Monday, September 30, 2013

Little Miss Manners, if you please...

When I was about eight, my mother signed me up for a program at Gayfer's department store called "White Gloves and Party Manners".  Every Saturday, I would put on a party dress and we would head to manners class to meet my best friends, Lana (Clifton) Amaya and Andrea (Moorer) Altman.  I always looked forward to Saturdays - except for one thing - the escalator ride to where they held classes!  (I finally overcame my fear of escalators only to have it rear it's ugly head again a couple of weeks ago in Washington D.C. when Brack's shoelace got caught in the escalator steps at the Museum of American History and we had to be rescued by somebody's sweet little granddaddy who yanked the string loose while I held Brack up - and all but upside down - as I nervously chided him for the umpteenth time that day for not tying his shoes in double knots!  This could all have been avoided if he had just taken time to stand still and tie his shoes while Jewell and I oohed and ahhed over Dorothy's ruby red slippers, but I digress.)  Back to the white gloves...

We had to wear white patent shoes with our Sunday dresses, and we actually wore (drum roll, please...) WHITE GLOVES!!  We learned all kinds of things like how to set a table, how to make proper introductions and how to answer a phone.  (You know before cell phones and caller ID that allows us to screen our calls!)  We learned how to sit like a lady (with your ankles crossed - never your legs!).  We even got to be in a fashion show at the end of the class.  I may have been eight, but I worked that runway. Those of you who know me can probably imagine!  Yes, I think I'm showing a little leg, but it was 1977!  Eat your heart out, Heidi Klum!

We learned so much and had so much fun!  We felt like such little ladies.  So grown up for our age.  And isn't that the trick?  Don't we like to act the way that makes us feel good about ourselves?  I still have my little yellow book and used to refer to it often until I upgraded to Emily Post and Letitcia Baldrige in my early 30's.
So when Jewell got to be about the same age, I started looking for a similar program for her.  Unfortunately, there's just not that much out there!  I kept talking about it to my friend, Nancy Itson, and we would always say, "We could do that!"  Well - we finally did.  Nancy and I got together for lunch one day and made plans for the young ladies at University church.  It was a busy summer, but I taught a Tween class on Wednesday night for mothers and daughters (grades 1-5).  We used the book Everybody Tells Me To Be Myself but I Don't Know Who I Am by Nancy Rue.  The girls had a lot of fun role-playing and the mothers' participation really added a lot to the experience.  We also had a Summer Sewing School for the girls (and a couple of boys!).  More on this soon.  And finally, we developed a manners club for young ladies!
Jewell actually came up with the name for our group - "Little Miss Manners".  Nancy and I decided that we would meet every two months.  During each party, we plan to focus on a specific area of etiquette.  Nancy hosted the first party in May.  The weather was warm, so she planned an ice cream social!  She mailed each girl an invitation, and the RSVP'ing began! 
As you are about to see, Nancy is definitely the hostess with the most-ess!  She transformed her covered carport, and transported the girls to a summer garden party through her decorations!  Little fairies and dragonflies were tucked throughout the decorations and the girls had fun exploring to see what they could find! 
She set up an ice cream bar and allowed the girls to make their own sundaes.  As part of our lesson (ahead of time), we had talked about exercising restraint when we fixed our plates, and the girls did an excellent job.

She mixed beautiful printed paper plates and napkins along with vintage ice cream bowls, silk flowers, hand-embroidered tablecloths and garden statuary for the perfect tablescape.
Nancy makes a wonderful strawberry lemonade and the girls loved getting to use the dainty glass punch cups!   
After our etiquette lesson on Party Manners 101 and our refreshments, Nancy's daughter Haley Scott (who was also very instrumental in the decorating as well) showed the girls how to make an old-fashioned whirly-gig with heavy thread and a vintage button.  Nancy collects old buttons and was gracious to share them with the girls.  The girls were fascinated and practiced until their mothers came to pick them up!  
Each girl was given a notebook to hold their etiquette lessons as well as to give them a place to scrapbook and journal about each party.
Nancy absolutely hates being in the spotlight and she will probably disown me for adding this picture. know me!  The saving grace may be that I am posting a picture of her, her wonderful husband of 30 years (Dennis), and the (newest) love of their life, grandson Crews!  Ain't he purty, y'all?
These same little girls young ladies are equally at home on the soccer field, in a ballet class or in Jewell's case - a shooting house with her daddy waiting for a big buck to amble by!  They are definitely children of Today.  Savvy with technology, adept at sports, in-the-know about every new fashion trend (if today's style can, indeed, be called fashion!).  But put them in a party dress (minus the patent shoes and gloves), serve them homemade lemonade in a tiny cup and teach them how to do something low-tech like spin a button on a string and they are equally at home...and happy! 
I truly believe it is our responsibility as mothers to teach our daughters about how to be more than what they see on TV.  As mothers and, perhaps more importantly, as women, we know how the world influences our daughters each and every day - telling them verbally and non-verbally how they should act and what they should wear...WHO THEY SHOULD BE.  They are watching and learning, whether we like it or not.  WE must be the voice that they hear, encouraging them to be be the wonderful, unique Little Ladies that God wants them to be.  If we are not that voice, someone else will be...


  1. Missy, we are so thrilled to be a part of "Little Miss Manners!" What a rare opportunity today to celebrate feminity. I believe GOD is pleased when we find joy in the uniqueness of girlhood and strive to help our daughters become virtuous young ladies. Many, many "cheers" to you, Nancy, and Melissa for an outstanding job thus far. We look forward to our next meeting.

  2. Hey, I came across this blog post when researching White Gloves and Party Manners. I too was in the course in the early 1980s. I was thinking about putting one together in my home city. I was interested to know what, if anything, you charged for someone to take your course and what was your schedule like? thanks

    1. Hey there, Mrs. X! So glad you found me! If you will click on the Miss Manners tab on my blog, you can see how we do things. We do not meet weekly. We try to meet about every three months or so. I work with another lady on the project and we take turns hosting the group in our homes. The pool of girls comes from our church congregation. We add new girls when the enter 1st grade and then graduate them after 6th. We do not charge anything. If I ever went "public" I would. In fact, I've been asked to by ladies in my community, but I just don't have time. I hope you'll read some of my posts! Let me know what you end up doing. Good luck!