Thursday, February 4, 2010

Vintage Thingies Thursday: the book What to Do, When--and Why...

...or the "beauty" book that started it all!

We will be looking at the first etiquette/beauty book that began my collection for Vintage Thingies Thursday today.  When I was a pre-teen, I used to visit the three books below at my local library on a regular basis:

As you can probably tell by the covers, each book is very different from one another.  The theme that connects all three books is the subject of "behaving and looking your best" as a child and in the teen years.  I just couldn't get enough of them, and  I would check them out from the library over and over again.  My mother also had no idea why I was so fascinated by the books, and I couldn't explain it to her at the time.  Luckily, she decided to surprise me one day with my own copy of What to do When -- and Why.  And thus my beauty book collection was born!  (My mother also found a copy of the authors' etiquette book for children, White Gloves and Party Manners, many years later and I now have that in my collection as well).

Today we'll look at What to do When -- and Why, by Marjabelle Young Stewart and Ann Buchwald, published in 1975. Technically, this is an etiquette book and is only secondarily about personal beauty, as it is focused on personal conduct. However, there are five chapters about deportment that cross over into beauty book territory.  The authors discussed finding a becoming hair style, how to dress to flatter your figure, how important it is to monitor the volume of your voice, and how to walk like a fashion model.  I love the lacy and feminine illustrations in this book:

The last chapter, Manners for Boys Only, begins with a lament that "many of the old formalities concerning ladies and gentlemen have either disappeard completely or become easy-going personal choices...but some manners don't change because they're still useful and helpful when girls and boys start going places together."  Well, thifty-five years after the publication of this book I am assured that many of the manners that "haven't changed" are long gone. I find these expectations to be an interesting starting point for discussions about the  the evolution of courtesy and manners in the 21st century.  Here are some excerpts of the things that a well-mannered boy was expected to do in 1975, according to Stewart and Buchwald:

1.  Boys walk on the curb side of the street, whether its with one girl, two, or three.  If a girl stops to talk with a friend on the street, the boy walks on slowly -- the girl will call him back quickly if she knows the person well enough to make an introduction.

2.  Boys let women and girls go first whenever it's physically possible.

3.  Boys open doors for women. 

4.  Boys help women and girls put on their coats.

5.  Boys remove their hats the moment they step into a house, restaurant, an elevator, when the American flag goes by, when the National Anthem is being sung or played, and when standing on the street talking to a girl or woman.  He holds his hat, puts it down or checks it, but doesn't put it back on until he leaves.

6.  A boy always asks his party hostess for a dance during the evening; and at a dinner-dance the two women between whom he sat during dinner.

7.  A boy calls for a girl at her home by ringing the doorbell, entering the house, and greeting some member of the girl's family if only to say, "How do you do?" and shake hands.  Usually the girl's parents will make it clear to the boy when the girl is expected home -- a decision that has probably been discussed before he arrives so there is very little he can do to change it.

8.  A boy lets a girl go ahead of him when they go down the receiving line at a big party or dance.

Dear readers, what do you think about this list of manners for boys in this day and age?  Do you find many of these gestures antiquated and outmoded, or would you support a renaissance of courteous behavior from the opposite sex? 


Excerpts and and illustrations from What to Do When -- and Why by Marjabelle Young Stewart and Ann Buchwald.


  1. LOL! Yes siree... make it clear to the boy when the daughter is expected home!

  2. It's a shame manners seem to have gone out the window. I love the suggestions in the book, it's how I was brought up and the men and boys used to follow them to a T. I say, bring back the manners...

  3. I'll bet my son-in-law knows those "boy manners," but I don't know if he's teaching them to his son, who is now 10. I'll have to ask!

  4. Hello!
    I like to pay a little visit on the bogs of those who have entered my giveaway!
    Your blog is very neat and cute. i've had some trouble with my blog design lately and was wobdering which template you use for this blog?
    I know...this has nothing to do with oWOH, but...
    I don't know how to add categories as you did at the top.I think it is clear and tidy.Like it.
    Reading your post about manners...wish my ex husband had readv it!

  5. Hmmmm.....with a little tweaking it could work. You will get a kick out of my Retro Tuesday post. A 1950's "How to be a good wife". If interested, you can check it out here:

    Totally over the top.

  6. Wonderful book Collette! :)

    I will share some more of Mum's books on my blog in the future...Mum had such a big collection of deportment and grooming and etiquette books and gave most to charities when I was in my early twenties. I didn't mind at the time but now I wish she had kept them all.

  7. I don't think that they have totally gone out of style - being polite and helpful is always in style. Some men of a certain age, that is a little older than I am, are still mad about "women's lib" and seem to take a certain glee in not being helpful. I'll open the door for anyone who needs help or if its just more convenient for me to do it, no matter what sex or age the other person is, and I think that should be the rule now. I've noticed that young men tend to be helpful and polite, but maybe that's because I'm their mother/grandmother's age.
    When we had foster boys we tried to teach them to take off their hats inside for example, but its hard to convince them its the right thing to do when you are in an auditorium full of boys and men wearing hats.
    But anyway, a fun and thought provoking VTT post. I didnt look earlier cuz I didn't participate last week in VTT!

  8. Things I love about my husband (among many others): He always walks on the outside of the street or sidewalk. It's supposed to be a good safety thing, and even if it makes no sense now (no runaway carriages, lol!) is nice manners. He always carries a handkerchief. This is especially handy now that we have children who have noses to blow or hands to wipe, but I like it, too. We will absolutely let our daughter's dates know what time she is expected back and in what condition (the same she left the house in thank you...) when she is of datable age... which is arriving WAY too fast....


I love to read your comments! Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me.

If you have a question for me or would like a personal response, be sure to allow email replies in your Blogger profile or just leave your email address in your comment.

Have a great day!