August 16, 2010

1850s Street Etiquette

When I am at reenactments, my shoe comes untied about a thousand times. Each and every time, my significant other, Andy, always ties it for me. It is a life saver because in a corset and with all of that fabric, I can't reach my feet and would look silly and perhaps show more than I wished if I attempted to tie it myself. 

People laugh at us but it was actually very proper for a gentleman to tie a lady's shoe. It was also his duty to help her on with her shawl and any other assistance she might have needed-- ladies' clothing was very frivolous as many of us have realized as we try to adapt to it. It is very sad for us if we drop anything on the ground.     

Behavior in the Street.  

"-When you meet a gentleman with whom you are acquainted, you bow, raising your hat slightly, with your left hand, which leaves your hand at liberty to shake hands if you stop. If the gentleman is ungloved, you must take off yours, not otherwise.

-Meeting a lady, the rule is that she should make the first salute, or at least, indicate by her manner, that she recognises you. Your bow must be lower, and your hat carried further from your head; but you never offer to shake hands; that is her privilege.

-The right, being the post of honor, is given to superiors and ladies, except in the street, when they take the wall, as farthest from danger from passing carriages, in walking with or meeting them.

-In walking with a lady you are not bound to recognise gentlemen with whom she is not acquainted, nor have they in such a case, any right to salute, much less to speak to you.

-Should her shoe become unlaced, or her dress in any manner disordered, fail not to apprise her of it respectfully, and offer your assistance. A gentleman may hook a dress, or lace a shoe, with perfect propriety, and should be able to do so gracefully.

-Whether with a lady or gentleman, a street talk should be a short one; and in either case, when you have passed the customary compliments, if you wish to continue the conversation you must say, “Permit me to accompany you."

-Don't sing, hum, whistle, or talk to yourself in walking. Endeavor, besides being well-dressed, to have a calm, good natural countenance. A scowl always begets wrinkles. It is best not to smoke at all in public, but none but a ruffian will inflict upon society the odor of a bad cigar, or that of any kind, on ladies.

-Ladies are not allowed upon ordinary occasions to take the arm of any one but a relative, or an accepted lover, in the street, and in the day time; in the evening—in the fields, or in a crowd, wherever she may need protection, she should not refuse it. She should pass her hand over the gentleman's arm, merely, but should not walk at arm's length apart, as country girls sometimes do. In walking with a gentleman, the step of the lady must be lengthened, and his shortened, to prevent the hobbling appearance of not keeping step. Of course, the conversation of a stranger, beyond asking a necessary question, must be considered as a gross insult, and repelled with proper spirit."

From the Ladies' Indispensable Assistant, (1850) Pg. 123


  1. How fun! I love reading etiquette books!

  2. I think it's nice that Andy ties your shoe.

  3. hi! nice post. thanks for following my blog!! I really really appreciate another follower. :)

  4. Jodi, I think it's nice he still does it because it happens a ton! :D I wouldn't put up with me.

  5. "It is best not to smoke at all in public, but none but a ruffian will inflict upon society the odor of a bad cigar, or that of any kind, on ladies."
    I wish more people followed that advice today.

  6. Hana, I agree. I kind of like that society recognized that it is offensive to many people. I dislike smoking but if one must do it, privately seems like a much better option.

  7. I always just tie my shoes *really* tight and pray they don't come out! I'm glad to know it's period correct to have a gent do it (so that when I get the inevitable funny looks, I can cite my sources ;) )

    I'm not quite sure about asking help hooking my dress though!

    I am working on my sontag, but the progress isn't that noticeable (plus my schedule is tight), so I probably won't link this week.

  8. Hi Stephanie!

    At events its so much work to bend over and tie my boots that lots of times I have my dad or another person do it! Lots of times I have dropped something and men will pick it up for me. I guess they realize how much work it is to bend over in a corset. I really appreciate the men and boys I know who do this at the events I attend! Its a life saver and its a great representation of Christs love for His Church.

    God bless!


  9. Sophia, It's okay! We've all been busy. I haven't worked on mine as much as I should. We still have a while until it gets cold. I would like to tie my shoes tight but then I can never get them off... :D

  10. Hey Rebecca, It is nice that we have a hobby that includes such devoted men. I know at school and other places, many guys could care less if you drop something.

  11. I agree with Hana- the no smoking in public would be fabulous. Why pollute EVERYONES air? :)
    And i also think its super sweet of Andy to tie your shoes ;) Now, I've never actually worn a historically correct corset, but even the flimsy modern ones aren't fun to bend over in..
    One little note, does anyone else notice being treated better(in general manners)when they are dressed femininely/modestly? I sure do... Anyway, this is great! Thanks for sharing!

  12. Jane, Absolutely. Even if I just wear long skirts, which personally I prefer, people normally treat you nicer. It's strange.

  13. That's right. I think, though, that it probably also has to do with your own attitude when you wear such clothing. Like, you show more respect to yourself and to people around you as well (by dressing nicely), and people therefore have more respect for you, too.
    You see, I think it's not just modest clothing in "technical" terms, but being put together, wearing your clothes with dignity... wearing your clothes instead of letting the clothes wear you.

    HA! And that's about as much as I'm ever going to say about the issue of modest clothing, which seems to be such an issue online nowadays. I'm quite happy with the way I put it now. :-)

  14. Oh, and the thing about the sides when two people walk together? My mom explained it to me several times, but I never quite remembered. Here, though, it's explained very succintly and logically (is there logic behind these things or not? Most of the time, I guess there is, only hidden under years of tradition), so I think from now on I will remember!


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