Why Do Pearls, Nail Polish, And Loafers Provoke Such A Strong Response?


Macro, Pearls

In a conversation with my sister, the other day, the two of us noticed that Privilege posts on pearls, nail polish, and loafers have provoked the most emotional responses of all. Why? Why would accessories, and those on the periphery at that, provoke strong feelings?

I have a theory. These are markers of the feminine. Think about it.

  • Pearls means ladylike. They are strong signifiers of a certain cultural construct, which, whether you subscribe to it or not, most likely you recognize.
  • Nail polish decorate the fingers of women. Those men who indulge in manicures get buffed, not polished. (Unless you are a rock star or an artist. And since I know very little about either rock stars or artists, little of what I say will ever apply to their worlds.)
  • Loafers signify, which surprised me but no matter, the distinctly un-feminine. Flat heels, rounded toes.

If Privilege posts are any indicator at all, style begins to transcend aesthetics when it mucks around with markers of the ‘feminine.’ And we haven’t really touched on markers of the ‘female’ at all.

Oh gosh.

I come from a culture that does not, um, exalt the feminine, and has been, for the most part, embarrassed by the overtly female. High WASPs – especially the Northern and Western coastal species – worship Katherine Hepburn and Eleanor Roosevelt. So what, you might ask? For better and for worse, that culture established many of the codes of conduct underpinning power in this country. The ‘male” and the ‘masculine’ are almost synonymous, and both constructs line up with American ideas about power quite well. ‘Female’ and ‘feminine’ diverge – and both conflict, in some way or another, with that same ‘power.’ Not surprising that feelings run high when ‘feminine’ and ‘power’ face off.

That’s OK. I love your comments. I enjoy nothing more than the diversity of viewpoints here, political, aesthetic, personal. You all have allowed me to unify the divergent parts of my self and my history and I thank you. But I do want to make one point.

I didn’t mind giving up a lot of ‘feminine’ at work, which is probably why the outcry against loafers surprised me. With no particular attachment to the ladylike, I prefer my pearls brutal and my fingernails bare, to signify a certain intellectual and non-nonsense approach.

But giving up the ‘female,’ that’s another question altogether. I’ll concede on the haircut, but I’ll fight for your right to to be female, however you choose to explore it. Whether that means expressing milk in the office bathroom for your baby, taking parental leave, or marrying your wife. Some constructs serve a primarily social function. ‘Feminine’ is culturally determined. ‘Female,”‘however, crosses geographical, economic, and social boundaries, and should not be compromised.

I hope we all support the convergence of ‘feminine,’ and ‘female,” with power. Political leanings aside. The pearls will follow our lead.

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45 Comments

  • 01/18/11
    8:47 am

    Reply

    Paula said...

    Good topic you bring up here! Last friday, at my company’s annual party, I wore a single-strand pearl necklace for the first time EVER. You remember, the pale pink one I asked you about some time ago. Having heard various hefty reactions I must disagree with you today.
    Following the reactions, …
    … Pearls mean adult: People who have known me for several years were struck by my adult appearance. … Pearls mean revolution: A man who knows me quite well (we meet in design shops and share the passion for Japanese (fashion)design) said with conviction: these Pearls mean revolution.
    My resume: Pearls mean A LOT! To others and to the one wearing them.
    Isn’t it great, how a simple single strand necklace can change a whole evening … to the better! Being a follower of your blog for some time, to ME Pearls mean: feminine. Which is nothing less than an adult girlie. xxx Paula
    PS: must have been a nice conversation your sister and you had the other day. :-)

  • 01/18/11
    8:52 am

    Reply

    Tabitha said...

    Yes I blame Presbyterianism and John Knox for calling us “that monstrous regiment” Historically, here in Scotland, the femininity of our European sisters was forbidden to us. “WASP” women are as mesmerised by French and Italian glamourous women as men.

    I love the distinctions between female and feminine – they are almost opposing words.

  • 01/18/11
    8:59 am

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    DocP said...

    Is this a generational issue? Women our age (ahem. . .) were advised to avoid the identifiably feminine to succeed in male dominated fields. For those where that also resonated cultrually, it was really a no brainer. There weren’t many role models and we were breaking new ground. I seem to be hearing that younger women and perhaps men don’t automatically dismiss obviously feminine women as not serious about work. Of course, an older generation of managers still might.

