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Why young ladies were forbidden yellow dresses and taught not to blush: Good form rules of the early 20th century
Why young ladies were forbidden yellow dresses and taught not to blush: Good form rules of the early 20th century
Why young ladies were forbidden yellow dresses and taught not to blush: Rules of good form before the revolution. Painting by Karl Herpfer

A little over a hundred years ago, people furnished their lives with great ceremonies and conventions. Some of the rules of courtesy are now surprising or even seem cruel. And to some, perhaps, it would be worth returning! Fortunately, in our time, everyone can decide for himself what to be old-fashioned in and how much.

The young lady is allowed to be silent and smile

It was hard for unmarried girls - they were surrounded by the most restrictions. So, girls were forbidden to publicly laugh, cry, sneeze, yawn and eat anything that needs to be chewed or that will make them open their mouths wide (ice cream was acceptable - they ate it with a tiny dessert spoon, and, for example, berries or small candies). Due to the fact that the girls sometimes already unbearably wanted to eat, and they could only do it with sweets, there was a conviction that women have a sweet tooth.

Girls were strictly forbidden to wear yellow dresses - cocottes were marked with yellow clothes for a long time. Naturally, a married woman was no longer suspected of selling her body. The most decent, most girlish color was blue (remember the discussion of girls' dresses in Gogol's "The Inspector General").

The most decent and unmistakable color for a girl's dress was blue: pure and feminine

In addition, the girl could not even be alone with a man for two minutes. Suppose he won't have time to abuse, but no one checked it for sure. So the girl, who did not come out under any pretext from an empty room as soon as a stranger entered it, was looked at as potentially fallen. They would also look askance at a girl who asked about a stranger who it was - such a question was allowed only for an adult lady.

Both women and girls were forbidden not only to look outside for a long time, but also to get a job (embroidery, sewing, knitting) at the window overlooking even the quietest street - someone can walk along it. It was allowed to fleetingly approach the window. That is why, in old novels, seemingly unoccupied girls, waiting for a guest, constantly run to the window, and do not sit down next to him.

This girl does not behave very decently: she holds the hand at the same time with two gentlemen. Painting by Jon Petty

Also, girls and women were forbidden to go to the toilets in restaurants and theaters (therefore they were only for men) and to go to the toilet when guests visited, no matter how long they stayed up.

On the street, a girl and a woman were not allowed to eat, drink, wear gloves, tie the ribbons of their hats, or even complete their toilet in any way. Sitting down, it was impossible to lean in any way or lean on a bench, armchair, sofa - until the appearance of bustles, in which a lady could often sit only sideways. No matter how boring it was to sit, you could not move your fingers, straighten your clothes, fiddle with frills.

In order to be considered bashful and innocent, the girl had to blush or keep her face with a pale effort of will. Painting by Charles Hay-Wood

The girl had to be able to blush easily, they even learned this on purpose. Conversely, she should not blush when she heard the ambiguity, so as not to show that she understood her. In addition, the girl had to be able to recognize ambiguities so as not to accidentally answer them with a smile. So the girls knew much more about many obscene things than they showed.

Watch your speech and your feet

Girls were not allowed to use colloquial words and phrases, while a married lady or a widow could afford them to make speech juicier - but only within the limits of decent.

Even during the most relaxed and at first glance, the conversation between the girl and the boy was attended by observers. Painting by Marcus Stone

Both men and women in conversation with the opposite sex were forbidden to indulge in abstruse reasoning.For a man - so as not to offend the lady with the feeling that she is slightly inferior, since she does not understand what he is talking about, or not to bore her. For a woman - so that a man does not accidentally feel stupider than a woman. “Too reasonable” girls were scared that no one would marry them. It was also not recommended in mixed or not very friendly companies to talk about the relationship between a man and a woman, politics, illness and the antics of servants.

You could not cross your legs, stretch your crossed legs, tightly pull your legs under the chair. Even for a man, this was a freedom, although less than for a lady.

If the woman walked alone, the man must bow. If with someone else, I waited for her permission. Painting by Edmund Blair Leighton

A man also knows how to endure

If a man accompanied a lady to the theater and during the intermission she did not want to leave the box, he was allowed to go out only for a few minutes. During this time, one could only have time to say hello to an acquaintance.

If the husband did not go to visit or to the public, then the wife had no right to visit even a close friend. But if the couple already had older teenage children, the wife was even obliged to take them out to receptions, evenings and visits.

Try to guess why this scene probably doesn't have a very decent meaning. Artist Frederick Hendrik Kammerer

The couple was not allowed to visit bachelors and widowers, the husband paid visits to unmarried acquaintances only without his wife. An exception was made for widowed fathers of adult daughters - on the contrary, friends came to them only with their wives.

The rules of greeting look quite shocking for a modern man. Nowadays, a man is used to freely choosing the form of greeting and goodbye and to independently decide whether it is appropriate for him to greet a lady. Previously, a man always greeted him first, but on the street or in another public place - only if the lady showed him that she didn’t mind recognizing their acquaintance (by looking directly at him, for example). In addition, the man always bowed, shaking the lady's hand, kissing her, or even allowing himself a kiss on the cheek only if the lady herself suggested it with a gesture or word during his bow. The same was true of the farewell.

Although gossip was not very decent, everyone was only gossiping about who and how broke the rules of decency

Familiar man and woman never said hello when they saw each other on the street in the evening or at dusk. Men avoided a strong handshake not only with ladies, but also with other men (although they squeezed each other's hands more tangibly than girls and women). A firm handshake was considered appropriate only for securing a vowel or tacit agreement. You can try to re-read the Russian classics, paying attention to the cases in which it is mentioned that the hand was shaken tightly. Now, when sometimes men meet like a bench press competition, this rule looks unusual.

Finally, some of the rules seem fantastic. For example, girls were advised to urgently wake up if they had an obscene dream.

New generations may not understand not only the old rules of good manners, but also the things that he talked about cult Soviet home economics textbookalthough it was released two or three generations ago.

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