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The Etiquette Grrls' Q & A Archive: November 2003

Dear Readers,

Looking for some last-minute advice before the big Thanksgiving Dinner you'll be attending? Check out our thoughts on Thanksgiving Dinner Etiquette.

We're taking an extended Thanksgiving Weekend to spend a bit of time with our families, so the next installment of our Q&A will be posted December 8. See you then, and have a splendid holiday!

And one other thing: We're sorry this column wasn't up on Monday morning as it usually is! Our server was down for maintenance over the weekend and we were locked out a little longer than expected.

Cheers,
The Etiquette Grrls


Dear Etiquette Grrls,

My question is this: what is your take on people who come to school/work while ill? Part of me admires their work ethic, but at the same time I don't want to get what they have. What do you think?

Sincerely,
Just Curious

Dear Just Curious,

Well, it depends. At school, we always thought the Perfect Attendance people really needed to Set More Interesting Goals for themselves—people who drag themselves to school or work while they're Obviously Very Sick aren't doing anyone any good. Sure, they're physically THERE, but we highly doubt they're learning or accomplishing very much. It'd be much better, we think, to stay home, get better, and then put wholehearted effort into catching up with what you missed. And plus, as you pointed out, they're infecting everyone else, resulting in an even greater Loss of Productivity than the one day or so they'd miss alone!

However, we have to recognize that there are some situations in which you might need to go to work sick because of What Might Befall You if you stayed home. If you're unlucky enough to Take Ill in, say, the first week of a New Job, you might want to Make An Appearance at the office just so it's clear you're not slacking off. What you can do is say something to Your Supervisor like, "I was wondering if we could meet briefly now about the upcoming presentation... I'm coming down with something, and I might try to run out to my doctor's office at lunchtime." Your Supervisor, if she has any heart, will take one look at Your Sickly Self and Send You Home, but you'll have gotten Brownie Points.

However, sadly, some people have Horrible, Mean Bosses who don't believe anyone should DARE to be sick, EVER, and in order not to get Skipped Over for a Promotion or something, they have to come in to the office, no matter what. Our take on that particular situation is that any manager who insists Sick Employees come in shouldn't be Managing Anyone, and that if you're unlucky enough to have someone like that supervising you, it's a Good Hint that you should be Polishing Up Your Resume. If you must work whilst sick, then you must Do Your Very Best not to infect your co-workers. Don't make the Office Coffee that day. Wash your hands often, and get some of that Germ-Killing Gel Stuff and use it frequently. Keep your distance from your colleagues as much as possible—if something can be handled over the phone or via e-mail rather than in a Meeting, spare everyone from having to sit in Close Quarters with you.

Sincerely yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I have quite an etiquette dilemma. I majored in History in college, which is not one of the more popular subjects among the general population. Often, upon hearing what my major was, people respond along the line of, "Ugh, I hate history. How can you stand it?" I once was forced to listen to my former roommate's girlfriend complain about how much she detested history for an entire hour. Other people tell me, while laughing, that I'll never make any money with a history degree. As if the criterion for choosing one's major is whether one can make buckets of money, not what one wants to do with one's life! It is never family or friends commenting either. The big-mouths are either acquaintances or people I have recently been introduced to.

I have been out of school for two years, so the frequency of this little problem has decreased. However, I will be starting graduate school next year for a Master's in Liberal Arts with a concentration of History, and I know the comments will start up again. Is there some way that I can respond to these people who demean my chosen career? They see absolutely nothing wrong with comments, but I become severely annoyed. Can I respond with a snappy comeback, or would that be THOR*? Perhaps I should simply continue to ignore the snarky remarks? Any help is greatly appreciated.

Yours,
Angry History Buff

Dear Angry History Buff,

How Rude! One of us has a Master's of Fine Arts in Creative Writing (in the Highly Lucrative Genre of Poetry, no less), so these types of comments are something we've heard, too. The people who make comments about How You'll Never Make Any Money are the More Offensive Lot, in our opinion, than the people who simply complain about their experiences in Your Field of Concentration. In response to, "You'll never make a lot of money!" you could say something like, "Hmm, that's funny. That has never mattered to me in the slightest." That should put pretty much anyone In Their Place, and it's not Rude of You to say it. The people who Complain About History after you've told them you're studying it are just Poor Fools who don't understand how to Make Polite Conversation. We'd probably shrug off their First Comment by saying something like, "Well, to each his own. I happen to love it!" and then Immediately Change the Subject so as to avoid a long tirade about Why History Stinks.

Good luck in your Master's Program!

Best wishes,
The Etiquette Grrls

* Note for our Dear New Readers: THOR means The Height of Rudeness.

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I'm in my final year of high school. And if you might remember, the college application process time of year is nearly upon us frightened seniors.

I have read many an article advising me to write a thank-you note after any college interview. But, I am applying to art colleges, and will be interviewed by a panel consisting of several staff members of the college.

I have several questions relating to this. First of all, should I send a thank-you note to each individual person, or would a general note to the interviewing panel be appropriate? And if I should go about sending one to each person, would it be ridiculous to write down their names at the interview, or should I wait until after and ask a receptionist of sorts?

And, should I even send a thank-you note at all? The college is very new-age, graphic, and hip, with an air of "anti-establishment." I wonder would it make me seem too "establishment"?

A.B.

Dear A.B.,

Oh, the EGs remember College Applications all too well. The EGs have probably not Obsessed So Much over anything since then! Let us impart some unsolicited advice: Finish everything early. Otherwise, you will be sitting in your house at 11 PM the night before the Application Postmark Deadline, drinking Jolt Cola ("All the sugar and twice the caffeine!"—May we just say we are shocked this product is Still Around? It was terrible back in the Early '90s! Why hasn't it gone the way of Crystal Pepsi?), and telling your 12-year-old neighbor, who has been locked out of his house since 7 PM and, therefore, hanging out with / pestering you, that you really DON'T think you will take his advice and substitute, "We're all dust in the wind, dude," for the passage of Wallace Stevens you selected as Your Favorite Quote in the Short-Answer Section. Sigh.

