Just ask the friend who does my hair—she’s thrilled if I agree to something other than a blunt trim straight across. I often forget to wear makeup, even though my face would certainly benefit from daily attention and improvements. And then of course I waltzed around town wearing a cute blue dress earlier this summer only to discover I was waltzing in a nightgown.
Clearly, style is not my area of expertise.
And yet….I’ve realized that adding a few classy touches to my life is nice. I’m not talking big changes—just everyday things that make me feel a little more civilized.
So I threw together a list of simple ways to class up one’s life a notch. (But don’t panic if you’re like me and can barely get your kitchen countertops cleared off and wiped down—these ideas really are simple, and are only a notch classier than my usual plain, laid back, inelegant, casual existence.)
- Goblets. Drink everyday beverages from goblets. I picked up a pair of pretty goblets from a neighbor’s garage sale and drank my iced tea from one. Nice. The kids think so, too–use goblets for their milk, juice and Kool-Aid. If someone accidentally breaks one, no big deal. Keep your classy cool and simply go get another from Goodwill for 50 cents.
- A Toast. Now that you’re holding glasses with a stem, how about a toast? “Here’s to unexpected elegance”–ching, ching. Seriously, a little toast gets our minds thinking differently. What is special about our lives? How can I piece together a one- or two-sentence speech? It’s an interesting little exercise for our kids (me, too). At lunch today, we held our glasses high for French bread sandwiches, garage sales (oh, so classy), and soccer. The toasts themselves weren’t that stylish, but they’re a start. Of course, teach the kids restraint right from the start so that they go easy on the chinging, or you may find yourself with a cracked goblet on the first day.
- Skirts in Summer. I’m normally a casual, sporty shorts gal in the summer, but taking a tip from Big Mama, I wore a cotton skirt with a plain, simple T-shirt the other day to celebrate the record-breaking Midwestern Indian summer. I felt sassy and classy, while remaining relatively comfortable in the 90 degree heat. Big Mama wrote, “[M]y answer to a sweatsuit alternative for summer is a cotton skirt with a t-shirt and flip-flops. It’s cute, it’s cool, and it’s casual. Throw on a denim jacket and it transitions you to fall. It gives the illusion that you’ve put some effort into your wardrobe…And I am all about the illusion of effort…Smoke and mirrors, ladies. Smoke and mirrors.” So…drink another goblet-filled toast to smoke and mirrors, people. Class it up with the illusion of effort.
- A European Course. Serve something kind of European at dinner. I skimmed the book French Women Don’t Get Fat a few weeks ago, and one idea Mireille Guiliano had was to slice tomatoes, spread them out on a bed of lettuce, salt heavily and sprinkle them with goat cheese. Simple to prepare with an unexpected flavor combination (for a normally unclassy American). And delicious (you could substitute feta, if you like). That’s just one idea of many simple courses one could add to dinner (another common dish is to serve each person a slice of melon with a slice of prosciutto as a course before what we would call the entree. It would, in France, actually be called the entrée–the “entry,” if you will, to the main dish.). Go ahead, drink another toast to goat cheese and French simplicity: “Vive la chevre! Vive la simplicité!”
- Candles at dinner. They’re cheap, and the kids love ’em. Turn off the lights and they’re even an alternative source of lighting in this age of low-impact adaptations. Might as well make it a regular thing. It’s funny, but when we use candles at dinner, the kids are usually quieter, less restless, and a bit kinder and more reflective. It makes me wonder why I’ve been so stingy with candles in the past. All those rowdy, tiring dinners might have been redeemed with the magical, classy touch of low lighting. So where are we? Let’s see….Goblets. Cotton skirts. A tomato salad with goat cheese. Candles. What’s next?
- Classical music. Now, I don’t mean to advance from a tiny notch classier to downright snobbish, but honestly, something happens to the family when we play classical music during dinner. Just as the candles seem to have a calming effect, classical music seems to provide a classier mood and mentality. Even kids who prefer rock or pop or country will tolerate classical style music if it’s just “dinner music.” Stop by the library to borrow a Vivaldi CD, or just flip on the classical station and accept whatever they have to offer.
- Flowers. While we’re still at the dinner table, may I suggest setting out a simple bouquet of flowers beside the candles? Today, I picked six or seven flowers from the garden and stuck them into glass Coke bottles for vases. The kids loved them. Class meets casual. I know a few classy ladies who can serve meals in the dining room with kids all around while an ornate vase bursting with roses graces the space, but I’m just a daisy-in-a-Coke-bottle gal most of the time. I guess I’m casually classy when I’m classy at all, and this illustrates why I qualified this whole post by saying it would only be classier by “a notch.”
- Scarves. I’ve seen them on French women every time I visit The Belgian Wonder’s family, and I always think how classy they look. Women wear scarves a lot in Belgium and France–they’re a simple way to make an outfit look special. Here’s a video with instructions for how to tie/knot them.
- Posture. I’ve been a sloucher, but in recent years I’ve worked on improving my posture because women who sit and stand up tall have always seemed so much classier to me than those who slouch. It’s something that doesn’t cost me a cent, is a healthy habit, and offers an air of confidence–compensating for the days I wear a nightgown to the coffee shop and forget to apply lipstick (or mascara, or blush, or foundation).
- Yes. You’re going to think I’m such a hillbilly, but I have listened to the children and realized a grave error in my speech patterns. They mirror my unsophisticated habit of responding with “yeah” and even “yep” in place of “yes.” I think at some point in my life, I attempted to be cute by answering “yep,” and somebody must have chuckled, so it stuck. I’m trying to switch to the straightforward, clear, and far classier, “Yes,” but it’s hard; I’m shocked at how ingrained the lazy “yeah” and silly “yep” have become.
* Bonus Tip: Slow Down Speech. As I mentioned in a recent post, I talk too fast. Dad reminds me of it nearly every time we gather. It’s a hard habit to break, but I’m sitting up straight at the dinner table, goblet in hand, with a simple toast on the tip of my tongue, attempting to speak slowly and clearly, enunciating every word distinctly, including the final “s” in “yes.” I am. Oh yes, I am.
So there you have it: Ten simple ways to class up one’s act on an everyday basis.