Always be mindful of your place in posterity. True greats always had a mind on the future and took care of their choices in temperament, style and behaviour Think of Coco Chanel or Madame De Pompadour, Edith Sitwell or Isabella Blow – these women are remembered for their consistency. We would all do well to follow the greats and plan ahead. Think of how your choices represent you.
There is a contemporary fad to rant about “being oneself” which I always thinks sounds terribly artificial. Whenever one hears of someone being true to oneself they are invariably referring to their self-centredness and unwillingness to play nicely with others. How unfeeling and selfish not to be the best self one can be.
A dandizette must develop a signature style and yet for the most part we only tend to be mindful of our style and presentation during those “on stage” moments in life when we have an audience but style is all about consistency. A dandizette must shine a spotlight on her behind the curtain’s behaviour to truly develop a style that maintains both consistency and authenticity. A style in short that will do our biographer proud.
If you want to develop a full and rounded style start seeing your life from the perspective of your biographer. You may not have one in the wings just yet but just in case keep it rich, keep in racy and keep it on message.
The nuns who educated men told us; “A lady is always elegant even in crisis!” It is a marvellous dictum. If I behave less than elegantly I can still hear the voice of Sister Conchilio the Etiquette Enforcer at my convent ringing in my ears. “What would your biographer make of that behaviour madam?” She actually said St Peter who of course sits outside the pearly gates with his ledger making notes on all our earthly actions lacking in elegance but I always thought of him as my biographer.
Like all Catholics we were schooled to always be thinking of our lives in a posthumous way. To this end – age fourteen – I made a list of unattractive behaviour I was prone to indulge in when my equilibrium was compromised. For example when miserable it was my habit to take to my bed and hide under the duvet in pyjamas when cross to deliver a silent starring rebuke or haughty sneer. When sulky I’d deliver the same silent rebuke with the addition of an unattractively lowered lip and when poorly I’d moan and grunt (again under the duvet). If distressed by overdue library books (my teenage equivalent to bank statements) my tendency was to shriek and rent my clothing in the manner of an old testament sinner.
It was all deeply unstylish and unworthy of even an unpublished biographer’s ink so I resolved to bring more panache to my moods. By the time I was sixteen I had begun taking to bed in my mother’s old mink and pearls. I suffered through an especially bad case of teenage mumps looking like a dying Vanderbilt heiress but I can emphatically state it was the best medicine the doctor could have ordered. Especially for my mother who laughed herself silly.
There are no doubt many tribulations that can’t be fixed with lashings of mink but it has been my experience that any tantrum is made majestic by the addition of a tiara. No one can be depressed in pearls, gloves and pretty shoes or at least not while sipping champagne and nibbling on Turkish Delight. Or if they can, they will still feel more stylishly depressed. And that, after all, is the main thing.
My biography remains unwritten and unsought but I am ready to face it when and if it comes – whatever my mood.