We would send Individual Thank-You Notes, and we wouldn't worry in the slightest about seeming too "establishment." On the contrary, we think it is Absolutely Smashing when Young, Hip, Cool People exhibit Beautiful Manners. We think it shows that you're secure enough about yourself not to hide behind a Detached, Blasé Persona, and that you care about Being Considerate to Other People—how could that not make a Good Impression?

Now, we'd make sure Your Thank-You Notes don't sound stilted—that could sound a Bit Passé. Instead, thank each person for taking the time to interview you, and make reference to something that Came Up in the Interview—maybe even something each person has asked you. (That way, even if all the thank-you notes you send end up in the same Admissions Folder, it'll be clear you took the time to write something different for each interviewer.) Absolutely get their names! We wouldn't wait until after the interview—we'd ask the Receptionist in advance, so you'll know the people who'll be questioning you. If there is no Receptionist, then we'd recommend introducing yourself to each panelist before the interview begins. Take a pen and paper in with you, and jot these down (obviously not while you're Making Small Talk with them, but whenever you have a chance to do it surreptitiously). You can check spelling, titles, etc., by telephoning the Department Office the next day.

We wish you the best of luck! And remember, Ne Stress Pas!

Yours truly,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dearest Etiquette Grrls,

This Christmas, seeing as I am a Poor, Poor College Student, I have decided to make the majority of my gifts. I'm planning on crocheting scarves, blankets, etc., for my Nearest and Dearest. Everything, of course, will be designed to suit the tastes of the intended recipient.

My quandary is concerning my Best Friend. She is incredibly Picky and not terribly Feminine, making her style difficult to capture. Originally I planned to make her a scarf (because she walks to work) with the colors of her Favorite Sports Team. This would have worked well considering that her Winter Coat contains one of the same colors. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find the color Yarn I need. So, I was wondering if I should just tell her that I would like to make her something and let her choose her own Colors and what-not, or if I should do my best on my own in order to keep it a surprise?

Thank You,
Yarn-Lover in New York

Dear Yarn-Lover,

We'd advise you to do your best On Your Own. (And may we say that we think your idea of Crocheting Presents is terrific? Good for you for using one of Your Talents to create Personalized Gifts—even if you had All the Money in the World to spend, these would STILL make better presents than anything you could buy in a store!) If you ask her what colors she'd prefer, there's a good chance she'll pick something that's Equally Difficult to Find. Have you tried Looking Online? There are plenty of listings in Google's Directory of Yarn Suppliers—we bet one of them would have what you're looking for.

All best,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I'm not sure if this is a wedding faux pas but I'm curious to know if it is as no one I've talked to has heard of this.

I was not involved in my friend's recent wedding but our mutual friend, "Judy" was a bridesmaid. Apparently, Judy's duties at the reception involved lighting candles on all of the tables and doing little things such as this (I believe moving the flowers out and such.) Well, by evening, Judy was in a bit of pain; She had a dress that was altered incorrectly and the "bone" in her built-in brassiere had been cutting into her enough that she was not doing so well by that time (as well as being tired—there was the wedding, an in-between get together brunch for all the attendees of the wedding at the mother's house and then the reception—all of this starting for Judy around 7 A.M.,) so to be honest, I can see why she wanted to go home. I helped out as well and I was exhausted myself.

So, by about 9 P.M., most of the guests had left or were leaving, so I decided to leave along with Judy's boyfriend. We said goodbye to the bride and groom and left—along with Judy who by that time was in some serious pain (she left explaining her dilemma.) Afterwards, I learned that the bride was ticked. The bride had expected Judy to go around at the end of the night (close to midnight) and blow out and collect these candles and basically help "clean up" the decorations.

I thought that Judy was in the right to ask to leave early, especially by telling the bride that she was in pain, let alone exhausted. I understand that this CAN be seen as a wedding faux pas, as the wedding party is the last to leave, but this was a LONG day for any of us. However, with the "setting up and cleaning up"—I have never heard of this before and wondered what you thought of it and the whole situation.

"Boning" Up on My Bridesmaid Etiquette

Dear "Boning" Up,

We definitely don't think it's okay to treat Your Wedding Party like Servants! Of course, at any wedding, there are a Million Little Things to see to, and usually, people are Happy to Help Out, but if one is going to ask One's Friends for a Wee Bit of Assistance, one has to be sensitive to the fact that they are not Robots and cannot be expected to work 17-hour days! These All-Day Wedding Events are getting a little bit Out of Hand, we think. If the wedding was in the Morning, followed by a Brunch attended by All the Guests, why the heck was there any need for a Separate Reception? ESPECIALLY one which would go until Midnight? That's Just Plain Ridiculous, in Our Opinion. It's an absurd amount of time to ask Your Guests to spend at Your Wedding, let alone the poor Bridal Party! We think that while it's fine, in general, to ask Your Bridesmaids for a bit of Assistance on Your Wedding Day, it's always Rude to wear someone down to the Point of Collapse, and as with any Rule of Etiquette, you don't get any Special Exemption just because you are A Bride.

Best wishes,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

 

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Please let me know on which side of the dinner plate the napkin is placed. I have always been taught that it goes on the left, to the left of the fork(s).

Curious

Dear Curious,

It does go on the Left, but beneath the Fork(s). In case anyone has further questions about the Elements of a Table Setting, there is a Helpful Illustration of a Typical Table Setting on page 17 of our first book, Things You Need to Be Told.

