your pearls, girls!

When I’m feeling less than Lulu-like, I flip through Put On Your Pearls, Girls! for instant motivation. I’ve given this book as a gift to several of my favorite girly girlfriends. It’s not a book for everyone, although I’m not sure who wouldn’t enjoy the interactive aspects of the book, including opening a little red handbag to see a compact and lipstick inside! 

The forward is written by English actor Helena Bonham Carter. (You may know her from her more recent portrayal of Princess Margaret in seasons three and four of The Crown.) She writes that Guinness invites us back to a time “when women were fabulously feminine and decorative and flirty and pretty. But unlike our forbears we do it because we choose to, not because we don’t have any other option.” §

“Use your imagination, trust your instinct, and follow your dreams.”
~ Lulu Guinness

Featured Art ~ Illustration of Lulu by Martin Welch from Put On Your Pearls, Girls! 

To watch or listen to this blog post in video format, please click on this YouTube link ~ https://youtu.be/ahjzlQizzPo

Elegant Relationships ~ 10 Gracious Acts Whenever We Leave Home

renior bal

After more than a year of unprecedented time spent in the confines of our homes, most of us have begun to venture out in public again. I don’t know about you, but I’ve found some of my manners to be a little rusty. Every time I go somewhere, I’m grateful to see someone displaying these gracious acts, reminding me of simple things we can do to make life a little more elegant for everyone. 

  1. Countenance Counts ~ Countenance refers to our facial expressions. We’ve all been duly warned about RBF (resting biddy face). I’ve certainly caught myself deep in thought and realized my mug was less than pleasing. How nice it is to go out and see friendly faces again. 
  2. Right On ~ I wish I had a nickel for every time I reminded my students to walk on the right side of the hallway when changing classes. Foot traffic flows more smoothly when we stay to the right side of the sidewalk, stairs, and escalator. 
  3. Hold the Door ~ It still seems chivalrous for a man to open a door for a woman; however, everyone who is able should hold the door for anyone who is approaching. I always feel I’ve passed a kindred spirit when another woman holds the door for me. 
  4. Wipe the Sink ~ I was recently at a highway rest stop. After washing her hands, a woman took a clean paper towel and quickly wiped down the counter before I stepped up to use the sink. I offered a her a “thank you”, but I really wanted to applaud and cheer this rare gracious act! 
  5. Please and Thank You ~ This week, I was surprised by how cordial a man in front of me was to the employee in a drive-through window. (I also noticed how quickly her attitude reflected his.) He reminded me how important it is to be friendly and respectful to the hard-working people who serve us throughout our communities. 
  6. Trash Talk ~ My husband and I were on a road trip this month and noticed the cleanliness of many of the towns we traveled through. Unless you’re Oscar the Grouch, we all want to live in communities where streets and sidewalks are lined with flowers, not garbage. We can do our part by vowing to never toss even the smallest piece of trash out the car window or onto the ground.  
  7. Dressing Rooms ~ Have you ever walked into a store dressing room and seen piles of clothing scattered on the floor? When trying on clothes, we should always put garments we aren’t purchasing back on the hangers and on the rack provided. No store employee should have to feel like they’re picking up a teenager’s messy bedroom. 
  8. Elevator Etiquette ~ While traveling, I was exiting a hotel elevator as a young boy and girl were waiting to get on. Obviously well-taught, the boy gently scooted his sister to the side and waited for me to step out before entering the elevator. It was such a sweet and memorable display of good manners from a child. 
  9. Table Manners ~ This summer, my husband and I took our grandson to a nice outdoor restaurant and sat near a couple with their grandchildren. During the meal, we overheard subtle reminders to put napkins on laps, use a quiet voice, and put phones away. It warmed my heart to see these grandparents taking time to patiently teach valuable lifelong lessons.
  10. The Golden Rule ~ Whenever my husband and I spend time with our grown children, we are always proud of their tolerance and acceptance of everyone we encounter, no matter how different they may be from us. We live in a diverse and changing world. Some may call their behavior being politically-correct, but it’s really just being kind and following the Golden Rule.

