8 Questions to an Elegant Fall Wardrobe

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I’m excited about my very simple (hopefully elegant) fall wardrobe. Want to know what’s in it?

Ten dresses.

Yep, that’s it. No jeans, pants, skirts, blouses, T-shirts, tank tops, tunics, blazers, vests, cardigans, dusters, sweatshirts or any of the must-haves in most capsule wardrobes. Just ten casual dresses.

What a relief it is to open my closet and not be overwhelmed by clothes that are superfluous, irrelevant, and confusing to me. After a lot of trial and error and wasted time and money, I came up with eight questions that helped me pinpoint precisely what to wear every day to make me feel and look my best.

Once I defined exactly what I want to wear, I realized anything in my closet that didn’t meet those qualifications was just a distraction. Putting together my fall wardrobe didn’t require a lot of shopping. In fact, it mostly required subtracting, not adding. I donated many items. Others are stored away for another season of the year or season of life. The few things I purchased this fall had to meet a very specific criteria unique to me and my life.

Here are the eight questions that helped me discover my perfect fall wardrobe. I’ve included my own answers to better understand the process. Although we will each have different answers, I think these questions can lead anyone to their own personal version of an elegant wardrobe.

  1. What’s Your Look?
    My mother once said, “You’ve gotta have a look!” Keeping that in mind, I’d like to look simple, polished, and modern. I believe elegance can be achieved with many different styles, from classic to romantic to avant garde. What’s your look?
  2. What Will Give You That Look?
    For me, nothing beats the simplicity of a dress. Dresses make me feel polished and pulled-together. For a more modern look, I stick to dresses with clean lines. They need to be casual enough not to feel too dressy for my everyday life, but I have to remember I’m okay with being slightly over-dressed.
  3. What’s Your Best Silhouette?
    The dresses that work best for me are tailored, knee-length or slightly longer, with some waist definition.
  4. What Fabric Do You Prefer?
    I like smooth modern fabrics that can be machine-washed, hung dry, and only need a little steaming, if that. For fluctuating fall temperatures, my dresses are medium-weight and can easily be topped with tights, a sweater, or a coat.
  5. What Are Your Colors?
    For simplicity’s sake, all of my dresses coordinate with black shoes and accessories.
  6. What Patterns Will You Choose?
    I prefer solids and simple, contemporary prints.
  7. How Many Outfits Do You Need?
    I like the idea of wearing a uniform of sorts and keeping a fairly minimal wardrobe. I think ten everyday dresses will give me more than enough variety for the fall season.
  8. What Specialty Clothing Do You Need?
    In addition to my everyday wardrobe, I have clothing for exercise, messy chores, and yard work. I also have a cocktail dress, a conservative dress, and a couple options for more formal events. Beyond that I’ll remember what Henry David Thoreau said, “Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes.”

I hope these questions help you formulate your own simple and elegant fall wardrobe. We can’t control everything in life, but we can all be the boss of our closets so we can get on with more important matters. §

“To thine own self be true.”
~Polonius to his son in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet

The Elegance of Soft Skills

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Employees who possess soft skills are highly valued in the workplace. Soft skills can be defined as personal attributes that enable us to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people. In a 2021 report from Linkedin, 92 percent of hiring professionals said soft skills matter as much or more than hard skills, such as degrees and specific proficiencies. As much as soft skills are beneficial in the business world, they are equally essential for a happy life outside of work. 

There is no single definitive list of soft skills, but it usually includes things like kindness, teamwork, and honesty. Apparently soft skills are so lacking in the workplace, that companies are willing to spend a lot of money each year teaching them. The global soft skills training market is expected to reach around 43 billion dollars a year by 2026.

One can hardly discuss soft skills without wondering why these traits are so hard to come by. Perhaps they used to be more widely taught in homes and churches. Maybe community leaders are failing to lead by example. It could be a result of increased technology and social media. Some might find fault with the schools. 

Interestingly, I started teaching in 1985 when junior highs across the country were transitioning to middle schools. This wasn’t just a new name. The middle school philosophy placed enormous emphasis on the emotional and social development of students in grades six through eight. An integral part of the middle school concept was a daily thirty-minute period focusing on affective education, in other words, soft skills. When I retired thirty years later, most middle schools had abandoned that part of the curriculum in what I saw as a response to heightened concern about yearly test scores. After all, there’s only so much time within a school day. 

