We are staying with some lovely friends in France at the moment where I have come across a brilliant, and indispensable, book. It is called In Search of Charm and was written by a lady called Mary Young in 1962.
We are told in the blurb that Mary is the “Principal of the Mary Young Model School and Agency in London and the organizer and chief instructress of courses on poise, dress and personality”. It goes on to say that in her book, Mary “shows how to set about becoming that charming young woman you would like to be”.
My girls and I looked through it and were horrified to find that we have spent our entire lives walking into a room THE WRONG WAY. I quote: “The secret of a good entrance is to come in without commotion, closing the door behind you with both arms behind you so that you are looking into the room. The picture is even more attractive if you slide yourself into the middle of the door so that you are ‘framed’ as it were.”
We have now spent hours perfecting the entrance, as Olivia demonstrates, Mary would be proud of us. We’re still working on the exit.IMG_1850
Another top tip from Mary is how to walk up stairs. “Young woman, you should go up those stairs like a bird in flight, lightly, daintily, with feet dead straight and treading on the ball of the foot only.” Easy peasy unless you’re carrying armfuls of laundry or firewood.
Mary covers many more topics, such as hands and feet. “Did you know,” she writes, “that neglected hands can undermine your confidence?” And “Do you know that your feet should be scrubbed with soap and water and rinsed in cold water every morning and every night, and in fact as often as is convenient?”
Other subjects include personality, voice and laughter, etiquette, and even how to maintain a perfectly charming figure through her “three-fold attack” which is essential reading. First point is to “use the body in all its normal everyday activities beautifully and correctly. Second is “eat to live” and NOT the other way round. Third is “exercising, but in particular becoming an enthusiastic walker, and breathing deeply and rhythmically”.
Obviously a lot of the advice Mary gives (especially pertaining to the length of gloves we should all be wearing) is outdated. But I thought it was a fascinating insight into just how much you can do yourself to create a good impression. As Coco Chanel said “There are no ugly women, just lazy women.” And although Mary (and Coco) belong to a different era, I don’t think it does young ladies like my girls any harm at all to read about the importance of posture, manners and clean nails. I’m not sure why these things are no longer viewed as important, but they don’t seem to be. And actually they really can make a difference. I thought one of her best lines was the following: “Do you realise that in the sum total of your appearance one wrong or uncared for item can ruin the whole?” Now where did I put my gloves…?