Goody Bag: Vintage Hankies

My mother said there are always three hallmarks to a true “lady”

  1. She always carries a handkerchief.
  2. She never smokes on the street.
  3. She would never use a swear word (“Even if her hair was on fire.”)

Which is very funny coming from a woman who, 1. Taught the neighborhood children five ways to say “Asshole” in French, 2. Once got kicked out of a bank for smoking in the safety deposit vault (“What? This isn’t a gas station, asshole.”) 3. Told me to blow my six-year-old nose into a map of Tennessee the day I had a cold and there wasn’t a tissue to be found in the car. (Johnson City: I sincerely apologize.)

As you can imagine, I have been fond of handkerchiefs ever since.

Project and Image courtesy of Tif Fussell

Mostly I like to collect the fancy ones that look like they were never used, but recently, after becoming a fan of Dottie Angel, I have developed a soft spot for bright white hankies with delicate details. I keep saying that one of these days I’ll get around to making one of her glorious projects, like these curtains, but sadly it has yet to happen. One day I’ll do something great with my hankies, but in the meantime, I’m giving away a ready surplus to one special person….

This Goody Bag Giveaway includes

·        15 vintage hankies, various sizes, all of them in excellent condition.

This week’s Goody Bag Giveaways are open to anyone, anywhere, no “following” necessary. To enter, leave a comment answering the question below. No more than one comment, per person, per post, please. Be sure your email address is included in the comment or via online profile. All Goody Bag winners will be announced 8am CST Monday, September 26, 2011

Question: My mother thought a handkerchief was one of the ultimate “ladylike” hallmarks; what other ladylike behaviors did your mother teach you?
Example: “Ladies always cross their feet at the ankle”…“Ladies never order a drink in public”… “A lady is always the first to say thank you.”
Note: I’m not asking or suggesting anyone follow these maxims, I just think they make for *interesting* discussion!


  1. says

    Posture. Ohemgee, posture.
    She would always (and still does, occasionally) say “pull the string, pull the string!” asking me to envision a string attached to the top of my head that, when “pulled,” would grant me perfect posture. When that didn’t work, she’d grab me by the shoulders and pull it for me. But my posture is good! DJ Husband, however, has to put up with me yelling “pull the string!” when we’re out in public and he’s shorter than me because of his hunched shoulders!

  2. says

    My mom had a real thing about me burping in public. I still can’t stand to do it.

  3. Anonymous says

    To never “suck snot”. It simply was not done.


  4. Junia says

    My mother had a thing for chewing gum. She hated it. It was forbidden. If I had friends over to the house and they were chewing gum she would find a reason to cut the play date short. Mama meant business!!!!!

  5. says

    Hummm… well growing up my grandmother always made sure we were “little ladies” who called her grandmother dearest, wore white gloves to church on easter, and had a new pressed dress for special occasions.

    there were very few spoken rules of what a lady is… but the message was VERY clear.

    thanks so much (hope i win) 🙂


  6. Anonymous says

    The list was so long I can’t remember half of them. A lady never sat on the floor wearing a dress. A lady always carried a spare pair of pantyhose in her purse – just in case. A lady always made sure her underclothing was perfect because you “just never knew” (the inference here was you never knew when you’d be in a car accident & need to arrive at the hospital via ambulance). A lady never, ever blew her nose anywhere but in a bathroom. She did not burp in public, she most definitely did not pass gas and she never, ever, ever left the house without lipstick. If your hair was a mess? Put on a hat! Yes…my mother was raised by a perfect lady (my grandmother) and boy did she & I butt heads. A lot. I am a lot of things but a “perfect lady” is NOT one of them… (Bonnie/ MovinForward1 at yahoo dot com). I don’t know why but I can’t comment under my google account these days. It’s frustrating. I have been less than ladylike in my response to that issue. 🙂

  7. says

    my momma has always said to let the boys win, to keep their ego up. frankly, I don’t care about their egos, I’ll win if I want to!

  8. says

    Oh wow, you listed all of them!

    Ladies don’t call men on the phone, men call ladies, haha.

    Ladies don’t slouch.

    Ladies never show bare shoulders in church.

    Ladies don’t do their makeup dark like a harlot. (meaning red lipstick, dark eyes)

    You never wear white shoes after Labor Day, she still doesn’t. Sometimes she reminds me of “Serial Mom” with her rules.