  • 01/18/11
    9:03 am

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    quintessence said...

    Very interesting thought and distinction. I lean a tad more towards the feminine but still firmly rooted in the new England WASP tradition. I was also in an industry where feminine and successful were not necessarily mutually exclusive. I also firmly believe that intellectual pursuits and a strong interest in fashion (including nail polish) can be enjoyed simultaneously!

  • 01/18/11
    9:30 am

    Reply

    Julia said...

    You know, I think of you whenever I choose a polish anything other than pale pink. Not that I want to change your mind – I like the way you stated your opinion in an inoffensive way, while making it known that yours is a common perspective in certain groups. Good information to have.

  • 01/18/11
    9:37 am

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    Stephanie said...

    I think so much of this has to do with each person’s upbringing, and their work, or not working, as the case may be. As always, delicious food for thought here.

  • 01/18/11
    9:42 am

    Reply

    deja pseu said...

    Fascinating post!

    I can really relate to what you said about a culture that “does not exalt the feminine.” We were taught to exalt the more “male” traits of rationality, practicality, stoicism. Display of “excess” emotion, especially, was viewed with the same shock and dismay as taking a crap on the living room rug. (I was often admonished not to be “dramatic.”) Women were Ladies, and nail polish was considered a marker of a lower class type. (I don’t endorse these attitudes, just describe.) While I’ve actioned some nail polish from time to time, I’ve never been comfortable in over-the-top feminine clothing. Or at best, I like to mix feminine and masculine elements in an ensemble. But as the song goes, “I enjoy being a girl.”

    Every culture seems to have their own ideas of feminine markers, and is wary-to-hostile of those who transgress.

  • 01/18/11
    10:02 am

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    cosmic said...

    I think, like a lot of subconscious things, the influence of our mothers really comes into play here. I have completely different taste in clothes, etc. than my mother, and yet her edicts on what is tacky and what isn’t are sacrosanct. As a rebellious youth, I really kicked against the barn doors of her personal taste, but now ironically I find that my own personal style edicts are even more restrictive than hers.

    Nonetheless, her jewellry is understated (small pearls, small diamonds, the occasional opal), she never wears nail varnish, and her shoes are utterly comfortable and lamentable. As much as my inner teenager wants to deny her influence upon what is ladylike and what isn’t in my world, all credit is due.

  • 01/18/11
    11:05 am

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    Marge Hess said...

    I have the same sense of sifting through layers of me when I explore your posts.
    When I was very young and asked my mother why she did not paint her nails, my mother would say, “That’s not for us.” That was it, not putting this choice any better or worse than anyone else’s- indeed, we were friends with some of these families- just “not for us.” I absorbed this, and actually, on me, I still think bare well-taken care of nails are better than anything I can paint them with.

  • 01/18/11
    11:05 am

    Reply

    the gardeners cottage said...

    hi lisa,

    i missed the posts about loafers. i’ll have to go back and find them. i personally think it’s possible to wear pearls and loafers or oxfords and be quite feminine. that is who i am.

    xo
    janet

  • 01/18/11
    11:13 am

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    Jan said...

    When I saw the title of this post, I thought, “I have no idea, but I bet Lisa will tell me.” And you did! I don’t polish my nails (although I do keep them neat), don’t wear pearls and I like loafers. I guess I’m not all that feminine.

  • 01/18/11
    11:26 am

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    Susan said...

    My earlier comments about loafers were entirely personal–not meant to indicate judgement or disapproval. I think they do have a place in feminine style, but I never pictured them going out for dinner in the evening.

    I also understand the difference between feminine and female. For me, while related, the two words have very different meanings.

    I think many of us who have not worked in the corporate world, but perhaps in other sectors, never felt the need to give up the feminine to be acknowledged as capable.

    I didn’t wear nail polish until my 40s (except for the day I married). Now, I don’t wear it all the time, but like it when I do.

  • 01/18/11
    11:54 am

    Reply

    Someone said...

    Discussions about gender exhaust me, because I’ve never fit in…I’ve always been exasperated that the so-called masculine traits listed by Pseu, for instance, were jealously guarded by men, because those traits are MINE TOO. And the world absolutely fails to see that women like me are thus proof that women exist WHO ARE LIKE THIS. Don’t tell me I’m “masculine” for f’s sake…instead, recognize that women have these traits as well! But people are more interested in enforcing stereotypes and seeing what they want to see than in seeing what is actually there.