There are probably multiple reasons our society is failing to foster the proper development of soft skills, and we might all share a little of the blame. Like anything, if we’d like to see a change, we can start with the man in the mirror. Being more aware of our own soft skills could start a spark that spreads to others. 

It is notable that many business people don’t like the term soft skills. Some prefer to call them interpersonal skills. Seth Godin calls them real skills. Simon Sinek likes the term human skills. I tend to think we are simply talking about good manners. In a review of more than a dozen articles, these ten ideas were repeatedly suggested to improve our soft skills.

  1. Be a good listener.
  2. Be positive.
  3. Be friendly and avoid gossip.
  4. Pay attention to body language.
  5. Be a problem-solver.
  6. Speak clearly.
  7. Be punctual.
  8. Show integrity by having strong moral principles.
  9. Manage conflict in healthy ways. 
  10. Show empathy. 

Whether we practice these skills at work, home, or wherever life take us, soft skills can go a long way in increasing everyday elegance. §

“There is no accomplishment so easy to acquire as politeness, and none more profitable.”
~ George Bernard Shaw

The Elegance of Writing Right

IMG_1850Not long ago I wrote a column highlighting ten common spoken grammatical mistakes. It struck a chord with many readers who appreciated attention to the subject. Although this may be a case of preaching to the choir, I’m following that column here with ten common written errors.

Certainly, the informality of texting, email, and messaging is taking a toll on proper grammar. If we are in the elegant business of continuous self-improvement, as I believe we should be, then we must take it upon ourselves to refine our grammar, especially when the idea seems to be falling out of fashion.

The following errors are all related to writing the wrong word. English can be difficult because of its many homophones, words that sound the same. Most of these errors aren’t obvious when spoken, only when written. Here are ten groups of words that frequently cause mistakes, followed by explanations and examples.

  1. They’re, Their, and There – They’re is a contraction for they are. They’re moving to Colorado. Their is a plural possessive pronoun. It shows ownership. Their house is for sale. There usually refers to a place. If you can point to it, this is your word. Put the sign there.
  2. It’s and Its – It’s is a contraction for it is. It’s hot outside. Its is possessive. This is confusing because we usually use an apostrophe to show possession. The dog chased its tail.
  3. You’re and Your – You’re is a contraction for you are. You’re so sweet. Your is possessive. Your mother is so sweet.
  4. Effect and Affect – Effect is a noun. What was the effect of the discussion? Affect is a verb. The discussion had an affect on me. Here’s a trick: If you can substitute the word influence, you probably need the word affect.
  5. Alot, A lot and Allot. This one is easy! Alot is not a word. She has a lot of friends. Allot is an entirely different word that means to set aside. I will allot $20 to spend on food.
  6. To, Two, and Too. Here we go again with those maddening homophones. To is a preposition. Think of it as a destination or an action. I threw the ball to third base. He is going to throw the ball home. Two is a number. She ate two cookies. Too means also. I like cookies, too. (Notice the comma before the word too.)
  7. Lose and Loose. These are two completely different words that really shouldn’t cause so much confusion. Lose ends with a z-sound. Lose is a verb. I hope I don’t lose my tooth. Loose ends with an s-sound. Loose is an adjective. My tooth is loose.
  8. Complement and Compliment. These words are easily mixed up because they do sound the same. Complement means to complete or enhance. The wine complements the meal. Compliment refers to praise or admiration. My compliments to the chef.
  9. Then and Than. These words are not homophones, but they sure cause a lot of confusion. Then is an adverb related to time. We went to dinner and then a movie. Than is a conjunction used to make comparisons. I enjoyed the dinner more than the movie.
  10. Whose and Who’s. Whose is the possessive form of who. Whose book is this? Who’s is a contraction for who is. Who’s going to the party tonight?

