Wednesday, June 27

Finishing School: Personal Presentation...


As I sit here at my computer desk beginning the third entry for this week on personal presentation, I feel I must be honest with you. I do not have the greatest posture in the world. I walk with a relatively straight back, but I slouch when I sit - without fail.

So, since I need this lesson more than anyone reading this entry, I am going to use two of my favorite writers to teach us about the art of beautiful carriage!

A Guide to Elegance - Genevieve Antoine Dariaux

"Years ago, every well-bred young girl was given posture lessons, and even today when we send our young daughters to dancing school it is usually in the hope that they will grow up to be graceful young women rather than prima ballerinas.

The models who present a fashion collection adopt a curious kind of extremely unnatural walk and posture, with their shoulders slightly hunched, their tummies hollowed and their hips shoved forward to form a kind of figure S. They glide rather than walk and the entire effect is deliberately striking and artificial. But you can be sure that as soon as these beauties leave the spotlight, they assume a perfectly natural walk and posture.

In normal life, it is always to a woman's advantage to hold herself straight, as if she wished to stretch her height by several inches, even if she is already very tall. A rounded back, sagging shoulders and a drooping chin create an image of extreme lassitude, or discouragement with life... and of being ten years older than you really are.

When a woman is trying on clothes, she almost always holds herself beautifully erect in front of the dressing room mirrors. If afterward she hollows her chest and lets her whole body slump, she should not be surprised to find that her new dress does not look at all as chic as it did when she tried it in the shop."

Better than Beauty: A Guide to Charm - Helen Valentine and Alice Thompson

"When we think of women who stand and walk and sit with distinction, our minds visualize the late eighteen nineties and early nineteen hundreds. They certainly stood up and sat straight, those ironclad, corseted-to-the-chin mothers and grandmothers of ours. But rigid ramrods are out of date. Non of us is going back to that painfully restricted era. Neither have be hours to spend walking with books on our heads, nor the leisure to practice how to sit down gracefully.

Rigidity is not necessary when you are aiming at good posture. It isn't even a good goal. But most of us have at least one ugly and easily changed fault of our carriage.

Are you the toil worn type, the woman who walks with bent shoulders and a drooped middle? Get rid of the mental attitude, tuck in your stomach, and watch your body straighten! Are you the inquiring duck-neck carrying your head about three inches ahead of your body? Back up against a wall and make your head touch the wall, too. Get the feel of this proper position, and check yourself as you pass reflecting windows and mirrors.

Do you toe out in the genteel, outmoded fashion of 1912? make a conscious effort to get those toes straight ahead. Have you the arrogant bustle walk, your hips thrown out behind? Start today, learning to walk as though someone were about to spank you - and watch those hips go back where they came from.

Your walk should be distinguished by it's lack of outstanding qualities. You don't want people to notice your posture, good or bad. You want them to see you. So correct the faults that attract attention and forget the rest.

Much the same rule applies to sitting. No one will wait to watch how gracefully you lower yourself into a chair. No one cares. But if you drop in a manner to frighten the owner of the chair, you will get plenty of attention. And if you insist on sitting either like a disapproving maiden aunt or a licentious Roman diner, people will notice you, too. But it won't be your charm they notice. the most prevalent and the ugliest of all sitting faults is the frog-leg squat- and squat is the only word. You know it. The feet are either together or apart, but the legs are widespread at the knees.

Learn to walk and sit in an apparently effortless, graceful manner. Then you can be sure you will have learned to carry yourself well."

Posture Highlights (1950)

Homework: Practice walking, sitting, and standing as you go about your daily routines.


Mimi said...

Thank you for this wealth of information about posture. This is a good reminder to me to watch the way I sit at home, particularly when I'm at my computer. I learned in physical therapy that it's important to the health of your spine, neck, chest, and back to maintain good posture at the computer. In order to achieve this, you may have to change the way your computer is placed on your desk.

Sherry said...

Oh, I need constant reminders of this! Slouching really adds on the pounds visually, too.

Jen said...