    I grew up to have a pinup/bombshell figure, so no matter what I put on, I’m going to be obviously female. I tend to avoid very “feminine” frills but do have fun with makeup and nail color (almost NEVER pink or red). I have not been interested in pearls until recently, not so much because they are seen as “feminine” but because they used to be “conservative” as well. Now that there are so many more fun colors and shapes at low prices, I can enjoy them more. (I also feel similarly about white diamonds. They’re…well…kinda boring… :)

  • 01/18/11
    11:56 am

    Reply

    hostessofthehumblebungalow said...

    My mother could not condone red nail varnish…
    I was reprimanded for wearing it, she felt that only brazen hussies and tarts wore red…she came from a background that judged people on their appearance before their demeanor.
    Young ladies wore their nails short buffed and bare…her vision of feminine.
    She also introduced me to pearls and shod me in penny loafers…both of which I own and wear today…and not for any reason other than they make me happy…
    The most influencial female figurehead in my youth has had a lasting effect wouldn’t you agree?

  • 01/18/11
    12:50 pm

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    miss sophie said...

    i think there’s so much fun to be had with traditional markers like pearls or loafers or whatever. witness the punk-meets-pearls-and-chains jewelry that are stocked in hip downtown boutiques. my jcrew chunky necklace is an example of that, but i also love to wear my simple pearl stud earrings all the time because they add that extra and make me feel ‘dressed’ before i leave the house. or louboutin’s studded loafers. i think the freedom and fun comes from experimenting and mixing together elements to concoct your own version of style, no? :)

  • 01/18/11
    1:36 pm

    Reply

    QueenBeeSwain said...

    you hit the nail on the head- pearls above all else- MoMo does pearls and loafers but not polish (on fingers, that is… does it on toes)- she chalks it up to being too avid of a gardener/golfer/teacher to be able to have meticulously mani’d hands- and if there is a sin you don’t want to commit in her eyes, it’s polished fingies with polish chipping away….

    I’ve got to say, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree- I also chalk it up to playing the violin growing up (no time for superfluous fingernails), lots of golf and being constantly in a boat- a life that just doesn’t wear easily on decorous nails. that said, I do rock my pearls in the boat and even have a lucky racing set that I wear :)

    xoox

    kHm

  • 01/18/11
    4:11 pm

    Reply

    The Devoted Classicist said...

    When I was at university in the 70s, there was one woman who dressed for class. Not so rare for the campus as a whole, but in architecture school, she was a real standout in those shaggy blue jeans days. She had style and could pull off casual chic; pearls, nail polish, and loafers never looked better.

  • 01/18/11
    4:38 pm

    Reply

    miss sophie said...

    lisa, by the way this reminded me of a post i did earlier last summer. just goes to show that pearls can still surprise us in more ways than we think :)

    http://lesantimodernes.blogspot.com/2010/07/not-your-mothers-pearls.html

  • 01/18/11
    4:54 pm

    Reply

    Princess Freckles said...

    The nail polish debate always “gets” me. I find manicured nails to be more professional not less. Perhaps this is because I have mine manicured short, and use a light pink polish, or a pale beige. Sometimes I venture out of that mold, but typically, I stick to neutrals. I think manicured hands are a part of being well groomed, like having a regular trim, eye brow wax, and shining my leather shoes. Nothing looks worse to me than chipped nail polish, or ungroomed hands. It’s not “feminine” to ne well groomed, it’s polite.

    As far as loafers go, I don’t see the big deal….wear them if you like them, or don’t. Painfully high heels don’t strike me as very professional, so I typically wear a lower heels, ballet flats, or loafers.

    I should add that I work in a library with almost all women. I feel that I’m judged on the job I do, and my professionalism with the public. I think being well dressed, and well groomed is an asset, but then again, I don’t answer to, and am not “judged” by men…;)

  • 01/18/11
    5:23 pm

    Reply

    Loretta said...

