Friday, October 23, 2015

Why Don't We Wear Hats?

When was the last time you wore a hat? It can be two degrees out, and only reluctantly do I pull on a warm cap. Considering the nylon of my coat can freeze within seconds and crackle like paper, it would be a wise move. But unless you’re British royalty, a construction worker, a cowboy, or any male under the age of thirty (I detest baseball caps), you’ve probably been bare-headed more than not.

Through the ages, why did people wear hats? For warmth, for protection, to show humility—and status. It’s fascinating how mankind moved through nearly two-thousand years in the A.D. of the world before we made the choice to say no-thanks to daily headgear.  How audacious of us to change everything.                                                                    
Not that I want to return to the absurdity of the cone-heads of medieval times, or the massive hair-hat creations of the French court, but the nice bonnets of the Regency period and the sweeping hats of the Gibson Girl era are rather pretty. 
Actually, it wasn't too many years ago that a woman (or man) wouldn’t dare be seen in public without a hat. It was the topper to many a smart-looking outfit. 

I like the idea of hats--so much so that I've collected 200 of them on my Pinterest Board.  Take a look and drool--even if you don't want to wear them.

I doubt there’s a definitive moment when hats went out of favor, but from my own recollections I think Jackie Kennedy was one of the last to wear a snappy pillobox hat and look good doing it. Did hats die with the assassination of the president in 1963? Might they represent something innocent and crisp and elegant that we, as a country, relinquished when our president was murdered in front of our eyes?

I don't know.  In some cases even hindsight is blind.  Yet I can truly say I'm okay with the no-hat style of today.  Unless we change the whole of fashion to be classy and classic, unless we get the entire country to agree to give up jeans, jogging suits, and teeshirts, we don't deserve the luxury of wearing lovely hats.//Nancy Moser

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Etiquette Then--and Now

As I wrote my novel Love of the Summerfields, which is set in an English manor house--and after being a Downton Abbey fanatic since Mary and Edith first argued--I became aware of the details and delicacies of proper etiquette. 

ETIQUETTE:  The act of behaving in an utterly proper way so you won't get your hand slapped or be shunned from the members of society who made up the rules which are almost impossible to follow.

Here are some gems from The Essential Handbook of Victorian Entertaining (adapted by Autumn Stephens) with a few asides from me.

• Do not dress above your station; it is a grievous mistake, and leads to great evils, besides being the proof of a complete lack of taste. So we're to dress down? I hardly think "slovenly" would be appreciated.

• Do not expose the neck and arms at a dinner party. These should be covered, if not by the dress itself, then by lace or muslin overwaist. How about a nice plaid stadium blanket?

• Do not fail to try the effect of your dress by gaslight and daylight both. Many a color that may look well in daylight may look extremely ugly in gaslight. But facial lines and wrinkles look marvelous!

• When a gentleman is invited out for the evening, or when he hosts an evening entertainment himself, he is under no embarrassment as to what he shall wear. The unvarying uniform is black pants, waistcoat, and jacket, with white tie, shirt, and gloves. How about jeans and a tee-shirt? Or the ever popular khakis and a polo shirt?

• Prior to the dinner party, the hostess will acquaint herself with the social standing of each guest. If necessary, she may consult a reference volume, such as Who's Who. She then pairs each gentleman guest with a lady guest of equivalent social status. Does consulting Facebook and You Tube count?

• A few well-chosen words of praise for any dish that you happen to know is a matter of pride to your hostess will be well received. As a rule, however, the fewer remarks about your food, the better. Rub a dub dub, thanks for the grub? Or how about "These Doritos are simply divine!"

• Do not hesitate what to take when a dish is passed to you. Nothing displays a lack of breeding more than not to know your own mind in trifles. Trifles? Is that in the same family as truffles?

• Do not refuse to take the last piece of bread of cake; it looks as though you imagined there might be no more. Hey now. If the plate's empty in my house, there ain't no more. And the last slice is mine.

• Do not carry anything like food with you from the table. Anything "like" food? I suppose a doggie bag is out of the question.

• Never leave the table before the end of the dinner, unless from urgent necessity. I won't go there.

• Young ladies seldom drink more than three glasses of wine at dinner; but married ladies who are engaged in a profession, such as authors and teachers, and those accustomed to society and the habits of affluence, will habitually take five or even six, whether in their own home or at the tables of their friends. Who are these winos? And who's the designated driver?

• Do not wear gloves at the table. I wouldn't think of it. I can't lick my fingers with gloves on.

• Be moderate in the quantity you eat. You impair your health by overloading the stomach, and render yourself dull and stupid for hours after the meal. Which gives you no out for being dull and stupid during the meal. And since the antidote for overeating is napping, I'm all for it.

All kidding aside, I grieve the loss of manners and etiquette. Baseball hats in restaurants incense me and I want to kiss any man who holds a door open for me. Actually, nowadays we need a new set of rules:

• No phone calls or texts while driving or dining. Or while in line. And if you can't talk on a cell phone without shouting, go outside.

