(Tricia. Sorry I didn’t post something on this sooner.)
I just love the elegance of eras now past. Read just about any good book from last century and the heroine dresses for dinner. I suppose I originally got the idea of dressing for dinner either from a movie or a good book. It used to be everyone did it, well, let me quantify that, all the gentry did. I’m led to believe that in England they still do.
In a copy of Amy Vanderbuilt’s New Complete Book of Etiquette (I just love etiquette books) she has a section on changing for dinner. She believes ladies should be practiced in the habit of putting an effort into grooming for the evening meal from the time they are in the nursery, whether it is being clean and in fresh pajamas, to changing into a clean house dress as an adult. It is after all, says Miss Vanderbuilt, one of the criteria of gentility.
One of the things I like about what she says is it can be adapted from cottage to castle. If you live in a modest home with casual furnishings, you are best changing into something less formal than if you were dressing for dinner in a castle. It’s back to what I mentioned at another time about elegance being in harmony with its surroundings.
Dressing for dinner is a mindset you are putting yourself into. We have lost something important in our society, elegance. We are missing elegance in the everyday, in our clothing, our mealtimes, our very lives. That is a great pity.
A servant or two would make life ever so much easier. Unfortunately, few of us are blessed with this provision, which only means we have to make an extra effort ourselves. If done carefully and integrated into our lifestyle, elegance can become a habit that comes to us more naturally as we work at it over time.
To start out with I maynot completely change, just freshen up my hair and change to dressier jewelry, making it the thought that counts. However, that really isn’t my goal. My goal is to actually change into one of several dresses that I have accumulated for just such an occasion as the evening repast. Something smart, but understated, allowing more my choice in jewelry to distinguish it from my regular attire.
One thing I’ve discovered about myself is to ease into things gradually, making them a habit as a go along. Otherwise I have the best intentions and start out gung ho only to never really accomplish anything. Slow and steady wins the race. Or so they say. I have to admit, I’ve been slow enough about this goal.