    My poor mother for I have broken so many of her ladies’ rules, lol. Of course, she’s changed a few of hers as well over the years. 😉


  9. says

    ha my mom never had any hallmark ladylike advice… not that she wasn’t a lady, she just wasn’t girly enough to care. all i got from her was bad hair advice, and reaped the horrific results of it. I have since learned better 🙂
    jamiepentak {at} gmail {dot} com

  10. says

    I love vintage hankies because they are so pretty that you don’t want to use them and instead could frame them .
    tumblemumbo at
    intl. thanks

  11. says

    This one comes from my grandfather by way of my mother. She is the 5th of 7 kids, 4 of whom were girls. Mom told me that her father always used the phrase “young ladies of quality do not (insert bad behavior here)…” My personal favorite was “young ladies of quality do not stay out after dark!” ha!

  12. says

    Well, it’s not advice as much as an adage, I guess, but my mom *did not* handle heat well. Which led her to protest, when I would say I was sweaty, that “Horses sweat, men perspire, and ladies glow”.

    Eleanor dot e dot Daigle at gmail dot com

    Lady, I hope I win this one! It was after a round of family funerals that I discovered hankies are much less irritating to the eyeballs than tissues, and that therefore those of us who don’t look pretty when we cry aren’t quite as likely to scare folks if we employ a handkerchief for the mopping up. I’ve been on the hunt for good ones ever since, and my collection isn’t big enough to carry one every day, yet.

  13. says

    My mother insists it is more ladylike to wear a slip under a dress or skirt, a habit which I still practice and have passed on to my now college-age daughter.

  14. says

    My mom never mentioned anything about what I needed to do to be a lady. Probably because she’s not very ladylike. Everything I learned about being ladylike was from a scene “A League of Their Own.”

  15. says

    I really can’t remember my mom giving me any of those advices…. She did always say to me I had to ‘SEE'(and then do) work. I was the oldest(of the children) at home. She didn’t want to ask me to do anything, I just had to see it and when I didn’t see it, she would get angry and I’d know for the next time. Now, I see work everywhere, I’m in desperate need of some rest, haha… and I now wonder why I was always the one to have to see the work…
    Loooooove those handkerchiefs btw!

  16. says

    My mother always insisted upon me wearing a skirt or a dress to morning church service…NEVER slacks. I didn’t break this rule until I was married and pregnant. LOL

  17. Anonymous says

    My mom was is a very progressive lady (read:borderline feminist) She likes to ruffle feathers when it comes to gender roles, but is still very much a woman. A very powerful woman. And man I respect the crap out of her.
    One thing she (and my grandmother) has always been a very big advocate of is presentation, especially self presentation. Even if you shop at thrift stores (and we definitely weren’t rich growing up) you need to look like you shop at Nordstrom. Generally speaking, our society is very materialistic, and you will get more respect, and better and faster service if you a) look like you deserve it, and b) look like you can pay for it.
    Through trial and error in my life, I have found this to be more true than I would like.
    In case that doesn’t qualify, I remember my grandmother always insisting that ladies didn’t cross their legs at the knees, only the ankles. 🙂

  18. says

    Dang,Jenny, I was going to mention the slip one! Remember when Lady Diana (before her marriage) was photographed NOT wearing a slip and you could see the outline of her legs under her skirt? Shocking!

  19. says

    🙁 I don’t think my mom taught me any ‘lady-like’ qualities. She was a rough n tumble cowgirl who belched and farted (sorry, ‘fluffed’) with the rest of them. Oh! Do these count: NEVER lick the knife (even a table knife – which to this day if I catch my hubby doing it I smack him), and NEVER burp at the table (which we ignored when gramps was over for dinner because we would have burp wars with him.). I was expected to SEE and DO on my own just like Marian above. I do have one handkerchief that I love dearly – it’s white with a pink edge and a pretty bird in the corner. I keep it hidden away as I don’t want anything to happen to it!!

  20. says

    My mother never overtly said, “Ladies don’t do X,” but I do remember her saying, relatively often, “What will the neighbors think!?” My response was always, “Who cares what the neighbors think!?”

    That’s still my response, by the way.

    theoldecrone at gmail dot com

  21. says

    The ones I remember have mostly been listed. I’ve pretty much given up all of them. I wish she had suggested handkerchiefs. I have only come to discover their usefulness and attractiveness as an adult.

    No cursing because one is smart enough to think of a more creative way to express one’s feelings. (Sometimes only the f-word will do.)

    Always wear pantyhose with a skirt or dress. (I think bike shorts suffice to prevent chub rub.)

    Don’t start shaving your legs because then you can never stop. A lady does not have stubble showing. (Ha.)

    I don’t like posting my email address, so I’ll send you an email.


  22. says

    My mother was insistent that we pull our hair back at the dinner table and not play with our hair in the kitchen.