Sincerely yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I recently went on a week-long road trip with four other girls, one of whom was vegan. The rest of us eat meat. Miss V. continued to make a pest of herself when we were dining together, making comments about the animal flesh we were ingesting and the cruelty of eating meat, milk, and other animal products. She continued her tirade in the homes of friends with whom we stayed and who served us meals containing meat. We all made accommodations to her diet, by planning trips to vegetarian restaurants and making sure she had suitable alternative meal options. While I respect her decision to take a stand for a cause she believes in, I don't share that cause. Furthermore, I do not enjoy continually discussing the composition and origin of everything I eat, nor listening to others do the same. To what extent should one smile politely and nod in situations like this, and at what point is it acceptable to speak up? How might one do so tactfully?

Thank you for any insight you may have,
Annoyed Omnivore

Dear Annoyed Omnivore,

Boy, Miss V. must have a Hell of a Lot of Friends with Manners Like That! We think that everyone has the right to eat, or not eat, anything they want, but it's Absolutely Inappropriate to comment on Anybody Else's Food (except, of course, to say something like, "Wow, that looks delicious!"). Furthermore, it is particularly THOR (The Height Of Rudeness) to criticize food someone serves to you In Their Home—if they've been Nice Enough to Invite You, you'd better Keep Your Opinions to Yourself. For the record, this goes for the entire spectrum of Vegans/Vegetarians/Omnivores. It would have been equally out of line for all of you to Grill Her on Why She Is Vegan, insist that she would probably Give It All Up if she just tasted some of Your Mom's Meatloaf, etc. Just leave these issues alone, everybody—particularly at the Dinner Table!

However, we probably would not have Engaged in an Argument avec Miss V. at the table (especially at someone's home). We would have spoken with the other people On the Trip and said something like, "Miss V., we have something we really need to address with you. We respect that you're a Vegan, and we've tried very hard to Make Accommodations for you on this trip. However, we're all getting Quite Frustrated at hearing Your Opinions on Everything WE Eat. While we don't Share Your Beliefs, we respect you too much to Criticize You every time we see you eat, and we would hope you could treat us similarly."

Very truly yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!


Dear Etiquette Grrls,

My husband and I are expecting our first child in late December, and are looking forward to the blessed event with great anticipation. This weekend we attended a wedding where many of our friends hadn't seen us in quite some time, and were interested in hearing all about our baby plans (What is the nursery like? Do you know if it's a boy or a girl?). It was very nice to find all our friends so interested in the almost-new-arrival. However, one gentleman we know had brought a date who asked us "was it planned?" I was pretty shocked and, failing to come up with a good answer replied with a laugh and a smile that it was none of her business.

I know it was cold and rude, but really—is there an appropriate response to this question? If we hadn't planned our baby, why on earth would we want to run around telling people about our "mistake" once we had made a decision to see it through? Heaven forbid that our child grow up in an atmosphere where s/he knew that we had an "accident"!

Later, I thought of saying, "Well, every baby is planned by Someone you know." But that seems unnecessarily smug and perhaps politically inflammatory. Help!

Best regards,
Mommy-to-Be in Seattle

Dear Mommy-to-Be,

First, let us send you our very best wishes! We hope the rest of Your Pregnancy is very healthy and happy. And we hope you do not encounter any more Uncouth Idiots asking Dumb, Rude Questions! (We also hope you don't encounter any people who start Touching Your Tummy sans Permission. EGL is also Expecting, and let's just say that there is the Icy Glare of All Icy Glares awaiting the first person who would DARE try to pull something like that with her. In the words of the Immortal Mr. T., we Pity the Fool who might attempt this… but We Digress.)

We think Your Response was Just Fine. (We also think the Response You Thought of Later is Pretty Damn Swell, though we agree it could Come Across as Smug, which no polite person would Really Want to Do.) The other thing we think you might have said is something like, "My heavens, what kind of a Question is THAT?" Sigh. We just can't believe the stuff that Comes Out of Some People's Mouths, apparently without any sort of Intervention from Their Brains. At any rate, Dear Reader, don't spend any more time thinking about this Dreadful Woman and her Rude Question—she and it are Not Worth It.

With our very best wishes,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I recently attended a friend's bridal shower. One of the gifts the bride-to-be received was two boxes of "thank-you" cards, presumably to be used for the gifts she received from the shower and will receive at the wedding. I have never heard of this custom. I spent time finding a thoughtful gift for my friend. In return, I will be receiving a card that someone else selected and purchased. Furthermore, the cards were opened in front of all the guests at the shower and displayed as Such a Clever Gift Idea. Is this an appropriate gift for a bridal shower? And is it appropriate for the bride to use them?

Thank you,
Befuddled in Boston

Dear Befuddled in Boston,

That's a New One. On one hand, we have to say that at least you weren't expected to Address Your Own Thank-You Note Envelope… but on the other hand, it just seems a Little Strange. What's strange isn't really the fact that someone decided to give the Bride-to-Be some writing paper (a wardrobe of Lovely Note Cards, Papers, Envelopes, etc., could actually be a Smashing Shower or Wedding Gift, particularly if you had it engraved avec the Bride-to-Be's Married Name), but the fact that it was presented as "This is What She Will Use to Write Thank-You Notes to All of You." That's weird. Should she use them? Well, she certainly needn't. However, that's a Very Tough Situation… the person who gave the Silly Cards might be Quite Hurt if she did not. It would probably be nice to send one to That Person, at least, and then use whatever she wanted for the Remaining Thank-You Notes. Not that anyone should Grill Her about why she didn't send the Shower Cards to everyone (this would be Terribly Rude), but if they did, she could say something about having run out of them, or wanting to use up the paper she has with her Maiden Name on it, etc.

Yours truly,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Ok here's my question...

I'm getting married in the spring and this is both his and my second marriages. We both have everything we desire except for owning our own home. The rub is saving for a down payment.