    I don’t wear pearls to work because I am one of the “older” (50+) attorneys and nothing makes me feel old and matronly than wearing a string of pearls. I’ve never worn nail polish other than to an occasional event. I paint and garden and sew and it always chipped, but really, having grown up in the 70’s and entering the work force in the early 80’s, I never even considered wearing nail polish (nothing looks more garish to me than a French manicure). But lately I have felt the pressure and have realized that I am the only woman in the office without polished nails. My first manicure/pedicure was given to me by my daughter for Mother’s Day a few years ago. My baby sister (50), in grad school, said nothing makes you look like the older generation than 1)no nail polish and 2) no cell phone in your hand.

    Quite an interesting discussion.

  • 01/18/11
    6:41 pm

    Reply

    Terri said...

    Pearls=Barbara Bush
    Fingernails=leisure>work with the mind and/or hands
    Loafers=comfort & polish

    Now, what does shaving one’s legs equal?

  • 01/18/11
    8:07 pm

    Reply

    La Belette Rouge said...

    I wear pearls, loafers and I polish my nails. No one ever reacted to those three things. Okay, not true. Sometimes I get grief for the pearls. I don’t care. I LOVE them. I will wear them forever. I might even be buried in them. I have to say that I feel sort of rebellious in pearls. Who would have thought that pearls could be an act of rebellion?;-)

  • 01/18/11
    11:12 pm

    Reply

    AN said...

    LPC – I love reading your blog; first time commenter here. Really like the female/feminine distinction – funny why it’s ok to be one but we need to miraculously appear to shed the other in certain settings (work, anyone?). It’s a bit different in Asia where I live though, women are unashamedly female AND feminine in every setting – even the workplace. Wearing things that their western sisters would frown upon.

    Love pearls, live in loafers on the weekend but stopped using nail polish years ago (I paint my toes though). Not sure what that makes me….

    PS – The title made me smile…thinking of “Pearls, Girls & Monty Bodkin” by PG Wodehouse!

  • 01/19/11
    2:13 am

    Reply

    Mise said...

    I guess such things as pearls, loafers and nail polish are charms on the mental charm bracelets by which we define ourselves, and discussions of their place and their worth are therefore also discussions about our identity. The feminine/female distinction you make is very useful in differentiating between the core and the image.

    I spent much of my working life in academia, which was a boon in that there was no dress-code, implicit or explicit, but also a let-down in that there was therefore no opportunity for subversion, and a little subversion always brightens the day.

    (Thank you, I’d absolutely love to do a guest post for you, and will do so one day when my sensibilities are correctly aligned!)

  • 01/19/11
    6:14 am

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    Duchesse said...

    Pearls are “ladylike” in the white, round variety, which is the sort beloved by traditionally-oriented WASP women. Pretty- but there are so many other marvelous varieties!

    WASP women have received the instruction: to be overtly sensual (and therefore inevitably-gasp- sexual) is in poor taste. Some have cast off this cultural programming to embrace red nail polish and balconette bras. When they blend reserve and sensuality, a reserved facade with glimpses of va-voom beneath, they are absolutely incomparable.

  • 01/19/11
    8:52 am

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    Paula – I can imagine that for the avant-garde, pearls do mean revolution. And I am curious as to just how pearls, above all other gems, took on this significance.

    Tabitha – My family heritage is Scottish. I had never heard this quote. Dreadful. And I too find female and feminine to have almost opposite meanings.

    DocP – Ahem. I certainly hope it’s generational. I wish that feminine and female would conflate.

    quintessence – I wonder, now, what it must be like to work in an industry where feminine or female-obvious women are supported.

    Julia – I am glad you think of me. Even when you do the opposite:). If I did everything everyone I liked told me I’d have to join the circus to juggle it all.

  • 01/19/11
    8:58 am

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    Stephanie – Oh yes, I couldn’t agree more, and thank you for the kind words.

    Deja – I’m with you in the describing but not endorsing, even the attitudes I myself hold:). My mother called me Sarah Bernhardt, because I was in fact dramatic. And to this day I am self-conscious about cleavage.

    cosmic – Barn doors. I like that image. Tacky is a very persistent idea. But at least it’s gender-neutral, whereas ladylike is so specific.

    Janet – Perhaps you could write us a treatise. I agree, you do and you are.

    Jan – Ha! On the other hand, you cook like an angel – what is more female, at base, than feeding one’s family?

  • 01/19/11
    9:07 am

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    Susan – I understand. And I welcome all your comments, even any that might judge or disapprove of me. As long as the tone is not brutal, of course:). Don’t you ever wonder, why is it that male and masculine have such similar meanings, and female and feminine do not?