• No tank tops on men. Ever. And especially not at a meal.

• Regarding gum: no popping, clicking, chomping, or blowing bubbles. And if I can see it in your mouth when you talk, you're toast.

• Never (ever) bring a full sized pillow on a plane.

• Unless you are a toddler, never (ever) wear pajama pants in public--including on a plane.

• If "muffin-top" applies to your figure, do not wear skin-tight tops or show skin. Even if you're skinny don't show me your midriff.

  • Leggings are not pants, and need a blouse or top that is long enough to cover your bottom.  If your top doesn't touch the tops of your legs, it's too short to wear with leggings.

  • • Flip-flops don't belong in church.

    • Thank you notes are still necessary. Whether emailed or snail-mailed, say thank you. Your mama will be so proud.

    • If you must have music blasted into your brain every second of the day, get those headphones that keep it to yourself. Earbuds aren't private and secondary music is annoying. And BTW, if you have music blasted into your brain every second of the day, your brain has no chance to think a real thought. Think about it.  Or try to.

    My list was longer than I thought it would be (and could be longer.) What are some of your etiquette requests?//Nancy Moser

    Friday, February 13, 2015

    Civil War in Missouri, the Oliver Anderson House, battlefield hospital

    Posted: 11 Feb 2015 10:00 PM PST
     A Footnote from History by Stephanie Grace Whitson

    "Maggie didn’t know how long it had been since John had screamed at her to go back to safety in the rear. He’d been astride Blue and he’d kept going, tearing across the battlefield ... She’d watched with a horrible kind of fascination as Blue galloped away, willing both horse and rider to somehow fill only the spaces between the bullets. And then, when Colt dropped out of sight, she’d looked down at the boy she was tending and was jerked back to another terrible reality ... The boy was staring up at her with panic in his eyes, and with everything that was in her, Maggie mustered kindness and an expression that she desperately willed to feign hope ... “Look at me, Private. You aren’t alone. The Good Lord is here and so is Maggie Malone. Neither of us is leaving you.” (Excerpted from Daughter of the Regiment)

    In 1853, Kentuckian Oliver Anderson had this beautiful house built overlooking the Missouri River near Lexington, Missouri,in the heart of a rich agricultural center where planters raised hemp, tobacco, and fine cattle. With its 15-foot ceilings and 15-foot-wide central hallway, the house is an example of the kinds of mansions prosperous, slave-holding Southerners were building in Missouri in the 1840s and 1850s. None of the outbuildings survive, but there would have been a carriage house, a horse barn, a summer kitchen, and slave quarters.  

    In the fall of 1859, financial woes forced Anderson to auction off all his real estate, his personal property, and his slaves. His sons purchased the house, enabling their parents to live there until the eve of the Civil War.

    When the Civil War broke out, Unionists in Missouri quickly gained the upper hand. With the Missouri River strategically vital for the movement of troops and supplies, Federal troops occupied Lexington in July of 1861 and confiscated the Anderson House for use as a hospital. Local tradition says that Anderson refused to take the Union-imposed oath of loyalty. He subsequently left Lexington (Anderson died in Kentucky in 1873). 

    In August of 1861, when the Battle of Wilson's Creek near Springfield set the stage for a rebel offensive into the heart of the Missouri River valley, the Anderson house was at the heart of the action. 

    The battle map shows the house in green and various military positions in red. The Battle of Lexington was waged over three days in September. Battle damage to the house is still visible today, both on the exterior brick walls and on interior walls.

    Battle damage to the house is still visible today, both on the exterior brick walls and on interior walls. 

    The house changed hands three times on September 18, 1861, the first day of the Battle of Lexington.  That day, three Southern soldiers died at the base of the grand staircase in the main hall.

    Visitors who venture away from the house to walk the battlefield encounter this small burial plot designated for five unknown Union soldiers whose remains were found during excavations in 1932 near the site of the building that was used as Union headquarters during the siege of Lexington. The men were likely part of Colonel Thomas A. Marshall's cavalry. 

    The southern victory at the Battle of Lexington made Major General Sterling Price a hero throughout the South. The Union responded en masse and eventually forced Price to retreat back to the southwestern corner of the state, returning Lexington and the Missouri River Valley to Union control.

    In 1958, the Anderson house and portions of the battlefield were donated to the Missouri state park system. See interior photos and learn more here:

    Have you visited any state historic sites in recent weeks? Did you enjoy your time there? Learn anything new? Share!


    The Oliver Anderson house and the Battle of Lexington played an important role in
    inspiring Daughter of the Regiment, Stephanie Grace Whitson's March, 2015 release. Stephanie has been a full time novelist since 1994. Her studio is located in the lower level of her 1890s home--"the hired man's house"--in Lincoln, Nebraska. She enjoys learning about the real women who inspire her historical fiction, studying antique quilt history, riding her Honda Magna motorcycle named Kitty, and spending time with her extended family, grandchildren, and grand-dogs. 

    Learn more at