In reading any of the books upon my list, each begins with what we all know and have heard many times over. However, in school we often begin with a review of what we already know before we move on to new knowledge. So let's begin at the beginning and work our way from there, shall we?
I am simultaneously using each of the books and websites I listed as I come upon subjects. The information is then cross referenced from one to another and that's how I shall be submitting it to you, rather than doing an individual review of each item. I think we'll have more the atmosphere of lessons in that manner and that is what I wished to do with this subject of learning to be charming and elegant. By the way, if any of you have any recommendations for books that you personally own or websites you especially like, please bring them to my attention so that I might share them. Sarah reminded me of one such site that I'd shared with you all last year: A Lady's Code is an excellent site with good information.
Now let us begin today's lesson.
Every one of my books recommends we begin with the image in our mirror. I love how one author stated it because it is both humorous and too true: "In your lowest moments, when you look in the mirror do you feel like a magazine advertisement for "Before"?" Gracious! That did make me chuckle and wince both at the same time. Yes, I can say honestly that many times I look in the mirror and feel like the 'Before' photo!
So where do we start? At that mirror. A full length mirror is likely best, but you'll also want a mirror that allows you to see your face and hair and other features close up. I am blessed (?) with two full length mirrors above our big garden tub. I add the question mark because you do see yourself clearly revealed in all your glory and shame when you have full length mirrors in the bathroom!
Stand before a mirror, clothed or not as you choose, and look at yourself as you would a stranger. I mean it. Wipe away all those pre-conceived (and too often wrong) assessments you've made of yourself in the past and look objectively at yourself.
How's your posture? Do you slump or stand with shoulders curved forward or thrust unnaturally far back? I know I often tend to slump a bit. I can hear Granny tell me 1000 times more "Stand up straight and don't round your shoulders!" She was quite right. I often see young women who stand in such a way. I'll lay odds that nine times out of ten it's lack of good confidence that causes them to slump as they do.
Why don't you bring a chair in so you can sit before the mirror for a moment? That's a good way to get a good view of whether you are sitting with proper posture. Here too I find I often slump. This is partly due to the fact that I work with my laptop on my lap and I tend to lean forward over the laptop. I really do need to get a tray or work table that will lift up the laptop to a better height...But I digress.
How's your figure? I mean really, how is your figure? Most of us have bulges and bumps and few of us are at the perfect weight but NO figure is completely without merit. Do you have long slender legs? A nice waistline? A good bust? Do you have slender wrists and ankles?
Most of us are perfectly aware of the supposed faults of our body shape but have you looked about at others? I've been a people watcher for years and if you are in a public place you'll soon note how many women have your same body type. We'll address this further in a future lesson, but just be sure that you are no more unique in your shape any more than you are in your height or shoe size or coloration of hair/eyes and skin!
I am fully aware of a few exercises that target my problem areas. Aren't you? I have some areas I need to address and while I can certainly lose weight, and who doesn't need to do so?, I am aware that diet alone won't correct lax muscles. For now, just jot down on a piece of paper what you consider your best features and what you'd like to change and do be realistic, dear. You can't grow the length of your legs physically but there are ways to look taller and just bear that in mind when you note corrections you'd like to make.
Is there a foundation garment you perhaps need? It isn't the day of the girdle anymore thank heavens, but there are foundation garments that can help trim certain areas or lift others and smooth still others.
Now let's do a close up. Use the smaller mirror and your own eyes to determine if your facial features are sharp and angular or rounded. Is your nose long or pert? What is the shape of your eyes and eye brows? How is your mouth? Look at your teeth. Are they white? I don't mean the sort of unnaturally white we see too often these days but are they white? Is your skin clear and fresh looking or is it sallow and prone to breakouts? How does the skin of your throat and ears look and the décolletage of chest? Is the skin there coarse and loose? Really look at yourself and don't just criticize. Freely note those things that are quite nice. Perhaps you are pleased with the shape of your eyes or mouth or you have really nice teeth. Perhaps you've tended well to your skin and it's fresh and nice looking.
May I share here what I found? I find the shape of my mouth rather pleasing, my eyes just a tiny bit too close and droopy at the outer corners. I've worked on my brows for years and the shape is rather pleasing but I must add to the length of them when I do makeup. My teeth are good but slightly crooked. My nose is proportional to my face but I think it's a little large though it is straight.