    Though most of us are thankfully past lockdowns and quarantines, it seems Covid may be with us for a while longer, forcing us to be aware of the contagious nature of the virus. As we cautiously move through our days, let’s remember being courteous is contagious, too. Just imagine if we made gracious acts like these go equally viral.§

    “Manners are the sensitive awareness of the feelings of others.
    If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.”
    ~ Emily Post

Featured Art ~ Bal du moulin de la Galette by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1876

To watch or listen to this blog post in video format, please click this YouTube link ~ https://youtu.be/nfug1Ub5Et0

Elegant Pursuits ~ A Daily Walk

woman with a parasol

I have a penchant for novels and movies set during the 1800s. My favorite scenes feature characters gracefully strolling through the beautiful countryside. Without the invention of the automobile or the luxury of a horse-drawn carriage, walking was the only way most people could visit friends or go to church, school, or shops. These days, walking is primarily done for exercise, but taking a daily stroll has many more benefits that can add elegance to our lives. 

There’s no denying the simplicity of taking a walk. It requires no special equipment, it’s free, and we can do it on our own schedule. Whether walking through a misty moor or around the block, all one needs to do is put on shoes and go. We can even do as they did during the Regency era and “take a turn” around the living room after enjoying tea or a rich meal. 

Nature is the main reason I head out the door for my daily walk. Though my route may stay constant, each walk tells a different story with a unique setting that includes the weather and colors of the sky at that particular hour. One never knows what may appear in the unfolding scenes of a walk ~ a bunny in the neighbor’s yard, a fawn at the edge of the woods, Queen Anne’s Lace growing alongside the road. 

Walks can also provide much-needed solitude. One of my most beloved characters in literature is Elizabeth Bennet of Pride and Prejudice. This complex introvert frequently takes long walks alone to sort her thoughts and clear her head. About Lizzie, Jane Austen wrote, “Reflection must be reserved for solitary hours; whenever she was alone, she gave way to it as the greatest relief; and not a day went by without a solitary walk.” 

On the other hand, walks can provide a connection to our community. I often walk down the sidewalk of the busiest road in town. Hardly a day passes that I don’t run into someone I know who honks, waves, or stops for a quick chat. No one tips their hat or curtsies, as they do in my favorite movies, but walking in my hometown makes me feel grateful to be part of a place I love.  

Finally, taking a long solitary walk feels like a romantic nod to the past. I have to admit, I wouldn’t mind spending an afternoon strolling across a field of wildflowers, stopping under a large shade tree to read a book of poetry or write a few lines of my own. I usually walk in a baseball cap and sneakers, but I dream of the day that I confidently go for a stroll wearing a flowing dress and carrying a parasol. §

“An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.”
~ Henry David Thoreau

Featured Art ~ Woman with a Parasol by Claude Monet, 1886

To watch or listen to this blog post in video format, please click this YouTube link ~ https://youtu.be/O2az8D__FBc

Elegant Nature ~ Adding Beauty to the Universe

A Perseid meteor shower nudged me outside at three in the morning to gaze up at the sky. I gasped each time a saw a shooting star streak across the deep blue sky. The universe was created with such elegance. I believe you and I are given the enormous lifetime responsibility of contributing as much beauty to the world as we can.  

The Elegant Universe is the title of the book that inspired the popular Nova series by the same name. It explores superstrings, hidden dimensions, and parallel worlds beyond my understanding. I am more poetess than physicist, but I do adore the title.

Elegance can be defined as that which is exceptionally beautiful and simple, modest and at the same time bright. We see elegance in a snowflake, a spider’s web, the big dipper, and a swan. Wikipedia adds, “Elegant things exhibit refined grace and suggest maturity.” 

