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

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Breaking the Hurry Habit

In one of my favorite poems, My Symphony, William Henry Channing advises us to “hurry never.” As much as I’ve always loved that sentiment, it’s something I’ve been slow to learn. Breaking the hurry habit can be difficult, but it is one of the best things we can do to take better care of ourselves and to capture that elusive everyday elegance.

As a busy mother and teacher, I operated on two speeds for decades ~ a hundred miles an hour and passed out from exhaustion. Most days, I hit the ground running the second I crawled out of bed in the morning until the second I collapsed back in at night. During the five minutes between classes, I flew around like a whirling dervish, squeezing in as many tasks as I could before the next class began.

I don’t say this to boast. It wasn’t healthy or wise, and it was anything but elegant. Even after my children were grown and I was no longer teaching, I still found myself rushing. I walked, drove, talked, moved, and acted as if there was a sense of urgency when there was none. I had a hurry habit.

It seems the want to rush isn’t just a symptom of our modern, fast-paced lifestyle. These words were written in the 1600s by Saint Francis de Sales, “Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.”

I sympathize with those in the hectic stages of childrearing, caregiving, homemaking, schooling, or career. I know it sometimes seems there’s no choice but to be in a hurry. I also know the toll it can take on our relationships, health, and inner peace.

We all want to be active and efficient, but we can learn to do so at a slower and more deliberate pace. As a reminder to myself, and to you, here are ten ways breaking the hurry habit can help us live with more grace ~

  1. Better Health ~ When I catch myself rushing, I feel my heart race, my muscles tighten, and my breathing constrict. Our bodies aren’t meant to be in perpetual fight-or-flight mode. Slowing down can improve our physical and mental health.
  2. More Beauty ~ I wonder how many sunsets or full moons I missed because I was too busy to notice. The more we slow down, the more we notice beautiful things around us.
  3. More Help ~ If our life truly demands us to constantly be in a hurry, it’s time to get some help. It’s smart self-care to ask for help when we need it. No matter what we’ve been taught to believe, nobody can do it all.
  4. Sweeter Memories ~ Have you ever been so busy that you felt you completely missed a child’s important milestone, a holiday, or a special event? Time moves on whether we’re aware of it or not.
  5. More Kindness ~ Being in a hurry can cause us to seem rude and self-centered. Slowing down allows us to be more courteous, patient, and aware of others.
  6. More Productivity ~ It may seem counter-intuitive, but hurrying doesn’t always help us get more done. In fact, rushing often results in mistakes, accidents, and bad choices.
  7. Better Decisions ~ When we set an intention to stop hurrying, we find it easier to make decisions about what we can include in our lives. Saying no to one thing means saying yes to something more important to us.
  8. More Peace ~ Think about the difference between frantically driving someplace and leisurely driving to your destination. A calmer, less rushed demeanor can bring more peace to ourselves and those around us.
  9. Better Planning ~ A school secretary I worked with had a sign over her desk that read, “Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.” If we want to stop rushing ourselves and others, planning ahead is crucial.
  10. More Elegance ~ There’s nothing attractive about running around like a chicken with its head cut off. By breaking the hurry habit, we can calmly glide through our days with more elegance and composure.


“Wisely, and slow. They stumble that run fast.”
~ William Shakespeare

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The Elegance of Reading ~ “Put On Your Pearls, Girls!”

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! 

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The Elegance of a Good Night’s Sleep

Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow had a lovely wish for us, “Be thy sleep silent as night is, and as deep.” Man has long understood the value of sleep. As one of our most basic biological needs, we know proper sleep is fundamental to our physical and emotional well-being. Maybe we should also consider getting a good night’s sleep a polite thing to do.

All of us have had to muscle through a long day after a bad night’s sleep feeling groggy, grumpy, and gross. It’s difficult to be bright and cheerful when we’re exhausted. We’ve also all been bitten by someone who is dog tired. I’m positive we’d see more dignified, tolerant, and elegant behavior if everyone took a nice long nap.

Poor sleep has many causes including waking children, work demands, care giving, and blasted insomnia. When that’s the case, we may have to ride it out or even seek professional help. Yet many of our sleep problems may have more to do with simply not placing a priority on proper sleep hygiene. 

According to the National Sleep Foundation, good sleep hygiene means having both a bedroom environment and daily routines that promote consistent, uninterrupted sleep. Keeping a stable sleep schedule, making our bedroom comfortable and free of disruptions, following a relaxing pre-bed routine, and building healthy habits during the day can all contribute to ideal sleep hygiene.  

There are many ways to make our bedtime routine an elegant part of our day. It might include a warm bath, luxurious sleep wear, quality sheets, meditation or prayer, a journal, or some peaceful music. It probably doesn’t include watching Netflix until we pass out in our clothes, face unwashed, and unprepared for the next day. 

Getting a good night’s sleep is one of our most important personal responsibilities, and it’s something we must teach our children. As a teacher, I saw many students suffer from poor sleep habits. It’s no surprise that studies show both behavior and grades improve when children routinely get the nightly sleep they require. 

The National Sleep Foundation advises that healthy adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. Children and teens need even more to support their growth and development. It’s important to honestly assess how much sleep we need based on our activity level and overall health.

I know I feel, look, and act my best when I get close to nine hours of sleep. If I get much less than that, my husband has every right to say, “Sometimes I wake up grumpy. Other times, I just let her sleep!” §

“We are stuff as dreams are made on. And our little life is rounded with a sleep.”
~William Shakespeare

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