Access the shape of your face. No matter that you did this years ago and have always known your face shape. Did you know our face changes shape as we grow and age? I used to have an oval face but I'd noticed there had been a change. One author suggested tying a ribbon about the face, going under the chin and up around the top of the head with hair pushed well back. I think one of those stretchy sort of hairbands works just as well. I have often suspicioned of late that my face was square and I was quite right. I have delicate features (a small face). Did you know that your face may be triangle, heart, square, oval, round, heart or diamond shaped? I had no idea! I'd always heard of round and square and oval but no clue the other shapes also existed. That was a new lesson.
Do you wear glasses? Does the shape of your glasses suit your face? I need to go check on that myself. I do know my features are small enough that big round owl glasses do not suit me and simply overwhelm my face. Aviators aren't for me either. I'll definitely be looking at recommended styles for a small square face this afternoon!
Now look at your hair? Is your hair texture straight or curly, coarse or fine? Dull? Shiny? Dry? Oily? Does the color look lustrous and natural or is it fade? I'm finding I'm rather pleased with my hair now that I'm not dyeing it any longer. The color is darker, far more black than I'd realized and the gray highlights that natural dark color. It's striking with the silver I have at my temples.
Do you like the style you currently wear? I still love my pixie type cut but I'm currently looking for ways to style it so that I'm not forever wearing my hair in just one way. I checked sites online to see if a pixie cut suited a square face. Yes, it does. I'd instinctively chosen Anne Hathaway as my personal model for hair last night and today I discovered that she has a square face. That was a bit of instinctive guessing that boosted my confidence in my own assessment of self. One site suggested slightly spiking my hair. That is the way my former stylist did it and it was fun to wear that way. I noted a few of Anne Hathaway's mix-ups with her hair, some of which I liked far better than I did others. I'm trusting my instincts on this one and feel sure I can carry off those variations of hers I chose to save to my file.
In order to determine if your hair cut and style suits your face, put into the search box of your favorite search engine the shape of your face and the style of your hair such as page boy or upsweep, etc. Add any additional information about length of your hair such as whether it's long or short or medium. View several of the resulting search sites. Some are infinitely more helpful than others and some are fairly useless.
Now I shall discuss proper hair care next post but let us continue with this lesson at present.
How does your skin look? Is it smooth and clear? Are you prone to breakouts? Do you see large pores? Do you have fine wrinkles? Do you have a skin care routine? Is it the same routine you've used since you were a teen? It might well be time to do something fresh. I noted after years of using the same products that my skin looked dull and uneven. I had to find new products to use.
How do your nails look? Check both hands and feet. Are they smooth and well shaped? Do you have rough dry cuticles? Do you have calluses? We'll talk about proper hand and foot care later on, too, but for now note any problems you see or anything you find especially pleasing.
We're all done with the mirror now. You can dress and put away your chair and let us look internally at ourselves.
How is your health? Your physical health is a good indicator of how well your nails, skin, hair, teeth and eyes will look. It's what is going on inside our bodies that determines what happens on the surface outside as well as affecting your emotional and mental health. Are you plagued with indigestion? Pain? Are you anxious or nervous? There is almost always something we can do to ease those symptoms besides mere medication. I am not discounting medicines by the way, but I do believe that if addressed organically with diet and exercise and rest, a real difference can be had.
Let's talk about sleep....Do you get enough? Sleep is one of those things we all need for good health.
As teens we were forever hearing about the needed eight hours. That's only just barely right for a teen, did you know that? Children and teens might well require up to twelve hours sleep daily in order to function rightly and be really healthy because they are growing so rapidly. The minimum required is eight hours. As we grow older our need for sleep lessens somewhat. That is because we are no longer actively growing. However, that is not to say we have no need of rest.
Sleep is essential to cell renewal, to recharging the brain and to slowing down organs so they can self heal and repair in order to function properly. At the very least we should have six hours of rest nightly. Even if you do not sleep fully that entire time, to lie quietly in bed, with mind as blank as you can make it and eyes closed, can be refreshing. It's not as beneficial as sleep but it's helpful.
Do you keep regular sleep hours? I'm not asking if you're a morning person or a night person. I'm asking do you routinely retire at a certain hour each night and arise about the same time most days? Do you follow a night time ritual to trigger the part of your brain that brings on sleep? Oh this too shall be another short lesson so we'll move on for now but keep this in mind and make any notes you need to have as a reminder.
How's your diet? Do you 'eat the rainbow' in fruits and vegetables? Do you eat adequate amounts of proteins and fats and fiber rich foods? Do you eat a good variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables? Is your diet balanced or do you lean hard on snack foods? Diet will be a addressed more fully a little later on but suffice it to say now that you truly are what you eat, especially on the outside. Are you drinking enough water? Too much coffee or soda? All of these things work together for or against you. Keep that in mind!