  23. Anonymous says

    This was passed down to my mom, to me, from my Hungarian-English Aunt(who was an absolute knockout)
    ” A lady should always keep a spare” (the “always” was emphasized)
    She meant a back-up to your favorite beau. She met my great uncle in England during the war and when he left to go home she thought he was gone for good. Of course, he re-enlisted for another helping and went back for her. I think that was how she came up with the spare – until her Claude came back. Ultimate romance story in our family.
    My mom always said this to me when I went out the door with a date, and they always asked what she meant. Red. In. The. Face.

    Love, Luv, Leurve your blog.

  24. Anonymous says

    I don’t remember her talking about it a lot, but my mom had a hankie in every pocket, purse, and bathrobe. When she passed away last winter, I found several wadded in assorted pockets.
    One thing she did think was very important for a girl to learn was the correct order in which to wash the dishes and iron clothes. To this day I still use the proper orders…and have shared this handy information with a few of my friends 🙂
    I love the hankie curtain! Thanks for all your great ‘shares’.

  25. says

    For some reason we weren’t supposed to sing/hum at the dinner table, and of course, NEVER wear white after Labor Day..not just shoes,- slacks or skirts either! I remember being thrilled when I learned about “winter white”! 🙂

  26. Zia says

    A lady never leaves the house without lipstick. In my Mom’s case that would be red lipstick.

    She had lots of other ideas-the best being that a lady was always “nice” to everyone, and she was.

    ziamays at hotmail dot com

  27. says

    Manicures and pedicures. Ladies always have neat nails — and preferably done on Saturday so they’re perfect for church. Not even kidding. xo M

  28. Anonymous says

    My mother is not lady-like. But the advice she always gives, is to always wear clean underwear, just in case you get a car accident. Because that’s what paramedics pay attention to? Who knows.

    That hankie curtain is filling me with envy. So beautiful!

  29. Anonymous says

    My mom not that kind of mom. However, she did always say for us kids to “make her proud” whenever we were out of her sight. She basically meant for us to be polite and “thoughtful” (her word) of others. However, she did tell me that her mom (my grandmother) used to tell her that ladies never went out without wearing a girdle. Funny.

  30. J Engelland says

    My mom never taught me stuff like that, however, my grandmother was a stickler. I’m 36 years old and still hear her voice in my head when I’m getting dressed for a funeral/wedding/church service. Oh, and it horrifies me to see girls spitting in public 🙁 I didn’t know this about myself until I saw it happen the other day. I suspect that is also my grandmother’s influence.

  31. says

    My mom was really big on stressing the importance of good posture. To her dismay I was always a sloucher. She even had a song she would sing to encourage me to stand up straight about a “flip-floppy camel without any starch in your spine.” It was SO annoying!

  32. says

    My mom never really had any rules about being a lady….it was my dad. He was always telling us to sit straight, don’t slouch, elbows off the table, etc. Etc. We always had to cover up…no running around the house even in our bathing suit.
    The good ole days.

  33. says

    keep your knees together! I’m sure there were others, but she would always yell at me about this one. Claimed that I was good at this until shortly after Kindergarten. She didn’t understand how I got worse at it as I got older. I was a tomboy who liked dresses, what can I say. There’s nothing more fun than getting dressed up in your Sunday best to make mud pies (I still like to bake all dolled up, come to think of it)

  34. says

    Goodness my Mom is still after me for saying anything that comes to my mind! She say’s I am like a gumball machine, thoughts just go right out of my mouth like a gumball and does not go through any thought process…Not very lady like!


  35. says

    matching bra and panties. My mother was mortified if she took me to the doctor and mine didn’t match- whether it was the kind of doctor that saw them or not

  36. says

    My mother always told me to keep my hands out of my pockets and sit up straight!

  37. says

    You know I never had a real mom or grandmother until I moved in with my last foster family, and their grandma taught me to be kind, love life, and always always act like a lady so that will be looked and and up to having great qualities. Most of all she taught me to love God and follow his rules and no one would be able to question whether my motives were “lady like”

  38. Anonymous says

    My mother taught me that ladies NEVER whine. Amen. She did what needed to be done and saved her special smile that said “Bite me” to those that had stood in her way.

    Thanks for asking the question. : )
    ~Jenn in Forest Grove

    Just in case,
    Fruitey underscore Girl at hotmail dot com

  39. Anonymous says

    My mother never gave me specific advice on how to be a lady. This is largely because I am male. However, I do recall her saying the following maxim which her grandmother passed down, “Pretty is as pretty does.”

    So maybe that counts…idk I just really need those handkerchiefs.


  40. says

    My great grand mother and grand mother raised me along with my father. So needless to say I had years of wisdom….very old wisdom I may add. I remember, a lady always has her hair fixed. A lady always wears a dress. My grandmother would say “The styles may come and go but my “frock” hem never moves” Another saying that I repeat to my children today “Love is like the dew, honey, it will as soon fall on a rose petal and a horse poo.” WORDS OF WISDOM.