I’ve found there are two kinds of people. Those who really care about proper grammar, and those who really don’t. If you don’t, take pity upon the rest of us. Like Sisyphus and his rock, I’m afraid we are doomed to an eternity of futilely correcting people’s grammar, either silently or enthusiastically. I do have a bit of advice when you’re in the position of comforting grammar nerds. Gently put an arm around them and softly say, “There, their, they’re.” §

“Grammar is a piano I play by ear. All I know about grammar is its power.”
~Joan Didion

Featured Art ~ Portrait of a Woman, Adelaide Labille-Guiard, c. 1787

The Elegance of Hats

IMG_2199Each day, a little elegance comes directly to my inbox. It’s called The Object of the Day, and it’s a photograph and brief description of a piece of art in the collection of the Saint Louis Art Museum. On any given day, I learn about a priceless painting, sculpture, or artifact. This Sunday, the Object of the Day was this amazing High Lama’s Summer Hat.

Coincidentally, at church that very morning I noticed not a single person was wearing a hat, and I found myself wishing we all were. Perhaps I was thinking about hats because I’ve been spending hot summer afternoons indoors watching period dramas where characters’ costumes always include a variety of beautiful hats.

For the past twenty years or so, I nearly always wear a hat outside to protect my face from the sun. This is to atone for the previous forty years of tanning until I was, as my grandmother would say, as brown as a berry. The hats I wear are generally baseball caps or straw sun hats that are not nearly as attractive as I would secretly like to wear.

Currently on display at our local museum, Cedarhurst Center for the Arts, is a fanciful display of hats by Dianne Isbell, an award-winning designer and milliner. Isbell creates one-of-a-kind hats for people all over the country. Her custom-made hats perch on ladies’ heads at the Kentucky Derby, weddings, churches, theme parties, and other special occasions. Her hats have even been worn by Hollywood leading ladies, including Lady Gaga. (Learn more at http://www.hatsbydianne.com)

I’m glad such beautiful hats are on display in museums and still created by milliners like Isbell, but I do wish they were back in everyday fashion. I realize I would look fairly ridiculous wearing the High Lama’s Summer Hat to water the roses, play golf, or walk around the neighborhood. So for now, I’ll don my purely functional baseball cap and dream of a more elegant time and place where hats are de rigueur. §

“Next week I shall begin operation on my hat
on which you know my principal hopes of happiness depend.” 

~ Jane Austen

Featured Art ~ High Lama’s Summer Hat, China, late 19th to early 20th century
This hat has a rounded crown and a wide flat brim. The interior is made of woven bamboo covered with bright yellow silk satin damask featuring roundels with five-clawed dragons. The top ends in a red silk knot above a border with stylized fungus forms. The hat’s brim is edged with a key-fret brocade and its underside is covered with red silk damask. Hats like this were made in China for use by visiting high-ranking Tibetan Buddhist monks known as lamas. The use of bright yellow silk and five-clawed dragons are strong indications that such hats were commissioned by the imperial court at Beijing, a city with a number of important Tibetan Buddhist temples and monasteries. It was presented as a gift to the Saint Louis Art Museum in 1986 from Mr. and Mrs. F. Russell Fette in memory of Helen Campbell Fette.

The Elegance of Good Grammar

IMG_1699In Muriel Barbery’s novel The Elegance of the Hedgehog, a precocious 12-year-old named Paloma says, “Grammar is a way to attain beauty.” As one who taught language arts to middle schoolers for nearly thirty years, I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I would say proper grammar is elegant and poor grammar may ruin any chance of being so.

We all make grammatical mistakes sometimes. Regional and cultural dialects can be deeply ingrained, and those learning English as a second language have my full respect. If you saw me do algebra or bake a cake, you would likely be able to help me in areas that are not my strong suit. So let me offer some explanation for ten common spoken grammar mistakes.

