There is something so satisfying about seeing powerful, stylish women kick butt in both the public and private spheres. You know…those women who walk with their heads held high, toting around a level of grace and sophistication that seems to set them apart from everyone else… They may not always be the most famous people, they could be your teacher or a relative, but the way they carry themselves never fails to leave a lasting impression on you. Something about them seems so classic. Everything they do makes them come off as self-disciplined and charming in a way that feels long-lost. What is it exactly that gives those women that extra umph?
More often than not, it is because they’ve got good etiquette.
Certain things that used to be more commonplace have kinda…fallen out of style. Many people don’t care much for posh proper manners, believing them to be arbitrary old-school rules that have no place in our increasingly informal world, but lemme tell ya: Etiquette is and will always be relevant.
Graciousness ﹘ the ability to act or speak properly in social situations ﹘ is thought so highly of that it has become a bit of a high-priced commodity for a certain class of professional women signing up for special etiquette schools in hopes of elevating themselves to new heights.
Around the world, women are taking part in courses that teach them deportment, social graces, and the art of diplomatic courtesy needed to keep kickin’ ass on a larger, international scale.
It’s likely that many of our favorite female business professionals (Amal Clooney <3), diplomats, princesses, and first ladies have all participated in some form of soft-skill training. Deportment, table manners, and diplomatic courtesy are common lessons offered, but did you know that there are even etiquette rules surrounding your handbag?
After finding this out, I decided to poke around the internet for the most common rules of professional purse protocol:
I mentioned in my last post that having good posture is the most elegant accessory of all. It helps you breathe better, makes you look slimmer and taller, and shows that you are a confident secure person who’s got it all under control. When it comes to carrying shoulder bags, formal rules demand that you grasp the center of the front strap while you are in motion. This is to keep your purse firmly in place instead of letting it swing around and signal to the world that you are in a rush.
Watch Your Back
Anyone who has been in a store during a Black Friday sale knows the displeasure of being hit with someone’s overstuffed tote. Of course, we brush it off because accidents happen, but it’s something that should definitely be avoided if possible. Handbag etiquette requires that bags be kept close to the body, especially large totes, as to not break into someone’s bubble. Infringing upon another’s personal space makes them uneasy and is in direct opposition to the purpose of common courtesy (to make others feel comfortable.)
Your purse is an extension of you so be mindful of others when carrying large tote bags. Keep it tucked squarely under your arm or hold it low whenever tight spaces are inevitable (crowds, airplane boarding line, etc.,) as to not crash into others and help lower your risk of being pickpocketed.
Prepare for Pleasantries
Take a lesson from her majesty, Queen Elizabeth, and hold your handle bags in your left hand/arm. This will leave your dominant hand free for handshakes, waves, and signature signing. Doing this keeps your bag from feeling too cumbersome and slowing you down during quick interactions. (I guess the opposite is true if you’re left-handed, but to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure because I didn’t see anything about it when researching for this post!)
Clean Up Your Act
NEVER place your clutch purse in your underarm. While tempting if you are approached for a handshake while also holding a glass of wine, it is still considered less-than hygienic to do so. Especially if it’s a warm day.
The line of thought is that your same clutch purse will probably go back into your hand or be set down at some point and you don’t want to transfer germs. Both the French Academie De Bernadac and British/American Beaumont Etiquette, suggest that you hold a clutch in front of you with both hands with your fingers facing downwards or in one hand by your side. It’s called a clutch for a reason. Clutch it in your hands.
All Dressed Up with Nowhere to Go
This is probably a big DUH, but your handbag is supposed to match the dress code of an event. Satchels and bags made of raffia aren’t ideal formal wear just as overly embellished bags shouldn’t be your go-to choice for professional work environments (but more power to you if you do it!)
When heading out for an evening dinner engagement you should place your bag on an empty chair instead of on the floor, tabletop, or the back of a chair where it can obstruct the server’s path. You can also buy a snazzy purse hook to hang your bag off the edge of the table or place it behind you in your chair when an extra one isn’t available.
Etiquette coaches encourage ladies to use their purses to protect their modesty. It isn’t meant to be taken in that restrictive puritanical kind of way but has more to do with preventing wardrobe malfunctions.
Princess Diana liked to use her clutch to cover her décolletage when stepping out of cars, while the current Queen Letizia of Spain likes to place her bag on her lap to cover the little gap that forms when sitting in a dress. You can also set it in front of an exposed thigh to divert wandering eyes if your short skirt rides up.
All in all, finding these tips made me realize that many of us could probably stand to remember a few of these rules (I will definitely be more mindful of how I carry a clutch.) And even though most of them seem like common sense, I’m sure we would be surprised by how often we might actually be breaking them without noticing. Hopefully, putting these into practice can help us feel a bit more confident in tricky social situations and a little more sophisticated in our own personal presentation.