Is there a polite way to say that in lieu of gifts we're registered at the bank?

Thanks in advance for your advice,
C.

Dear C.,

Nope. It's always impolite to Ask for Money instead of Gifts, Dear Reader, no matter the circumstances. We realize this isn't what you wanted to hear, but please believe us, there is NO way to do what you've proposed within the Realm of Good Manners.

Most sincerely yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Is it impolite to take one's prescribed medications at a formal dinner?

B.

Dear B.,

If it's An Emergency, of course not. If you feel Anaphylactic Shock coming on, and using the Epi-Pen you carry with you everywhere would help you, then naturally, do what you need to do! If you just need to take a pill at 8 P.M., however, you should Excuse Yourself, proceed to the Powder Room, and take the Medication there, in private.

All best,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Good grief! Definitely G&T time. I haven't been watching TV, so when you mentioned the Right-Hand Ring, I had to Google on it to find out. And it was featured on That Tacky Show, no less. Along with moissanite, which I rather fancied due to my Materials Science background. Silicon Nitride sounds so geeky.

Does this mean it is tacky to wear any sort of ring on the right hand, or just to buy yourself diamonds as a herd response to an ad campaign? I have a rather understated class ring I always wear on the right hand, in hopes it would not be mistaken for a wedding ring. (Some perfectly nice guys are clueless about style details and wouldn't risk chatting up a married lady.) It is a white gold signet with blue lapis inlay and antiqued engraving.

Thank you again for your rays of hope that our culture is not hopelessly lost.

K.

Dear K.,

We think it's perfectly fine to wear your Class Ring on your Right Hand. The problem is really with people who would Buy a Big Diamond Ring for their Right Hand just because the Diamond Folks said it's cool. (Which, of course, it is not.) We'd probably avoid wearing diamonds on that hand anyway, at least until that Silly Fad passes, lest someone mistake us for Followers of it—but any other type of ring is Perfectly Fine.

Best wishes,
The Etiquette Grrls

P.S. What Tacky Show do you mean? We didn't spot it in Google, and, sigh, there are So Many. It's kind of like saying "That Annoying Pop Song," tee hee.

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Is it appropriate to include a date by which invited guests should R.S.V.P.? To a wedding? An office holiday party?

K.

Dear K.,

Well, traditionally, one would only have to say "R.S.V.P." However, traditionally, everybody one might be sending invitations to would simply understand that they needed to Reply Promptly. As anyone who's hosted an event recently will tell you, that is No Longer the Case. Adding a date to the R.S.V.P. request is common now for events where you need to have a Head Count by a Certain Date. If you trust everyone to Get Back to You ASAP, then sure, we'd leave it off… but if you need to give The Caterer a Firm Number of Guests by a particular date, it would be smart to add it, unless you don't mind calling up all the Slackers and asking them if they're coming.

Yours truly,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

My Sweet Sixteen is coming up soon, and I am having a nice party for my grade and some other friends. People have starting asking what I would like for a gift. Is it rude to have a Wish List? How should I let people know what I would like? Or should I just shrug it off with an "anything you get me I'm sure I'd love"? I do have some particular things in mind that I would like.

Thank you so so much!
Sweet Sixteen

Dear Sweet Sixteen,

We'd go with, "Oh, you know I don't care about presents—the only thing that really matters to me is that all of my friends come to the party!" Then if they protest that they want to get you something, you can say, "Really, anything would be fine. Don't go to any trouble!" It really is impolite to appear to have any interest at all in What Other People Are Going to Buy for You. And, for that matter, people shouldn't be asking you what you want! If someone were At a Loss as to what to get you, it would be much better for them to ask Your Best Friend about it. She, of course, could say something like, "I can't think of anything in particular that Sweet Sixteen would like, but I know she absolutely ADORES Bath Stuff / Winter Scarves / Velvet Paintings of Elvis, etc."

We hope you have a Splendid Birthday!

Cheers,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Whenever I receive a forwarded chain e-mail that consists of a joke, poem, or a cute photo, I read it and delete it. There are times when I have sent the same types of e-mails and I get responses from my friends that say, “Oh, how cute,” or, “That was so sweet.” I never send these replies back when I get e-mails. Is that rude? Do I really have to say anything at all?

Recipient

Dear Recipient,

We don't think that's rude. If it's something being sent Only to You (and you want to encourage the sender to forward that sort of thing), you might want to send a Quick Reply. However, if you're one of 20 people on a Mass Mailing List, we don't think you need to respond. (And actually, if Truth Be Told, we're not so fond of receiving anything that's getting forwarded to Every Single Person the sender knows... we think it's a Smart Idea to Think Twice before forwarding anything, ever. Lots of people still have Slow Modem Connections and really don't appreciate having to download lots of Forwarded Messages every time they check their e-mail.)

Sincerely yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Readers,

We have had an absolute outpouring of suggestions for Dejected 'Demoiselle! Since we've also heard from many Dear Readers asking if we could pass along everyone's suggestions to them, too, we figured we'd post them right here. Overall, Lands' End, Lane Bryant, Nordstrom, and, much to our surprise, J.C. Penney earned strong recommendations from our Dear Tall Readers, but there were also a number of other resources we'd never heard of! More than anything, we think the overwhelming response we received is a Pretty Damn Good Indication that More Stores Need to Cater to Tall Women! It shouldn't be this much of a hassle for ANYONE to get a Nice Interview Suit! Listen up, designers!

As ever,
The Etiquette Grrls

P.S. We haven't been into that TallGirl shop we mentioned last week, but one reader was un peu critical of the quality of their clothes, so, as always, Shop Wisely... we'll report in when we've had a chance to check it out.

From Drusilla:

Oh, do I know where 'Demoiselle is coming from! I'm six feet tall, and I have the same problem with things that fit here being huge there, and so on...