  1. Linda and me went to the show. This is incorrect because me can’t be the subject of a sentence. You wouldn’t say, “Me went to the show.” Corrected Example: Linda and I went to the show.
  2. Dad is taking Bob and I. This is incorrect because I can’t be used as the object of a sentence. You wouldn’t say, “Dad is taking I.” Corrected Example: Dad is taking Bob and me.
  3. Sue is my friend that loves ice cream. This is incorrect because Sue is a person, not a thing. Use who to refer to people. Use that to refer to things. Corrected Example: Sue is my friend who loves ice cream.
  4. I should of done my homework last night. This is incorrect and probably stems from lazily saying shoulda, coulda, woulda. Corrected Example: I should have done my homework last night.
  5. I seen him at the store today. This is incorrect because the past tense of see is saw. Seen is a past participle and must be used with a helping verb. Corrected Example: I saw him at the store today.
  6. These cookies is good. This is incorrect because there is not subject-verb agreement. The subject of the sentence, cookies, is plural and requires the plural form of the verb. Corrected Example: These cookies are good.
  7. Irregardless of his credentials, he didn’t get the job. This is incorrect because irregardless is not a word. The word is regardless. Corrected Example: Regardless of his credentials, he didn’t get the job.
  8. The company honed in on its objective. This is incorrect because hone means to sharpen. To home in on something means to move towards a goal. Corrected Example: The company homed in on its objective.
  9. I’m going to lay down for a nap. This is incorrect because lay is a transitive verb and needs to have an object. For example: I’m going to lay this sweater on the chair. Lie is an intransitive verb which means it doesn’t have an object. Corrected Example: I’m going to lie down for a nap.
  10. I could care less. This is likely incorrect because it suggests that you actually do care a little bit. You are probably trying to express that you do not care at all. Corrected Example: I couldn’t care less.

    If you’re reading this, something tells me you do care about using proper grammar and agree with Paloma about it being beautiful. Using correct grammar is something that takes practice. Striving to use good grammar elevates our communication, enhances the spread of ideas, makes a positive impression, and adds elegance to our world. §

“Your grammar is a reflection of your image. Good or bad, you have made an impression. And like all impressions, you are in total control.”
~ Jeffery Gitomer

“How to be a Lady” ~ a book review

IMG_1664This week I brought home a new book titled How To Be A Lady by Candace Simpson-Giles. It is the third revision of a book I admittedly bought in 2001 and again in 2012, as I am fascinated with etiquette in an ever-changing world. The book is chock-full of contemporary advice on common courtesy.

Although you’ll want to read this reference-style book for yourself, I thought I’d summarize three tips from each of its ten chapters. I know I always benefit from a refresher course on minding my manners. I would add that all of these tips could equally apply to being a gentleman.

Chapter One ~ A Lady Experiences Real Life
1. A lady is always on her toes; she realizes that every encounter makes a lasting impression.
2. A lady knows when to turn off her phone.
3. A lady never eats behind the wheel of a car.

Chapter Two ~ A Lady Gets Dressed
1. A lady is mindful of her appearance at all times.
2. A lady knows her posture is as important as her clothing.
3. A lady knows what colors, fabrics, and patterns flatter her.

Chapter Three ~ A Lady Goes to Dinner
1. A lady knows when it’s acceptable to drink from a straw. (My savvy mother-in-law taught me never to sip a cocktail through that little plastic stirrer!)
2. A lady doesn’t place her dirty napkin back on the table until leaving the restaurant; she places it on her chair if she leaves the table during the meal.
3. A lady does not engage in a debate over politics, religion, or other sensitive issues at the dinner table.

Chapter Four ~ A Lady Says the Right Thing
1. A lady never curses in front of others.
2. A lady does not laugh at racist, sexist, or homophobic jokes.
3. A lady thinks before she speaks.

Chapter Five ~ A Lady Gives a Party
1. A lady is happy to use her best things. If something accidentally breaks, she is not disturbed and does not allow her guests to feel any guilt over the matter.
2. If a lady receives a bottle of wine as a hostess gift, she is not obligated to serve it that evening. Hostess gifts do not need to be opened during the party.
3. When hosting, a lady reserves the least desirable seat for herself.

Chapter Six ~ A Lady Goes to a Party
1. A lady knows what “RSVP” means and always responds to invitations bearing that request.
2. A lady never spends all of her time talking to one person. She is excited to meet as many people as possible and assumes that people will enjoy meeting her, too.
3. A lady knows when it’s time to say goodnight.

Chapter Seven – A Lady and Her Friends
1. A lady never says or does things that make her friends feel small.
2. A lady never hesitates to dispel false rumors about her friends.
3. A lady knows providing an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on is one of the greatest gifts she can give her friend.

