Remember when a glimpse of stocking top was enough to turn a man’s head? When pretty, slim women wore girdles or even corsets to allow their clothes to hang well? When gentlemen stood up when a lady entered the room and remained standing until she gave them permission to sit? Where full skirts or pencil skirts defined and proscribed a woman’s movements and what she might reasonably do by way of work? Where staying at home was expected and luxurious?
Keeping a lady’s seams straight and lacing her into her custom corsets was, of course, her maid’s work. Her husband was the delighted beneficiary of the maid’s work and his wife’s severe beauty, yet, tender beauty. Cocktails at five, dinner at 6:30. Pretty girlfriends, beautifully dressed for lunch and perhaps a glass of not too cold Chablis on the terrace.
It is, of course, a lost age. Rather than wax elegiacally, the Lady of the House and I decided some time ago to see how much could be recreated. It helped that Hannah collects retro – everything from those seamed stockings to the foundations and the dresses and skirts which are both so alluring and so lady like. Even her more modern clothes are classically inspired. Bags, shoes, jewelery: all carry the unmistakable sense of a fashion forward woman of the early 1950s. The muted eroticism of a well made skirt, shaped to enhance a tiny waist and flared to embrace gloriously feminine curves with just a hint of fully fashioned, fully fitted, seamed stocking on well turned calves causes quite a stir amidst the jeans and Lululemon pants at the market. Perhaps a hat, or three quarter length black leather gloves.
To achieve this the Lady of the House needs a maid and we don’t have one…yet. So a man in my position takes care of Hanah’s clothes, hand washes her pretty lingerie and irons her stockings. It might take half an hour a day but it gives Hannah the bit of time she needs to make up and do her hair. Sometimes she has me paint her nails.
While my maid’s duties are essential, just as essential are the courtesies and consideration the Lady of the House commands and deserves. These are no more than the manners of a slightly different age would have required. Her precedence through held doors, waiting for her to take her seat as I hold it. Serving her cocktails.
It is a slow return to the elegant and the recovery of the feminine. We are just getting started.