I find that Lane Bryant, which is geared towards the "plus size" crowd but has a wider range of sizes than you might think, has done a fabulous job of expanding their clothing to include tall sizes. The staff at my local store has been fabulous about helping me find styles and pieces that fit the way they are supposed to, and they NEVER make comments about anyone's size or shape or what have you. They do carry the occasional nice suit, but I rely on them more for the basics—nice slacks and sweaters and so on.

For classic suits, I've also had some luck with Lands' End, now that they have expanded their sizes. Nothing fancy, but nice, classic, high-quality pieces that almost always include the option of having inseams, etc., altered to the customer's preferred length. And their customer service is phenomenal.

And, as you said in your response to 'Demoiselle's letter, a fabric store with a good stock of patterns and a talented seamstress are absolute essentials.

Hope this helps. And keep up the good work!

P.S. Almost forgot—shoes! www.lebos.com. FABULOUS store. And fabulous people who work there. I imagine the commute might be a bit long for 'Demoiselle, but they'll work with you over the phone or the internet too. And ignore the fact that they push dance and riding shoes on the web page—they have everything.

From J.:

I find that Lands' End has very nice tall clothing. Many of the suits are sold in separate pieces, so the tall girl who needs a black suit could pick the right size in each. Their sizes run smaller than Eddie Bauer, who also have tall sizes but not as many business choices. These companies sell tall only in their catalogs. I'm 5' 11" and 198 lbs. I buy size 18 at Eddie Bauer or 20 at Lands' End.

Thank you so much for being on the web.

From K.:

While in Bath last December, I stumbled over the most wonderful clothing shop for tall women... I believe they only have stores in the U.K. but they do offer on-line shopping at www.longtallsally.com.

(The EGs thank L.D. for a similar recommendation.)

From J.:

I could not help but write in after reading the letter from the tall grrl who has difficulty finding well-fitting clothes. I am also on the tall side, with very long legs, and am nowhere near rail-thin, and have encountered the same problem time and time again. I have found luck with some companies. Lands' End offers many of their clothes in tall sizes, and will even custom-hem some of their pants for no extra charge. Chadwick's of Boston also offers some of their pants and suits in tall sizes, as does their sister company Jessica London (for the curvier figures). J.C. Penney's also distributes a catalog specifically aimed for tall ladies. I believe some of their clothing arrives unhemmed so you can hem it to your specifications. Lerner New York offers some pants in tall sizes, and they are cut very generously. However, most of their offerings tend to be on the casual side. The Lerner catalog carries completely different clothes from the stores and they also have many garments available in tall sizes, including suits. Lerner's, Chadwick's, and Jessica London do have a selection of formal and semi-formal gowns; I do not know if any of those are geared towards taller women (I am lucky enough to find them off the rack in department stores).

Of course, this means one has to catalog shop and run the risk of the garment not fitting properly and the hassle of mailing it back. It's better than nothing, and once you know what styles look good on you, you can look for similarly cut garments. I personally have had very good luck with those companies as far as fit, length, and figure flattery are concerned. However, I have never bought a suit from these companies, but if it were me I would be willing to try them out.

Another thing I have noticed is that a size 14 in the "misses" section and a size 14 in the "women's" section are cut very differently. Skirt lengths are longer, pants are cut more generously, shoulders a bit broader, etc. For someone taller a lot of times that "extra" material falls vertically, thereby lengthening the garment and providing a much better fit than a garment of the same size in the misses department.

The Nordstroms here in Los Angeles carry some shoes up to sizes 12 and even a 13 here and there, and from what I understand some shoes can be ordered in sizes over 10.

I hope some of these suggestions are a help to any tall grrl who is frustrated by the lack of well-fitting clothing. I hope one day designers and store buyers will get it and start to have tall departments just as they have for petite and curvier women.

From H.H.:

The tallgirlshop.com website that you mentioned responded to my request for larger women's shoes in the U.S. by directing me to designershoes.com, which carries women's shoes in sizes from 8 to 14 and widths from AAAA to WW. Designershoes.com also has a store in Boston, while tallgirlshop.com has stores all over Canada and the United States.

Again, thank you for posting 'Demoiselle's letter. If I didn't know better, I would think I had written it, as it describes me perfectly (minus the strong sewing skills).

From An Avid New Zealand Fan:

As per your request, here is a site I have used and found to be excellent. I hope this helps :-)

http://www.tallwomensclothing.com/

From K.H.:

Two reputable catalogs:

http://www.lernercatalog.com

http://www.roamans.com

From Mrs. L.:

I believe the Dejected 'Demoiselle was also in a quandary about finding shoes in her size. I checked out the website for Nine West shoes (www.9west.com), and it allows you to search for shoes by size. The largest size they carry is 12 Medium. I realize that this brand is not the best available, but Nine West shoes do tend to be stylish and affordable. I believe D.D. could find something that would work nicely for her upcoming interviews. Best of luck to her!

From Wanna-be FashionConsultantGrrl:

I don't know a single person who fits into a skirt suit properly the first time it is tried on! Although poor Dejected isn't a man, she needs to start shopping like one. This means calling the store tailor when she starts trying on suits to ask some very important questions:

Can this hem be raised/lowered?

Can these sleeves be shortened/lengthened? (It's painful to see a petite lady with her sleeves dragging in her soup because she didn't bother to get her suit tailored!)

Is there more room in the shoulders or should I get the next size up and tailor the bust down? Etc.

If she's only going to ever purchase one skirt suit, it will certainly be worth it to go to a store with an in-house tailor! She should also consider purchase suit separates rather than "sets." Most better department stores sell skirt suits in this fashion and are a blessing for those who us who wear drastically different sizes on the top and bottom (although the tailor can fix this as well if you fall in love with a "set"—buy the jacket that fits and have the skirt tailored up or down to fit).