Chapter Eight ~ A Lady Goes to the Office
1. A lady always shows respect, not only for her superiors, but also to those who work with and for her.
2. A lady carefully considers what she writes in an email or on social media before hitting send or post.
3. A lady realizes the more professionally she presents herself in the workplace, the more seriously she will be taken.

Chapter Nine ~ A Lady Takes Care of Herself
1. A lady sees her doctors on a regular basis.
2. A lady is cautious not to put herself in harmful situations that could endanger her safety or compromise her own personal value system for living.
3. A lady realizes a tan is not worth the risk of skin cancer.

Chapter Ten ~ Extreme Etiquette
1. A lady never gushes over a celebrity nor asks for an autograph unless that is the celebrity’s function at the event.
2. A lady addresses the president as Mr. (or Madame) President.
3. If a lady is a citizen of the United States and has the opportunity to meet royalty, she does not curtsey, no matter how tempted she is to do so. §

“A lady knows that beauty and wealth can be fleeting, but her inner character is the measure by which others will ultimately judge her as a person.”
~ Candace Simpson-Giles, Author

The Elegance of Civility

There is a dog-eared little blue book on my shelf titled Civility – George Washington’s Rules for Today by Steven Michael Selzer. As we celebrate Presidents’ Day on Monday, let’s look to the father of our nation for some lessons in simple, everyday elegance. 

According to the author, when George Washington was just fourteen, he copied 110 principles for personal conduct from a manual composed by French-Jesuits in 1595. Washington titled his list Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation and carried it with him throughout his life. 

America’s first president understood civil behavior is not just desirable but essential to a successful democratic nation. In a letter written to the people of Baltimore in 1789, Washington wrote what could easily be applied to us today. “It appears to me that little more than common sense and common honesty, in the transactions of the community at large, would be necessary to make us a great and happy nation.”

Most of Washington’s rules are as apropos in 2022 as they were 250 years ago, though a few have become less relevant. One such rule states, “Kill no vermin, as fleas, lice, ticks, etc., in the sight of others. If you see any filth or thick spittle, put your foot dexterously upon it.” Ew, George.

Out of Washington’s 110 rules, and in keeping his original language, I’ve chosen ten that could start a revolution of civility.

  1. Every action done in company ought to be done with some sign of respect to those that are present. This was Washington’s rule number one, and if we truly followed it, the others might be unnecessary. Everyone deserves kindness and respect, and though the rules are apolitical, it does pair nicely with a nation founded upon principles of democracy.
  2. In the presence of others, sing not to yourself with a humming noise, nor drum with your fingers or feet. This rule makes me think Washington may have spent time, as I have, as an eighth grade teacher. We should all keep in mind that our music, talking, fidgeting, pencil tapping, phone use, and other behaviors might be disturbing to others.
  3. Strive not with your superiors in argument, but always submit your judgment to others with modesty. I’ve heard it said we Americans often know our rights better than our wrongs. We are gloriously endowed with freedom of speech, but we should do so carefully, respectfully, and wisely.
  4. Use no reproachful language against anyone. Neither curse nor revile. Demeaning, undisciplined, rude, and crude language routinely flies out the mouths of those who should be setting an example for others. While such talk may be commonplace in today’s society, civil it is not. There is only one person’s words over which we have control.
  5. Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation, for ’tis better to be alone than in bad company. In business, politics, and our personal life, we should be careful of the company we keep. It was Washington’s pal Benjamin Franklin who said, “He that lies down with dogs, shall rise up with fleas.”
  6. Be not hasty to believe flying reports to the disparagement of any. I’m not sure Washington could have foreseen the abounding dishonesty paraded as truth in our society. Now more than ever, we have the responsibility to get our information from trustworthy sources and share it judiciously.
  7. Think before you speak, pronounce not imperfectly nor bring out your words too hastily, but orderly and distinctly. In the words of another great president, Abraham Lincoln, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”
  8. Be not curious to know the affairs of others, neither approach those that speak in private. In an age when many over-share details of their personal lives, it’s still important to respect people’s privacy. It takes a certain amount of maturity and discretion to stay out of the rumor mill.
  9. Put not another bite into your mouth till the former be swallowed. Let not your morsels be too big for the jowls. Though poor table manners may not be immoral, they can be unpleasant. A revival of basic etiquette would go far in increasing our respect towards one another.
  10. Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience. This delightful quote is Washington’s 110th and final rule. Deep down we understand civil from uncivil, courteous from discourteous, polite from impolite. Imagine if we all endeavored to keep that heavenly flame of our conscience burning bright. §