I need to be careful of this too! In high school I was so mindful of my posture but somehow in university I started slouching. It is a bad habit. I find that sitting on a fitness ball while at the computer helps when you are initially trying to break the habit of slouching. You cannot slouch on one of those balls or you will fall right off onto the floor! :) It is very easy on the back as well.

JacquiG said...

Posture is definitely one of my areas of weakness, despite my father's attempts to get me to keep my shoulders back! I catch myself sometimes with the most awful posture and I find that sitting, standing or walking with correct posture seems uncomfortable, but only because I've spent way too many years slouching. Thank you for the reminders in this post. I guess I'll keep working on the principle "If at first you don't succeed ...."!! I'll just keep trying!!

Anonymous said...

~ I attended a series of finishing schools and dancing schools/cotillions as a young girl and the importance of beautiful posture was firmly placed into my habits, but since having my Blessings, I am slipped into the "mother slouch". I will begin today to remedy this unfortunate situation and stand up straight!

~Mrs. J.~

Heather said...

Thanks for sharing this! Posture is something I really need to work on. I will work on it for a while, then realize that I have slipped back in to the habit of poor posture. It is something I have struggled with for years.

Cindi said...

I saw Lady Lydia's comment about your courses and have been visiting. Thank you. These have been wonderful.

Anonymous said...

This is something that I really need to work on! My husband (while on the computer the other day) actually noticed how bad I slouch while sitting:) I am going to try really hard to be more aware of this. What helps motivate me is to remember that it actually makes me look better when I have good posture.


Anonymous said...

I must say that I see many of you saying about the computer and I think that is where I am the worst. While reading this I was doing the "frog legged" thing! I also take dance classes too, but I still have atrocious posture, not as bad as some though. I think the worst part for me is my legs. I always place them weird, and I hate putting my feet on the ground! I always tend to put them on the back of chairs or something. Does anyone know the correct way to have your legs? What is acceptable? Anything besides just straight on the ground? I saw princess diaries and that says that crossing your feet at the ankle is appropriate? I don't know if that is true or not (lol).

Anonymous said...

alicia- yes, ladies cross their legs at the ankle, NOT the knee! actually, crossing your legs at the knee can lead to unsightly veins in your legs, from the pressure. presumably, bending your legs up all wonky could have the same effect. practice sitting wearing a knee-length skirt in front of a mirror. all of these sitting rules come from not wanting to show off your unmentionables at tea :)

Anonymous said...

As I read this post I realized I was both slouching and doing the 'frog leg' at the same time. I think my posture is generally okay, but not great. However when I sit down to the computer my spine seems to melt into a horrible slouch. I am sitting up straight now and it actually feels like it is stretching out the kinks all that slouching no doubtedly put in my back!
I'm enjoying being a part of this course. (I linked here from

Holly in MN

Sharon said...

I'm terrible about slouching when I sit. Thanks for the reminder to watch our posture!

Anonymous said...

I'm actually self-concious to stand up straight... and not because I'm tall, because I'm not. But I am top heavy, and I find when I stand I automatically roll my shoulders forward a little. If I stand up straight and put my shoulders back, I feel like I am throwing my chest out. Should I be concerned about this, or is it just in my own head?

Anonymous said...

As I started to read this entry, I realized I was sitting in a twisted position. I was trained to use proper posture in all activities. I spent many hours in high heels and a book on my head as I walked, knelt, sat, stood, and danced.

My sons take Irish Dance, so I have to remind them of posture. I need to pay more attention while I am sitting. I'm pretty sure that I maintain good posture while standing.

Thank you for the good reminder.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear, I really need to work on this. Ever since I nursed my first child, I have been battling the 'nursing mommy' hunched shoulders look. I tended to slouch over to nurse...since I exclusively nursed my babies, that means I slouched on and off all day long!

When my new baby arrives I need to make a more concerted effort to have good posture while I nurse and use that Boppy! I want to look like a happy, fresh, pretty Mommy. When I slouch I think it instantly makes me look dumpy, tired, sad and frumpy. Not the look I want or image I wish to project!

Anonymous said...

I am really, really enjoying this! and how I appreciate that it is a message relevant to our modern time~the time we have been perfectly placed by God. *THANK YOU!* (((((HUGS))))) sandi

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