    Someone – Oh that’s exactly how I felt as a young woman. When one is full of energy, aggressive, outspoken, ambitious, at least in my day that meant often being scolded for a certain lack of ‘femininity.’ And yet I was always quite certain that I was female. Just as I might not want to be ‘ladylike’ and yet would hope always to act like a lady. As for pearls, as Duchesse at Passage des Perles will always point out, there are many sorts these days that are anything but conservative.

    hostess – Do you feel you have had a similar effect on your daughter?

    miss sophie – Yes. Definitively yes. The oxymoron of rebellious tradition is great for fashion.

    QBS – Sturdy Gals forever! Whether we’re in our gardens or our boats. I love the idea of lucky pearls for racing. Maybe you’ll do a guest post for me here?

  • 01/19/11
    9:18 am

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    The Devoted Classicist – Don’t you wonder what has become of her? What she wears now? Is she practicing?

    miss sophie – Yes. This post may be how I found you.

    Princess Freckles – Thanks for your thoughts. I believe that in the South, what you say may be true about nail polish. And I’m very clear that this is my own bias about what I perceive as class markers, as much as experience from my corporate career.

    Loretta – Thank you. I’m still fascinated by all this. I have the cellphone handled. But I type too hard to keep polish on my fingers, even if I wanted it. Here’s my question. Why are WOMEN supposed to decorate themselves in such a way that makes it look like they never do any hard work with their hands. Why? What is the societal force that applies to us and not to men?

    Terri – I like your equations:). Don’t even get me started on hair removal. I come from California in the 70s, remember? And New Englanders besides.

  • 01/19/11
    9:26 am

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    La Belette – Pearls as rebellion. You are uniquely situated to decode that one:).

    AN – Thank you very much. I am so happy you decided to speak up:). I have spent some time in both India and China, and was always so aware of the vast difference in culture that I never even tried to analyze or understand the feminine, the female, or what to wear. I tried to be the polite, respectful, white person, who would make mistakes but never from lack of trying. Oh, and I paint my toes too:). It makes me happy…

    Wodehouse. I read every single book, years ago. Maybe a reread is in order.

    Mise – This is absolutely, in my mind, a discussion about identity. And a plea society build the proverbial large tent under which we can all build as suits us. Subversion and all, where, paradoxically, everything is out in the open. Feel free to write that post even unaligned. I’d be very curious to see what you think about my posts on home and houses.

    Duchesse – Gasp. Thank you for showing us all the other ways of pearls. And what a wonderful word, incomparable. Best ever.

  • 01/19/11
    10:58 am

    Reply

    Patricia said...

    Pearls are my signature accessory. I just recently started wearing two heirloom pearl broaches, one from my MIL and one from a dear cousin’s widow.

    As a young girl, I was the ultimate picture of femininity. As a teen in the 60s, I turned more toward dressing as was en vogue. As a single parent in the 70s-80s legal work force understated power was called for, although I expressed my femininity with heels.

    The past six or so years, now in my late (very hard to believe) 50s, I’ve reclaimed my ultra-feminine self (always having been female).

  • 01/19/11
    12:45 pm

    Reply

    Someone said...

    “Why are WOMEN supposed to decorate themselves in such a way that makes it look like they never do any hard work with their hands. Why? What is the societal force that applies to us and not to men?”

    I will venture to answer this.

    It is because our society considers women to be objects that exist to confer status on men. Our value is that of consumer products, persistently valued for our appearance and little else. Thus we are expected to be constantly reconditioned according to current taste in sex objects, or be traded in for an upgrade. And men require women who exude the message “This man is successful. His trophy does not have to work in the fields. See?” It’s about THEM, not us:

    Women are still not recognized as sovereign subjects of our own lives and stories. As a young woman I had great hopes that we would be at some point, even in my lifetime! The forces against this ever occurring are legion, because men are too invested in keeping us the way they want to view us, and women are too willing to take these table scraps because we are brought up to doubt our personal value every moment of our lives, deliberately.

    Unvarnished opinion (oops – pardon the pun), but I stand by it.

  • 01/19/11
    1:23 pm

    Reply

    rb said...