“Few men have virtue to withstand the highest bidder.”
~ George Washington

The Elegance of Signature Style

Audrey Hepburn had a little black dress. Abraham Lincoln had a stovepipe hat. Ruth Bader Ginsburg had fancy robe collars. Harry Potter had glasses and a magic wand. 

What they all had in common was a distinct signature style. They were each well-known for other accomplishments, of course, but their sartorial choices added to their recognizability, uniqueness, and elegance.

Having a signature style means creating a consistent and memorable visual image or look. Whether that look is considered gorgeous or goofy may be in the eye of the beholder. The fact remains, what we wear matters.

In a 2012 report in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, a pair of scientists coined the phrase enclothed cognition and proved the clothing a person wears has an effect on the way one thinks, feels, and functions.

In one experiment, participants who were asked to wear a white doctor’s coat showed an increase in cognitive abilities. Similar experiments showed formal clothing enhanced the ability to negotiate and think abstractly. Casual clothing boosted openness and agreeableness. Gym clothes increased healthy choices. Bright colors improve mood, while softer colors had a calming effect.

What makes signature style so intriguing is that there’s no single definition, and it’s impossible to purchase no matter how much money one has. I have to admit, I’m really not one to give fashion advice. Although I’m still working on the how and what of personal style, I am convinced of these six reasons why we should cultivate a signature style.

  1. Self-Knowledge – Greek philosopher Epictetus said, “Know, first, who you are, and then adorn yourself accordingly.” Creating a true signature style requires knowing who we are, what we value, how we spend our time, and what we want to project into the world. This can be a lifelong challenge that requires some deep dives.
  2. Authenticity – Energy healer Carol Tuttle believes what we wear on the outside should be congruent with who we are on the inside. She teaches that everyone is born with a natural energy that should be honored. Are you naturally extroverted or introverted, loud or quiet, silly or serious? Be careful, she warns. Most of us hold false beliefs about who we are or should be. We can learn to dress in a way that celebrates our authenticity.
  3. Confidence – Committing to a signature style, impervious to trends and opinions, takes guts. Dressing every day in our own unique style will increase self-confidence and eventually garner the confidence of others. Audrey Hepburn said, “To pull off any look, wear it with confidence.”
  4. Simplicity – There’s no question that having a signature style makes life easier. Clothes shopping can be overwhelming and expensive. When we know exactly what we do and don’t wear, the entire process saves time and money. No more standing in front of a stuffed closet with nothing to wear. According to Coco Chanel, “Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance.”
  5. Discipline – Staying true to a signature style requires discipline. It’s easy to question our wardrobe, especially when the choices are endless and ever-changing. The fashion industry banks on us being easily distracted, discouraged, and undisciplined. It takes laser focus to only purchase and wear that which we’ve determined perfectly expresses our personal style.
  6. Wisdom – Having a signature style is smart. Albert Einstein famously wore a grey suit, black tie, and white shirt. He said, “I don’t want to waste brainpower on what I’m going to wear each day.” Barack Obama, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg all followed suit. Saving time and money makes good sense, but so does taming our closets and consistently projecting an authentic image of ourselves.

Director Orson Welles said, “Create your own visual style. Let it be unique for yourself, yet identifiable for others.” It’s the big, gold charm bracelet my mother has worn for fifty years and the upswept hairdo her best friend has worn for as long as I can remember. Signature style is difficult to define and to cultivate, but it’s always the epitome of elegance. §

“Personal style is about a sense of yourself, a sense of what you believe in and wearing what you like.”
~ Ralph Lauren

The Elegance of Positive Body Language

In the Disney movie of the fairy tale The Little Mermaid, Ariel makes the questionable decision to give her voice to Ursula the Sea Witch in exchange for the chance to be with a prince. Ariel asks how she will communicate without her voice, to which Ursula provocatively exclaims, “Don’t underestimate the importance of body language!”