This next is a rather delicate subject, but I must address it because it is part of good health....It's about your bodily functions of elimination. Do you drink enough water? Do you go to the bathroom at regular times? Do you have problems that should be addressed in this area? Elimination is very important. I know present studies say there is absolutely no toxin in body waste but I don't believe it for one minute. I know how I feel physically if my body is not functioning normally and I know how I feel when all is as it ought to be. Chronic problems can prevent the absorption of nutrients and vitamin retention if you go too frequently or cause you to feel quite ill and show up as acne and poor skin quality if you don't go frequently enough.
I will address this only a few moments more and then we're done with it, but I was much amused by one of the books suggestion that we determine what our 'time of day' would be and stick to it. Frankly, I'd never assumed I had that sort of control over my body but now I do wonder. We're taught as children to control the movement of bowels and the urgency to eliminate and perhaps as adults we should be practicing the control to move them at will? It's something to think on for sure.
If you do have chronic issues there are all sorts of remedies to be tried that do work. A doctor's advice is not remiss if you have really chronic issues. Diet will help remedy issues for most but if that fails and other natural remedies do you no good, do see your doctor and take his advice on the matter.
Do you get enough air and sunshine? Do you spend at least ten minutes daily in the sun absorbing all that good Vitamin D3? Did you know that many of today's current ailments stem from the LACK of D3? We were made by our Creator to absorb it from the sunshine and with all the hoopla about using sun screen and processed foods we eat, the loss of basic nutrients in foods that are stored for long term as well as the loss of nutrients in soil no one gets nearly enough D3 anymore. It's vital! A lack of D3 can be traced to heart defects, loss of thyroid function and even has been shown in some studies to contribute to Diabetes! Ten minutes at least once a day is all that is required. Choose a portion of the day when the sun's rays are not so direct and soak up that good sunshine!
Does anyone sleep with a window open anymore? I think in this day and age we're all a bit afraid to do so. I'd love to sleep with a window cracked near my bed but John absolutely puts his foot down about that. He was burgled three times before he moved from his old home state and he practices extreme caution about open windows. Well, it's not just night air that refreshes. Daytime air is just as good. A few minutes outdoors daily getting a few rays of sun is just as good a time to breath in deeply of outdoor air. Airing the house daily for a few minutes cannot hurt either. If you're out driving, roll the windows down just a little and get some air then.
What about exercise? It doesn't have to be strenuous but daily exercise is beneficial. It helps you to breathe more deeply, it pushes the body to perspire which can flush out toxins and it causes endorphins to rise which can elevate your mood. Many recommend gentle stretches at night before bed to relax the body. Just as many suggest that stretches in the morning can encourage blood flow to joints and organs. Do you like to walk? Then walk. If you prefer a more regimented program then make up your own routine, one that targets those areas you hope to correct in your figure.
I personally find the Pilates core movements are easy enough for someone of even limited ability. I plan to incorporate them once more into my daily routine. It just so happens those core movements hit all the spots that trouble me most about my figure and will help correct my posture flaws!
Now let us discuss hygiene. I guess in the day and age in which I grew up indoor plumbing was common place rather than the exception. I am fully aware that running water and indoor baths are still relatively new to many homes even here in the United States. I mean that we've really not had them in every home for a 100 years yet! That said, I always wondered at the need to even mention the need to bathe and shampoo routinely, but then I met a woman who was not aware of basic hygiene principles. She had a home and a decent enough one at that. She simply didn't bathe routinely because she was never taught to do so. It was not uncommon to note a bead of dirt about her neck or to note that her hair needed washing. I could never quite shake that image from my mind after visiting with her on more than one occasion.
We should all bathe on a daily basis. I do realize for some of the young mothers that is a dream with toddler and under aged children but we should all bathe daily. Soap and warm water do more good than you'd imagine. Did you know that perspiration releases certain toxins that remain upon the skin? Body odor is normal but it certainly shouldn't be evident to those about you. Bathing refreshes the skin, as it also removes dead skin cells. Granny was my lesson on water conservation. When the well was in danger or running dry and filling the tub wasn't possible she bathed using a basin of water. I myself employed a basin of water nightly when I was unable to shower for two months at physical rehab hospital due to my injuries. There really is no excuse for going without a bath!
Summary: Standing before a mirror critique and be kind to yourself as well as truthful about what is wrong with your figure, your hair, skin, posture.
Determine the shape of your face. Look at websites to determine if you're making the most of your facial shape with the correct hairstyle and the shape of your glasses.
Diet, fresh air, sunshine and exercise as well as rest affects both your internal health and external appearance of health. Determine how well you meet these daily needs.
A daily bath is necessary for good hygiene and good physical health.