    My sister is sporty and has always been so. I am girly and have always been so – that kid who would wear nothing but pretty dresses has become a woman who only wears skirts. My sister loves loafers. I like ballet flats, but prefer heels. (Chunky ones, though, not tarty shoes.) She never wears nail polish and tries not to bite her nails. I don’t often wear nail polish, but at a holiday party I love to have short red nails. My sister likes David Yurman jewelry. I love pearls and lots of them (not dainty strands.) Beyond those differences, we are both mothers and wives and fairly successful in the corporate world. I am 46. I am grateful that those who are a decade ahead of me made it possible to be both feminine and taken seriously in corporate America.

  • 01/20/11
    5:09 pm

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    The Preppy Princess said...

    You reference several of my favorite Privilege posts, especially the loafers! Having recently returned from a venue at which I wore pearls (neck, ears and bracelet) and polish (almost clear), I can concur with the sentiment about the more feminine connotation. In my former life it was almost mandatory in order to look properly accessorized, whether on-air or in management, but that was a more “theatrical” industry, not one of the standard, conservative professions we were raised around.

    The comments on these posts really are stellar, some requiring a second and third reading. Mental candy IMHO, and thank you for making it thus.
    tp

  • 01/20/11
    7:47 pm

    Reply

    Marsha Calhoun said...

    Loafers – flat heels, rounded toes, therefore unfeminine? Really? And ballerines are . . . ?

    I address this because I feel strongly that pointed shoes that distort the female foot are neither necessarily feminine nor masculine – in some sad eras, men also fall to this folly. I do wish that we could be both feminine and not unhealthily distorted, and I rather wish that women who cheerfully harm their feet in youth could wake up earlier (unlike me) to the fact that painful feet are not the price of femininity.

  • 01/20/11
    10:16 pm

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    GBBB said...

    I’m not a San Franciscan, I’m a native Angelena. I know that there are segments of San Francisco that are downright Brahmin. But down here, you go to any wedding, anywhere in the greater SoCal area and there will be black on at least 1/3 to 1/2 of the women.

    I say go LBD with fab jewelry. You won’t be alone. If you feel weird about it, you could always talk to the bride beforehand. If she freaks, you can do the Prada or you can even find something else. You still have plenty of time.

    But I’m curious, WWAGDD? What would a Grande Dame do? And perhaps it is the same question, I’m not sure, but what would your mother do?

  • 01/20/11
    10:18 pm

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    GBBB said...

    Oh darn it, I commented on the wrong post. I’m so sorry. I blame it on my terrible cold. Please, please feel free to move this to the right spot and delete this!

  • 01/23/11
    4:53 am

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    Miss Plumcake said...

    What I find funny is the difference between trying and not trying the Northern/Western WASP and those of us who landed in Virginia in 1612 and had the decency to stay put.

    A Southern Lady of Breeding (no acronym, please) grows up wearing pearls the way Parisiennes grow up wearing their foulards, it is an organic symbiotic relationship. As for nail polish? While certain looks –traditionally vamp reds for day, now the true scorn is more for those oh-so “classy” French tips– are considered vulgar, I don’t know of anyone who would get truly wound up about it.

    But a rich woman in loafers symbolize everything that is wrong with the Yankee WASP.

    Loafers mean you aren’t trying, and while in the North there may be nothing so loathsome than looking like you’re trying, in Southern WASP culture there are few things as *rude* as appearing to not make an effort.

    A Southern lady who leaves the house for a regular day looking anything less than perfectly polished is effectively saying to everyone around her “you are my social inferior and as such aren’t worth the energy it takes to put my best face forward. My comfort is worth more than YOUR self-worth.”

    I was never allowed to wear deck shoes if I wasn’t sailing but didn’t know why until my grandmother pointed out that no matter what my mouth was saying, my feet were screaming “I have a yacht and you don’t.”

    Overdoing it? Perhaps, and as someone who works in fashion you will pry the vintage white Gucci loafers off my cold, dead Grande Dame feet, but I would still never leave the house without having them shining like new, my outfit just so and my lipstick on right even if I’m going to see anyone more “important” than the kid who bags my groceries. I wouldn’t want to be rude.

  • 01/23/11
    10:20 am

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    Lisa said...

    Patricia – If you feel happy in the ultra-feminine, more power to you:). I am so happy to hear you’ve reclaimed that. To say nothing of the pleasure to be found in heirloom jewelry, of course:).

