Rules of a good tone in the beginning of the XX century

One hundred years ago people decorated their lives with great ceremonies and conventions. Some rules of politeness and manners now surprise or even seem cruel to us. Others wants these rules to return. Fortunately, in our time, everyone can decide for themselves whether to be old-fashioned and how much.


The young lady was allowed to be silent and smile

It was hard for unmarried girls - they were surrounded by most restrictions. They were forbidden to laugh publicly, cry, sneeze, yawn, and eat something that should be chewed or makes their mouths  open wide (ice cream was acceptable - it was eaten with a tiny dessert spoon).

Girls were strictly forbidden to wear yellow dresses - yellow clothes meant for sex workers. The most decent and the most girlish color was blue (remember the discussion of dresses of girls in Gogol's "Inspector"?)

In addition, the girl could not even be one on one with a man for two minutes alone. If she went into an empty room where a stranger went in, this women would looked  potentially fallen. Questions like "Who is that stranger?" was not allowed, it was Ok only for an adult lady.

Both women and girls were forbidden not only to look at the street for a long time, but also to work with the work (embroidery, sewing, knitting) at the window that opens even to the quietest street because someone can pass along it. It was allowed to glance into the window and walk away. That is why in the old novels the girls are constantly running to the window, waiting for the guest, and not sitting next to it.

Girls and women were forbidden to visit toilets in restaurants and theaters (they were designed for male only) and to go to the toilet when visiting guests, no matter how long they stayed.

On the street, a girl and a woman could not eat, drink, wear gloves, tie a hat, or even finish their toilet in any way. Sitting down, it was impossible to lean against or lean against a bench, an armchair, a sofa - until the appearance of bustle, in which the lady could often sit only sideways. No matter how boring it was to sit, you could not move your fingers or correct your clothes.

The girl had to be able to easily blush, the technique was even taught. And, on the contrary, she should not blush when she heard the ambiguity, not to show that she understood it. In addition, the ambiguity of the girl had to be able to recognize,  not to accidentally not answer them with a smile. So the girls knew much more obscene things than they showed.

Watch your speech and feet

Both men and women in the conversation with the opposite sex were forbidden to discuss things that are hard to understand. You could not make the other feel narrow minded and you could not bore each other.  When in mixed companies it was recommended  not to talk about the relationship between a man and a woman, politics or illnesses.

Ladies couldn't cross legs, stretch your crossed legs or  push your legs way under the chair .

If a woman walked alone, the man would bow. If with someone else, you'd wait for her permission. Picture of Edmund Blair Leighton.

If a woman walked alone, the man would bow. If with someone else, you'd wait for her permission. Picture of Edmund Blair Leighton.

The man also knew how to be patient

If the man accompanied the lady to the theater and during the interval she did not want to leave the lodges, he was only allowed to leave for a few minutes. During this time you could only have time to say hello to a friend.

If the husband did not want to visit friends or relatives, then the wife did not have the right to visit even a close friend. But if the couple already had children of the older adolescence, the wife was obliged to take them to receptions, evenings and to visit.

Bachelors and widowers were not allowed to pay visit  to an unmarried acquaintance. Husband could do it but only without his wife. The exception was made for the widowed fathers of adult daughters - to them, on the contrary, friends were only with wives.

Pretty shocking for a modern man would be the rules of greeting. Nowadays, a man is accustomed to freely choose the form of greetings and farewells and decide independently whether it is appropriate for him to greet the lady. Previously, the man always greeted first, but on the street or in another public place - only if the lady showed him that she did not mind admitting their acquaintance (looking directly at him, for example). In addition, the man always bowed, shaking hands with the lady, kissing her or even allowing herself to kiss the cheek was allowed only if the lady herself offered it with a gesture or word during his bow. The same applied to farewells.

Acquainted  man and woman never greeted each other when seeing each other on the street in the evening or at dusk. Men avoided a strong handshake, not only with ladies, but with other men (although each hand was squeezed more palpably than with girls or women). A firm handshake was considered appropriate only to secure a vowel or an unspoken contract.

One great rule was that the girls were advised to wake up urgently if they saw an obscene dream. Go figure.