These type of upscale department stores also have in-store personal shoppers who get paid to help people find exactly what they need! By calling ahead, Dejected could explain her plight to the personal shopper, and arrive to find the tailor ready and waiting to assist her into suits selected just for her height/build and in her price range.

From B.:

May I suggest Tom James. They will come to you and take your measurements. Their suits are built especially for you and I must say they are perfect every time and in a timeless style. Just type Tom James in your search engine and you are sure to locate a salesperson near you.

From L.:

I am writing in regard to Dejected 'Demoiselle's question about finding clothes for tall girls.

J. Crew has excellent pants for tall women. I am 6' tall with a 35'' inseam, and J. Crew's pants fit perfectly! I have also checked out the TallGirl shop and I found the prices did not support the quality of the clothing. The clothing seemed to be of a lower quality than J. Crew. I have purchased many suit pants, khakis, and other pants from J. Crew, and they have held up over time. In addition, Banana Republic had tall length pants (35" inseam) on their website www.bananarepublic.com, but they do not sell their tall pants in their stores. I have not purchased tall pants from Banana, so I am not sure of the quality.

I am an auditor, and as such, wear suits quite often. Business suit skirts are often longer than casual skirts, and even though I am tall, I find that the length of business suit skirts for average height women remains professional. I know personally, I am a smaller size on the top than the bottom, so I would recommend to Dejected 'Demoiselle that she purchase a suit where she can buy the suit jacket and suit skirt pieces separately. I like Ann Taylor for suits, but not Ann Taylor Loft. With J. Crew, you also purchase the jacket and skirt separately. I also have a great Donna Karen Black Label suit where the skirt is professional length and the suit jacket fits perfectly.

I'm not sure what size clothing Dejected 'Demoiselle wears, but I am a 6 on top, 8 on bottom, and I have had a lot of luck with J. Crew tall length pants, and Ann Taylor skirt suits.

In terms of shoes, I can't help! But I do think stores like Naturalizer make shoes in wide width.

I hope this information will be useful to Dejected 'Demoiselle!

From D.C.P.:

As a person who has sold both "regular" and "plus size" clothing, I can tell you women have Individual Shapes and nothing off the rack will suit (pardon my pun) everyone.

This is where an Extremely Good Tailor comes in handy. If you want your clothes to fit, they should be fitted To You not to a hanger or a fit model.

Most Good Stores have Good Suits—Say Nordstrom. They also have In-Store Alterations Departments that can (and very very often do) fabulous and magical things to plain suits. A number of Nordstrom Brands are actually made with some seam allowances, and the pants with "open inseams" for Tall Girls to appreciate the same as Not So Tall Girls.

From K.:

Your reader didn't say how tall she was, or what size she wears, but I would strongly suggest going to Lane Bryant (a storefront, not the catalogue.) I worked there for close to a year, and the store has a wonderful selection of suits in sizes 14 -28, and in tall lengths (good to about 6'2" I'd say). They tend to vary in quality, from a very nice wool suit (with skirt or pants option) to a much more causal "soft" suit. If I remember correctly, shoulder pads are FORBIDDEN. :)

Another nice place would be August Max Woman. They carry larger sizes, but I'm not sure about the lengths.

For dressier stuff—I would actually suggest a bridesmaid's dress. Many stores carry bridesmaid's outfits in a wide enough range of styles and sizes that you can find something VERY appropriate without spending an arm and leg. Also, most bridal stores include hemming and some minor alterations along with the purchase.

From Tall Girl Too:

J. C. Penney has a free catalog which might help Dejected Demoiselle find some clothing she likes. Here is the website where she can request the catalog. The website also allows you to peruse the items in the catalog on line.

In addition, the regular Fall/Winter J. C. Penney catalog has many items of clothing, mostly pants.

Best of luck to Dejected 'Demoiselle, and thank you for creating a website which is not only entertaining but also most helpful and informative.

(The EGs also heard from A.B.F. with a similar recommendation.)

From saj:

Please tell DD that I sympathize with her, I have much the same problem, as I am 5'10" and wear a size 14. Clothing is made of large women, and for tall women, but not large tall women. Having said that, I recommend Jones New York suiting, which comes in separates and their pants have a decent inseam (especially in the larger sizes, which I buy and have tailored). Jones is available at most good department stores, such as Hecht's, Macy's and Nordstrom. They are a little expensive, but the styles and colors are generally classic and can be worn for a long time. I would also recommend J. Jill clothing, in which many items come in tall lengths. They are a bit less formal, but definitely have some items which can be used for interviewing. They are online at jjill.com.

Hope that this helps Dejected 'Demoiselle.

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

My husband's brother and his family have just moved to our town and we frequently have them over for dinner. At least once during each visit, one of them comments on our name brand items. "Oh, look... REAL Coke (or Tylenol or Cascade)." They are both young and are a one-income family; my husband and I both work. Believe me, we are not flaunting our income by buying name brand groceries in anticipation of their visit. At a recent dinner, we served Camembert cheese and my sister-in-law said to me, "You only bought that expensive cheese because it makes you feel special." THOR! I was floored; I don't think I said a thing in response. What should I have done? What should I say when they comment on our product choices? Family or not, they are guests in my home and should not be rude to their hosts.

Thanks,
In need of a snappy response

Dear In need,

Oh, Dear Reader, it is So Damn RUDE of you to have Non-Generic Coke in your house! We're just kidding. We can't believe your brother- and sister-in-law would act like this. In our opinion, calling attention to How Much Something Costs, whether you mean to point out that something is Particularly Cheap OR Particularly Expensive, is incredibly Rude. After all, you wouldn't dream of rummaging through Their Cabinets and saying, "Oh, look… Generic Coke!" What to do in this situation is a bit tricky. Sure, we could give you a Snappy Comeback, but that's not really going to solve anything. (Plus, especially if there are Other Guests at your Dinner Table, you wouldn't want to start a Big Argument over the Cheese.) Rather, we'd specifically address these issues with them… in private, and Not Over Food.

