>While looking at a 1950s Vogue magazine I happened across advertising for schools and training for proper young ladies… colleges, retail training, fashion designing, and… “charm school.”
I went to Charm School. As a girl I fluctuated between wanting to be a rough and tumble tomboy and wanting to be a Victorian lady. In playing make-believe I never wanted to be the queen or princess- unless she was captured or ran away or did something thrilling. I remember thinking the other folks had much more fun than nobility- but I did like having manners and being proper… until there were adventures to be had, people to be rescued, and plots to uncover.
At roughly 12, or possibly younger, my mom enrolled me in “Charm School”, much to my dismay. It was at fancy department store and while she went off shopping for an hour or so a week I was taught etiquette, how to walk, how to speak, how to set tables, and how to talk to strangers.
I was terribly shy as a child. So shy I could barely look people in the eye. Perhaps my mom thought it would bring me out of my shyness. But what stuck with me most of my time in the charm school was how nasty the other little girls were. They wanted to be the best, the most graceful, the most admired, and the best dressed. Etiquette may have been applicable to grown ups and boys, but younger girls did not at all apply to the rules of when to use your charms and graces!
What I did enjoy out of the whole exercise was putting on a fashion show at the end of our class as a “graduation presentation” of sorts. I walked the catwalk in an outfit chosen for me to a song by Madonna. I was skinny for my age so the outfit hung on me like a paper sack, but it was great fun to put on a show! If I had confidence in myself first I just went out there being who I wanted to be and had a great amount of fun doing it!
I look back at it now and am highly amused at the whole ordeal. It seems in some ways things I went through as a child were the end of an era… Charm School, Home Economics in Junior High- those things seem awfully silly to a new generation of young women. Maybe they are! But it is kind of fun (and laughable at times) to know I went though them.
Maybe if I had Maggie Prescott as a teacher I’d end up more like Jo in Funny Face. I’ve LOVED that movie since I was small. I identify a lot with Jo! And all the clothes… Yum!
Did any of you go through Charm School? Do you remember anything at all from it?
Hope you’re all having a wonderful Thursday!
MegDecember 23, 2010 at 10:22 pm (12 years ago)
>What a great story! No charm school for me, but I remember girls in my class who were from better-off families than mine getting to leave school early for "cotillion" — I was always a little jealous, but mostly because they were being taught to dance. I think they were supposed to have big coming out parties with poufy white dresses at some point, which I would have hated!
Time Traveling in CostumeDecember 23, 2010 at 11:42 pm (12 years ago)
>I went to one also at a department store, called The Broadway. I'm not sure how old I was but probably about the same age as you. I was also extremely shy, and couldn't even call people on the phone. I don't remember much about it, other than it was a lot of fun, and we also had a final fashion show. We got to choose an outfit from the store, and even tho they tried to talk me out of it, I wore a cream colored Irish long sleeve pullover sweater, a pair of brown plaid wool-blend shorts, and brown boots. I don't think the class helped with my shyness, and I don't remember what else we did because I was horrible at makeup and hair into my adult life.
BethDecember 24, 2010 at 1:40 am (12 years ago)
>I still hate calling people on the phone! Friends are fine, but calling the gas company? Forget it!I went to cotillion classes with some girls from my girl scout troop (6th grade I think?) – we did learn some dancing and etiquette, but of course *we* were jealous of the other girls, because they knew the boys in the class from their school, so they always got asked to dance first. And girls were certainly not supposed to dance with other girls at cotillion! ;) Meg, I guess the grass is always greener…Before I went to school there, my high school had an auto repair shop class and some other vocational training. I think it's a shame that classes like that aren't offered anymore.
Wearing HistoryDecember 24, 2010 at 4:15 am (12 years ago)
>Ditto the hating the phone thing! Haha.Well, some things stuck and some didn't.Ok, most didn't. I blame reading Victorian and Edwardian novels in my youth for my basis in etiquette and overly romanticized views on most everything.Cotillion! You know, I don't think I've ever even heard of that. We had to learn to square dance in 6th grade, though, and it was awful.Val, sounds like exactly the same deal as I went through, but I didn't get to pick my outfit. I wasn't a big fan at the time except for the fashion show bit. And for the life of me I couldn't remember how to set a table, so was horribly embarrassed when the other girls snickered at me when we got tested. I got bad marks that day. But if you asked me, the snickering was a worse offense than a fork out of place! Lol!
RosyDecember 24, 2010 at 10:11 am (12 years ago)
>All this sounds strange to me … where I live, everything that we were forced to learn when I was little was to cook, know how to sew a button and learn to say yes always looking down. I think that fostered my rebellion much
BirdieDecember 24, 2010 at 1:39 pm (12 years ago)
>Never went to charm school myself, but have planned since my daughter's birth to send her to some type of charm/etiquette school once she's old enough. I think that so many things aren't being taught anymore that really should be, and you never know when you'll need certain skills until you're in that situation.I come from a fairly wealthy family, and married a man who did not, and I remember when, while we were dating, my grandparents took us out to a rather fancy restaurant. My poor husband-to-be was mortified to not know which of the four forks surrounding his plate were to be used first, and I ended up tapping each upcoming utensil as discreetly as possible so as to not embarrass him further; I never want my kids to be in a situation like that. I feel like this about several skills, which is why both daughter and son will attend classes like this (in addition to getting it at home!), both are learning to cook and sew, and both will be attending kids' classes at the Home Depot as soon as they are old enough. Gotta send competent people out into the world!
Wearing HistoryDecember 24, 2010 at 5:35 pm (12 years ago)
>Birdie, I totally agree that etiquette should be still taught in some form or another! I'm afraid I do find most of modern etiquette (or lack thereof) somewhat shocking. Man, kids classes at Home Depot? I would have loved that! I was so bummed that my short stint in girl scouts only taught me to make butter in a jar and put on a dance performance. I wanted to be building forts and camping out! Hehe.
Wearing HistoryDecember 24, 2010 at 5:46 pm (12 years ago)
>Rosy, wow- that sounds restricting! No wonder you wanted to branch out!Btw, I adore that capelet vest and skirt you made! So yummy! I've been craving something like that myself :)
sewduckyDecember 24, 2010 at 7:07 pm (12 years ago)
>Much like health, many schools are adding a semester of etiquette classes for both girls and boys.I went as a punishment, but to be fair I knew what to do long before I went because my mother also went when she was a child. That's about all I have to say about it. All I learned was to avoid women outside of polite company, and to this day I find it hard to have female friends.One thing about modern manners is none of the kids have them. I have taught my son the same manners I was taught (even down to setting a table because anymore he may be the only one in HIS family that knows it) as well as traditional male manners, and it's an uphill battle when you're fighting other kids that don't have to mind, television in the shopping carts and other adults making the kids that have them stand out by drawing attention to it.
BirdieDecember 25, 2010 at 2:24 am (12 years ago)
>I don't know if all Home Depots do it, but the one we used to live near has free Saturday classes for children, where they can learn to make things.
The DreamstressDecember 25, 2010 at 4:58 am (12 years ago)
>I think in many cases charm school did more harm than good for the things it meant to accomplish. My mother's stepmother sent her to charm school in the early 60s, and she loathed it (Evil stepmother association didn't help any!). She has refused to wear heels, stockings, or makeup ever since!
The Crazy Suburban MomDecember 28, 2010 at 4:28 pm (12 years ago)
>No charm school for me but I think I might have liked it :)Tracy