Though evil and misguided, the sea witch was right about the power of non-verbal communication. It’s something I frequently taught my language arts students. In the early seventies, psychologist Albert Mehrabian conducted a well-known study that concluded body language is significantly more important than actual words spoken.

Mehrabian’s Communication Model states that messages are conveyed 7% through words, 38% through tone and voice, and 55% through body language. Body language includes our facial expressions, gestures, and posture. If we want to communicate elegantly, that is simply, positively, and effectively, then we must pay attention to the messages we send non-verbally. 

How we communicate with others is an important life skill that can greatly influence our relationships and our happiness. Every day we have the opportunity to communicate positively with people including our family, friends, co-workers, and strangers. Psychologist and author Rollo May said, “Communication leads to community, understanding, intimacy, and mutual valuing.”

We’ve all been in frustrating situations where our words are somehow misconstrued or misinterpreted. Here are some points we can consider to help us send a positive message through our body language.

  • Posture – Slouching signals a lack of interest or alertness. Sit and stand with back and shoulders straight but relaxed. 
  • Arms  – Crossing our arms can make us appear closed-off, self-conscious, or defensive. Placing hands on our hips can seem aggressive. Let them hang loosely and comfortably .
  • Handshakes – Handshakes should be friendly and confident. Be careful it doesn’t feel like a vice grip or a limp noodle.
  • Eye Contact – Looking others in the eye shows we are engaged, but don’t make it creepy. Just look at the person and keep a gentle gaze.
  • Facial Expressions – Genuine smiles and nods show we understand and are listening. Try to relax the face so it doesn’t appear tense or angry.
  • Proximity – Lean in a bit to show interest, but be aware of personal space and appropriate social distancing.
  • Hand Gestures – In general, palms should be open to show, well, openness. Talking with our hands too much can be distracting and make us seem nervous, but an occasional gesture can help make a point.
  • Fidgeting – Fiddling with pens, hair, phones, and other objects can indicate boredom or immaturity.

Body language is a powerful communication tool, especially when we use it honestly and sincerely. Unlike the little mermaid, we don’t have to give up our voice. We can learn to enhance our words with effective non-verbal communication to express ourselves more eloquently and elegantly. §

“The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.”
~ Peter Drucker

The Elegance of Getting Dressed

Mark Twain famously said, “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” In comparison to serious global and personal challenges, how we dress may seem silly and of little consequence. The fact remains that most of us wear clothes. No matter our personal style, the simple act of getting dressed can add everyday elegance to our lives from morning to night.

For the sake of clarity, let’s define getting dressed as the process of basic hygiene, good grooming, and selection of an appropriate outfit to wear. There does seem to be an increasingly popular trend of not getting dressed, as if life is one big come-as-you-are-party. It probably goes without saying that this choice will not inspire elegance. 

The decision to get dressed each morning can become a pleasant routine that starts the day on the right foot. Wearing something that feels uncomfortable, unattractive, or inappropriate makes for a long day. We might even feel sluggish, sad, or snippy. Once we take the time to get dressed, we can forget about what we’re wearing and seize the day with enthusiasm and confidence. 

Most people interpret the effort to look our best as a nod of respect to ourselves and others. A jaunty hat, a pretty dress, or a sharp jacket can bring smiles from complete strangers throughout the day. Perhaps more importantly, getting dressed will be appreciated by the people in our own homes and the person in the mirror. As fashion designer Tom Ford said, “Dressing well is a form of good manners.”

An evening ritual of changing out of our daytime clothes and getting ready for bed lets our mind and body know it’s time to wind down. This is a good time to consider how our clothes functioned in our real, everyday life. Over time, we can say goodbye to so-so items and curate a closet filled with things we love. It’s also a perfect time to feel grateful for all we have, including  our clothing. 

“Get up, dress up, show up, and never give up,” said contemporary writer Regina Brett. There are many things in life outside of our control, but getting dressed isn’t one of them. The simple routine of getting dressed each day is an opportunity to add beauty and elegance to our lives and to those around us. §

“Never wear anything that panics the cat.”
~ P. J. O’Rourke