Thursday, July 15, 2010

An Unexposed Expert

First, I'll let you know, after this, I am stepping off the Amy Vanderbilt band wagon (for now) but I wanted get these last thoughts out of my system first.

I promised (or threatened) to share her notions on Brassieres. In Chapter 23 she says:

Brassieres have come a long way since Aunt Nellie was an adolescent and they bound her flat with a straight, tight bra which eventually broke down her muscles and, in her otherwise attractive forties, made her droopy. For unless support of abnormally heavy breasts is actually needed. For problem young people brassieres are not necessary except perhaps for active sports,figures the various types of new brassieres may be carefully fitted with wire, in a dress or a bathing suit, or flat-chested either. Ready-made clothes but never pressing on the soft tissues. No woman need look droopy today, either in a dress or a bathing suit, or flat chested either. Ready made clothes fit better if the bust line is something like the ideal even if this approach to perfection is considerably helped along by uplifts or falsies or both.

Now after perusing Ms Vanderbilt's 1954 tome (the 1974 revised version would not have been that entertaining!) I decided to look into her background which I knew little about. She was a descendant of Cornelius Vanderbilt, so I guess that gave her the credentials to speak for the upper crust. However, she was married and divorced in her early twenties. I find it interesting that she set herself as the "expert" on the etiquette of marriage when she had not much more personal experience with that institution than my Aunt Kat.

Also, she writes chapters on rearing children. Now, unless she experienced parenthood in another lifetime, I don't think anyone who has not dealt with a screaming toddler in a public place, a pre-teen who insists on wearing God awful clothes to family functions, or teenage daughters who think that their bedroom windows are actually escape hatches from the house, has any authority to speak on how to rear children. It is easy to tell everyone how the perfect world should be. If she had been in the trenches, I think her expectations would have been a little more realistic (even in her 1974 version.)

Perhaps Ms Vanderbilt should have stuck to chapters on Social Correspondence, Table Manners, Calling Cards, Weddings, and Managing the Household Staff. That was her bailiwick. Leave the messy stuff to those of us who live in the real world. No wonder my Aunt J'Nelle quoted Ms Vanderbilt, song and verse, since she too was a pompous old maid. I guess their thought was that we should have better control over our children. If they think children are to been seen and not heard. Please send in the staff!!! Nannies, boarding school, and summer camp.

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