We don't know your family dynamics—maybe it would be best for Your Husband to speak with His Brother about all of this alone? Or, you could all sit down together and try to work through this issue. They need to realize that first of all, they've got the Completely Wrong Idea about your intentions—you are not trying to flaunt your wealth by serving certain foods, and the very idea of that is Really Silly. We'd probably say something like, "We're not sure if you realize it, but the comments on 'Real Coke' and saying that we serve Camembert to 'make ourselves feel special' are really very hurtful to us. When you come over, we just want you to enjoy yourselves as our guests; like any hosts, we simply try to prepare a nice dinner for all of us to enjoy. How much the elements of that meal cost is completely irrelevant—we invite you over for your company. We hope you'd feel the same way." Now, we can't predict how they'll react… but at least you'll have let them know that you're onto their Passive-Aggressive (and sometimes Openly Aggressive) comments and that you don't appreciate them. And honestly, if this behavior continues, we'd stop inviting them over for dinner, since food seems to be the Touchy Subject at issue. It's Your Home and you do not need to subject yourself to Insulting Comments there.

Sincerely yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

This year, I am a junior in high school, and that means that at my school you're allowed to park on campus for the mere fee of $75 a year. Ever since I started driving to school, the most random people I scarcely know have been asking me for rides. First of all, I would not really mind it if these were people who lived near me, but most of them happen to live Horribly Out Of The Way. Keep in mind, Grrls, that these are people I really only talk to sometimes in school, not Great Friends or anything, and some are people I have never even spoken to, they just happen to know my name from small talk. What's Even More Rude yet is how some of them approach me—they come up to me in the hallways and announce "You're taking me home today!" and leave without confirmation or anything! Now, these are people who have Complete Access to a school bus as well—even though it is considered horribly nerdy to ride one home (if I had to do it for two years, another one won't hurt them). Now, my actual question—what is the polite, nice way of turning these people down for rides? If I really don't want to take them, I usually make the excuse that I have an appointment after school or that there's not enough room in my car (fortunately, I drive a small Mustang and the convertible roof provides almost no backseat room). And also, how do I tell the one person I usually take home (my next-door neighbor) that I can't take their friends home too?

Please Help, EGs!

N.

Dear N.,

To the people who come up to you assuming you can give them a ride: "Sorry, I actually can't drive you home today." Don't offer an excuse—it's your car and you don't need to give one. You shouldn't be impolite to them in telling them no, but simply refusing to drive them is by no means Rude.

To your next-door neighbor: "I'm happy to give you a lift home, but I'm really busy and can't exactly spend an hour after school dropping off lots of other people all over town. It's perfectly convenient to take you, since you live right next door, but would you mind not inviting anyone else along?"

Best wishes,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I have quite a Quandary in regards to my clothing. In specific, formal and business clothing, especially suits and shoes. I am a rather big girl, not in the overweight sense, but in the broad-shouldered, tall, and big-footed sense. I'm in good shape, and most people underestimate my weight by a good 40-50 pounds, but the fact remains that I cannot find clothing or shoes that fit me well. Shirts that fit my shoulders or dresses and skirts that fit my hips are consistently far too big elsewhere, and everything is too short. Shoes are the worst of all; I can't even find Sneakers with a gore high enough to fit my foot, much less anything feminine. Frequently sales clerks tell me I may have more luck in the men's section, and I find this Extremely Offensive as I Am Not Male. In desperation I have turned to personally sewing my evening gowns and wedding dress, in order to spare myself tactless and rude comments about my size. These comments have run the gamut of: "My goodness, I never would have guessed you wear a size *—you certainly carry yourself well," to "Oh *****, I thought you were a guy!"

While frustrating, and occasionally embarrassing, my search for nicer clothing is not very urgent. I work in jeans or scrubs because they are practical, relatively inexpensive, and expendable if Particularly Nasty and Unpleasant Things are spilt upon them. Yes, this is experience talking. I haven't really needed nice business clothes, and as I said, I make my own formal gowns.

Two recent events, however, have brought my Clothing Crisis to a head.

Firstly, I have obtained tickets for the Trans-Siberian Orchestra's Christmas Concert as a surprise for my fiancé, and I have no idea what the dress code is. TYNTBT suggests semi-formal, but as this is a one performance event I'm not sure whether it would be more formal or not. And after determining what the degree of formality is, I must then either find and alter a dress, or make one myself.

Secondly, by the beginning of next fall I will hopefully be up to my ears in medical school interviews, and such interviews Require a Black Interviewing Suit. The very thought of shopping for a suit is enough to give me the vapors, especially because every single suit jacket has those silly shoulder pads sewn into the lining and unremovable, which causes me to look like a Linebacker on Estrogen. I know that you recommend skirt suits, but a skirt is the one piece of clothing guaranteed to make me feel fat and awkward. On top of this, medical school interview committees tend to be more conservative, and thus I don't dare wear a pants suit.

Is there a Big and Tall for Ladies as well as for men? What is a girl supposed to do if she's neither petite nor curvy?

Thank you for any advice you can offer me.