There’s no need to point out the lack of elegance swirling about our planet. Politics, pop culture, and nightly news make that clear, but these are things over which we have little influence. We are but a single star in the infinite cosmos.

Are we shining “like a diamond in the sky” as the nursery song encouraged? I believe we were created to be brilliant. Imagine if each of us blazed through our days, leaving a trail of light in what can seem like a dark world. 

How do we possibly go about raising our personal standards to match the elegance of the universe? One of my favorite quotes is by Julie Andrews, “Leave everything you do, every place you go, everything you touch, a little better for your having been there.” 

It’s a daunting task for sure. Anne Lamont wrote a book which she titled Bird by Bird. The author recalled her brother had to complete a big school project on birds. Overwhelmed by the task, their father advised him to “take it bird by bird”. In other words, we can do almost anything by taking it step-by-step-by-step.

Our own elegance can be increased in three not-so-easy steps. One, we can elevate our thoughts. Two, we can elevate our words. Three, we can elevate our actions. At the risk of over-simplifying our existence, those are the areas of our lives over which we have control. If we value elegance and wish for that in our homes, our communities, and our world, then that’s a pretty good place to start.

Under the spell of the Perseid meteor shower, I stopped wishing on falling stars, and set an intention to do all I can to add to the elegance of the universe. I will often fall short, but as Norman Vincent Peale said, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” §

Featured Art ~ The Starry Night, Vincent Van Gogh, 1889

To watch or listen to this blog post in video format, please click on this YouTube link ~ https://youtu.be/0jHNAUtXBJY

 
 
 

Elegant Personal Style ~ Quality Over Quantity

The oil painting known as Girl with a Pearl Earring, by Johannes Vermeer, features a young woman wearing an exquisite earring. Her bare face and turban-wrapped hair, bring focus to the pearl earring and, more importantly, the simple beauty and elegance of the girl.

I think of my own jewelry box and note the painting is not named Girl with a Bunch of Cheap Earrings. My jewelry is just one area that I could apply the concept of quality over quantity.

Quality can be defined as the standard of something as measured against other things of its kind. For example, Godiva chocolate is considered to be of exceptional quality. For about the same price, one could indulge in a single Godiva chocolate or a whole bag of M & Ms.

Quality over quantity means choosing better over more.

We don’t live in a time that supports this lifestyle. Fast food means we can get a big greasy meal for less than the tip at a sit-down restaurant. Fast fashion means we can buy ten shirts for the cost of one cashmere sweater. We can get the kids a cartful of plastic toys from the dollar aisle, or one classic board game.

There are many good reasons to adopt the idea of quality over quantity. It reduces clutter. It’s more sustainable for the planet. It saves money in the long run. It honors fine craftsmanship and design. It helps us gain more clarity about our personal preferences.

I’ve long been a believer in quality over quantity; however, glancing around my bathroom, I see evidence to the contrary. There’s a shelf of half-empty bottles of hair and skin products that didn’t live up to their promise. There’s a drawerful of makeup that isn’t exactly the right shade or formula. There’s a basket of gloppy nail polish I’ll never wear.

I’m committed to eliminating the clutter, forgiving myself for the waste, and finding a single high-quality version of the products I need and want. I’m not going to stop there.

Here are just a few areas where we can more consciously apply the philosophy of quality over quantity ~

  • clothing and accessories
  • food and pantry items
  • furnishings and home decor
  • cleaning products
  • books and magazines
  • toys and games

Quality over quantity doesn’t just apply to material things. We can think about quality when choosing our activities, our entertainment, our relationships, our conversations, and even our thoughts.

I need no convincing of the elegance, simplicity, and wisdom of choosing quality over quantity. As Steve Jobs said, “Quality is more important than quantity. One home run is much better than two doubles.” §

Featured Art ~ Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer, circa 1665. 

To watch or listen to this blog post in video format, please click on this YouTube link ~ https://youtu.be/FBTGuEVbGjU