    Someone – Sadly, I feel you are probably correct. I only wonder, is it men alone who are invested in this state of affairs? Or do we all play our own roles in keeping the status quo, quo? Some, of course, more courageously than others. I wish I’d been more courageous in my day, but no point in regret.

    rb – I think that’s right, we have to always remember those who come before and the progress they enable. I admire your success in keeping to your personal style and still managing to navigate the corporate world.

    TPP – Loafers! And of course now your brand is perfectly aligned with pearls, pearls, and pearls. In good taste, of course. I can only imagine the task of decoding an on-air industry. :).

  • 01/23/11
    10:27 am

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    Lisa said...

    Marsha – I would love to read a long, long article on the whys of a pointed toe. They are however good motivation to go barefoot as often as possible:).

    GBBB – Great timing. No matter it’s the wrong post. I know what you are talking about:). Great timing because I was just about to call my mother, and also to ask the bride how HER mother feels. Since that, after all, is the critical stakeholder:).

    Miss Plumcake – But dearest, there is of course nothing wrong with the Yankee WASP. Nor the Californian species:). We are, in our context, quite perfect. Don’t you agree?

    But, I cannot forget my manners. I thank you, from the bottom of my heart. You have, to my enormous satisfaction, finally explained to me what that whole Southern “lady” thing is about, above and beyond any putative sexism. Again, thank you, thank you, thank you. How revelatory, to understand that “not making the effort” could be seen as rude. After years of fearing “making too much of an effort,” I get it. I finally get it.

    Now we just need to understand, “Why pearls?” Do you know? I would welcome any insights.

  • 01/23/11
    12:37 pm

    Reply

    Miss Plumcake said...

    Of course there’s nothing wrong with a Yankee or Western WASP. All the various subsets of High WASP have the same goal–not being distastefully showy– and opposite ways of getting there. Like England and America, we are two nations divided by a common language. If I can be a Rosetta stone in some little way I’m more than glad to do it.

    As for pearls, I can only venture a guess, and only for how it’s done in old Southern families.

    They joke that pearls are a sacrament in the South. If a sacrament is an “outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace” which is how it’s defined in the Episcopal Church –your Protestantism may vary– I don’t think it’s that far off.

    A young lady’s first strand at 16 is almost always her mother’s first strand which was more than likely her mother’s and so on. When a young lady puts on her grandmother’s pearls, the mantle of family honor is resting delicately on her collarbone. Those pearls become shorthand for what it means to be a lady responsible for the integrity of your family, and that can be awfully heavy. No wonder people rebel.

    It might be interesting to give some thought to how the message of pearls changed in light of the French sportswear revolution. Before 1924, pearls were a symbol of luxury and tradition, but after Mme Chanel’s released her first (and all pearl) costume jewelry collection, pearls became chic and elegant. Though I’m not one of her fans, it’s hard to overstate Chanel’s influence over women’s appearance during that era, so it might be worth mulling over on some rainy day.

  • 03/10/11
    9:52 am

    Reply

    Samantha said...

    Thought I should let you know that, thanks to your “whether to wear a pearl strand with pearl studs” post, today I am — for the first time in my life — wearing my grandmother’s double-strand of pearls.

    The office culture: West coast Canadian province-funded not-for-profit (read: casual, casual, casual).

    The outfit: Boots, jeans, black t-shirt, wool fitted vest… and the pearls. No earrings.

    The feeling: Grown-up, no-nonsense feminine. Distinctly Sturdy Gal.

    Thank you, LPC, for introducting me to pearls. Having grown up in Berkeley, CA in a decidedly non-WASP family, I’ve never seriously considered them as something I could wear.

  • 03/11/11
    2:04 pm

    Reply

    Jen said...

    Hi LPC! I love this quote: “Whether that means expressing milk in the office bathroom for your baby, etc…” I’m an attorney with a small baby at home. In addition to a black suit, conservative jewelry and minimal makeup, I lug a big breast-pump to work every day, hidden in a big black bag, and pump every 4 hours. I’m happy I can do both. :)

  • 03/12/11
    8:58 pm

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    Samantha – Your outfit sounds like everything good style should be, personal, attractive, appropriate, fun.

    Jen – I am so happy you can do both. Let us hope society’s progress continues.

  • 02/23/13
    2:49 pm

    Reply

    Courtney Ways said...

    right after lipstick.

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