A Dejected 'Demoiselle

Dear Dejected 'Demoiselle,

You Poor Dear!! Now, while we understand that it's impossible for every single store to carry clothing that fits every possible combination of height and weight, we think it's deplorable that there seem to be No Really Good Resources for Tall Women! The Petites department and the Plus-Size departments (and the Specialized Shops that cater to these size ranges) are a step in the Right Direction, but it's time for everyone to realize that there are Tall Women too, and Dammit, They Need Clothes! There's only one store we've seen that focuses on Women's Tall Sizes: It's called TallGirl and there's a branch in Boston. We haven't been in, so we can't personally vouch for the quality of what they sell (though we will certainly stop in the next time we're around there and check it out!) but the clothes on their website look promising, at least: http://www.tallgirlshop.com/index.html. J. Crew also has tall sizes on its website, though we didn't see any Skirt Suits (which we would recommend for the Med School Interviews, if the committees are Conservative). Otherwise, Dear Reader, we would recommend finding a seamstress who can work with you to make something that will be Perfectly Fitted. She can make SURE the shoulders are constructed in a way that Flatters You, and that the skirt is in a Length and Style that will make you feel most comfortable. Dear Readers, do any of you have ideas for Good Sources of Tall Women's Clothing? Please e-mail us at , and we'll pass the suggestions along to Dejected 'Demoiselle.

As ever,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrlss,

I have had to make the horrible decision this week to not attend my childhood friend's wedding this weekend. I live in northern California and she, and the wedding, are in Los Angeles. As you have probably heard on various news outlets, there are massive fires currently consuming the southern part of California.

While I weighed the options for a long time, and consulted with many people in the LA area, I have ultimately decided, with insurmountable regret, that I should not make the trip. I have very severe asthma which has given me more than my fair share of life-threatening attacks. It pains me to admit it, but if I were to go, I would probably be endangering my life as the air down there is literally black in the sky. After talking to my doctor, I was advised strongly not to make the trip.

Well, after I regretfully told the Bride of this difficult situation, she was deeply disappointed and didn't really seem to understand my predicament. I feel absolutely terrible for doing this to her, but I just can't risk my health. I'm hope that once the stress of her wedding is over, she will understand my decision.

My question is: How should I properly "celebrate" their nuptials now that I will not be attending? They explicitly asked for no gifts, that all they would like of us was our presence. Of course, now that my presence is a gift I cannot give them, does the "no gift" rule not apply? Should my husband and I plan to make another trip down there at a later date when the fires and smoke have cleared? I'm at a loss and I'd really appreciate any advice or suggestions you have for this unfortunate situation.

Best,
Asthmatic (non)Attendee

Dear Asthmatic (non)Attendee,

We also hope the Bride realizes she is behaving Abominably! You shouldn't feel guilty in the slightest—yes, one should never Back Out of an Accepted Invitation without having a Very Good Reason, but we think you have an Excellent Reason. Even if the Bride were Your Sister, and you were her Maid of Honor, she should still realize that you have a Legitimate Reason not to be present, and no matter how disappointed she might be that you won't be there to help celebrate, she should be Gracious About It.

As for what to do at this point… well, we definitely don't think you should head out and buy an Expensive Gift for the Bride and Groom. You don't need to Make Reparations for something that is Not Your Fault! If anything, you could write a Nice, Long Letter to Your Friend just wishing her and her husband well and expressing the sort of sentiments you'd have said to her in person at her Wedding. We think that also might serve as a Nice Reminder that she was Way Out of Line to be Anything but Understanding and Gracious to you, and she will probably call you, apologize profusely, and you can begin to Smooth Things Over.

Sincerely,
The Etiquette Grrls

Cheers!

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I send my daughter to a very nice (read expensive) preschool in a nice neighborhood. Our tuition includes class time, snack, and lunch. In most ways, I am thrilled with my daughter's school and teachers, but a recent issue has come up that irks me enormously. The administrator has decided to shorten the regular school day and throw the class a holiday party. Sounds great, right? Except that they are charging $12 per head cover charge. I was horrified! We parents all pay a very substantial tuition so it is not as though the school needs the extra funding, or the money is needed for extra supplies. We were not told about this extra charge until weeks after the announcement of the party. The amount of the charge is not huge, but I feel that this is extortion! My question is this: How can I make known my extreme displeasure at this superfluous charge without alienating the instructors or seeming like a penny-pincher? The money is not the issue, it's the principle! I can hardly keep my child out of the party, which she is looking forward to immensely. Thank you for your help.

Parent in MI

Dear Parent,

You should take it up with the Administration. Might this alienate the Staff? Well, yes, but we don't think there's any other way to Make Your Voice Heard. As long as you're not Nasty or Snippy or Whiny about it (which of course you won't be), you should be able to Express Your Opinion to the Administration without having them become Unprofessional Toward You. If these people can't take Constructive Criticism from the parents of kids who attend their school, they really have No Business being in Positions of Authority. We would recommend making an appointment with the Headmistress or Principal and nicely saying exactly what you told us—that you are, in general, very pleased with the school, but that you thought the Christmas Party raised some interesting issues, and you'd like to discuss them. Then you can say that you were a bit surprised they would plan a party that requires a cover charge to attend—it's not so much the amount of money they charged but the fact that this wasn't made clear in the first place. We think you're entirely within your rights to ask why they felt the need to plan anything during the school day (especially shortening the Academic Day!) that would require any extra fees. There may be, for example, some sort of Rule at the school that anything that isn't Specifically Academic in nature can't be covered by the Regular Supplies Budget… which is all well and good, but then, you could suggest that they might want to reconsider this policy or consider not planning such events, if they're not going to be Free to All Students. After all, someone may be Sacrificing Everything to send her child to school there, and what if this sort of thing becomes a Monthly Event—that's not exactly cheap over an entire year, and the alternative of having to Take Time Off Work to care for the child herself (not to mention making the child stand out for Not Attending the Party) isn't very kind to anyone in that situation. Make sure you hear the administrator out, then suggest a few alternatives. Perhaps parents could contribute to an Optional General Extracurricular Activity Fund at the beginning of the year, and money for all events could come out of this… and all events could be open to all children, regardless of whether their parents contributed $2 or $200. Good luck, Dear Reader!

Very truly yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

 

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