The Night Etiquetteer Saw All the Way to Crawford's Notch, Vol. 18, Issue 13

Out and about in the last two weeks, Etiquetteer witnessed an example of the need for elegance in daily life, using the first of its definitions: “refined grace or dignified propriety.” We need some elegance. A little forethought is all it takes.

Do you know the “see all the way to Crawford’s Notch” story? John Singer Sargent’s portrait of Isabella Stewart Gardner excited a great deal of commentary when it was exhibited at the St. Botolph Club in 1888. Viewing the plunging neckline of her form-fitting black dress, a clubman remarked that he “could see all the way to Crawford’s Notch.” (Crawford’s Notch is actually a feature of the White Mountains of New Hampshire.) And that would have been all well and good except that Mr. Gardner heard about it. And that’s how a painting becomes a legend.

Etiquetteer was forced, you might say, to take the low road to see Crawford’s Notch. Heading home from an evening party, Etiquetteer found himself perhaps 50 feet behind three slim, well-groomed young women who had all borrowed Marcia Brady’s hair for the evening. They wore sleeveless tops, form-fitting short skirts, heels, and no stockings. (Etiquetteer has lamented the passage of stockings from the wardrobes of ladies, but then Etiquetteer doesn’t have to wear them, and women of the 21st century have made it very clear that they will not be told what to wear by men.)

Suddenly this trio stopped; one of the women had to fix her shoe. She bent forward to do so - from the waist. As Etiquetteer approached, it became clear that this woman’s skirt had ridden up over the top of her legs exposing at least an inch or two of her naked buttocks, and . . . and . . . and Etiquetteer hastily continued past them on his way. Remember Etiquetteer’s dictum: no one should have to know whether you are, or are not, wearing underwear. And remember all the trouble Britney Spears got into ten years ago or so, getting out of that limousine* in a short dress and no underpants**.

Miniskirts have always presented just this conundrum. How short can you go without exposing . . . exposing . . . exposing all of one’s self? Perhaps this situation could have been avoided if the young woman had worn less difficult shoes or a slightly longer skirt, or undergarments, or had bent from the knees instead of the waist - but that might have provided more of a view to anyone approaching from the front. Ladies, what do you think?

Etiquetteer will end this with the words of the late Marlene Dietrich on elegance: “Rarely found today. Women are not brought up to know about it and therefore lack even the desire to acquire it.”


*The Perfectly Proper way for a lady in a dress to exit a car is to swivel both legs out of the car at the same time, knees together. This allows a lady the opportunity rise graciously from the car. It takes practice, but anything worth achieving usually does.

**The search for an appropriate link to post here as been more than embarrassing. Readers will just have to search for themselves.