  41. says

    My mother was a fashion model, a very glamorous profession for which she has now nothing but disdain. Despite that disdain, she taught us how to walk and stand straight. I think it worked, because I have been praised for my good posture. I am very bad at slouching 🙂

  42. says

    “A lady never calls a man, she waits for him to pursue her. You don’t want to be thought of as ‘forward’.”

    While I certainly don’t think that’s always true, I do think it lets you know if the guy has made you a priority or not!

  43. says

    You crack me up – I should know not to read your posts while drinking my morning coffee! I have loved reading all the things our various mothers have passed on to us. My mother wasn’t a stickler for the most part but one thing got up her nose and that was eating anything while walking down the street – she always said that looked trashy. (“tacky” was barely tolerable but “trashy” must be strictly avoided). She was also a garment sewer and taught me to sew, always reminding me to take care of details so that my work looked “handmade, not homemade”. Still great advice.

  44. says

    My mum told me not to go out if a man horns from his car, he must stop the car an ring the bell, introduce himself and then wait for you inside. that was very important for your image in your neighbourhood.
    (Told that to my teenager children, they still laughing…) I also thought it was very silly, but now I think it would be very flattering…
    OMG!!! I became my mum….

  45. says

    I really enjoy your writing style!

    My mom (and family) were pretty much hillbillies so there wasn’t much discussion about what a lady does or doesn’t do….but my mom did offer some advice when I learned to drive a car….”it’s is always safer to make three right turns instead of one left”….go figure.

  46. Suzanne says

    Not a classic “lady” rule, but my mother always told me that my skirt should never be wider than it is long. LOL! Not bad advice, I think, when I see what passes as a skirt some days. 🙂
    Suzanne at we3roys(at)comcast(dot)net

  47. says

    My Mom was a working business woman in the days when all the other mothers stayed home and baked cookies. She always told me to make sure your purse and shoes matched!
    Man, do I miss her!

  48. says

    One of my Mom’s favorites was “keep your elbows off the table”. There were a lot of unspoken lessons in lady like behavior as well. Personally I think your mom sounds like an absolute blast – I would have loved it if my mom let her hair down more and taught me how to say bad words in French!


  49. says

    One thing I can remember my Mom telling me about being ladylike is to never raise your voice!! Hah! LOL

  50. Grace says

    My mom tried to teach me to burp on command. I don’t know that I can really answer this question truthfully.

  51. says

    Haha. love these stories! my mother is not what you would call ‘ladylike.’ She’s athletic, didn’t teach me how to do my makeup or hair, etc. But she also said (as someone already mentioned) to wear clean underwear and socks in case of a car accident. And to wear your socks at the gyno.

    lemonjitters at gmail dot com

  52. says

    My mom has never really had one thing she always says to me, I just always remember the way she loves tulips and lavender. And how she will wear anything thats the color of the sea. And how she always finishes projects I start but then get bored with and don’t finish. Its not one saying per se, just many things she does.

    My grandma on the other hand, always always ALWAYS say “Be aware of your surroundings”. You could pretty much apply it to any situation! When you’re driving you should always know what’s going on around you, but you should also know what sort of social situation you are in and act accordingly.

    Anyway, I love your blog and I’d love love love to win these hankies! my email is!

  53. says

    So funny! My mom would say “Never sit with your legs spread apart.” Love your blog!! dianahj123 at yahoo dot com

  54. says

    I wasn’t much with the traditional upbringing, but I had a teacher from Germany who always wore silk stockings and high heels, even with pants, so I decided that was the pinnacle of ladylike-ness. She was always impeccable, it was kinda like having Marlene Dietrich for a teacher.

  55. Natasha says

    My mom would always tell me to sit with my knees together and that my skirts and dresses should always come down to at least the top of my knees. I’m not always the best at following those particular rules so I always wear shorts, leggings, or tights with my skirts & dresses. She also said that a lady should have nice nails.

  56. says

    My mom’s advice isn’t exactly ladylike, but definitely for ladies. She always taught me to have cash on hand. Never expect your date to pay for you. He should, but you should have money to pay your own way, and make your own exit! Gotta love mom!

  57. says

    My mother always insisted that my clothes were in perfect repair, clean, ironed and appropriate. I had to wear a slip and stockings. Our shoes had to be shined. I was glad when Jackie Kennedy adopted mantillas, because then we didn’t have to wear hats to church. We had to have perfect table manners, which no one even bothers about these days. Thank you notes had to be written the day after Christmas. Recently I have figured out that it is easier to do the right thing. I have observed relatives whose lives have run off the track because they didn’t do the right thing. Ann

  58. Anonymous says

    This one will make you laugh.
    My mother told me that a lady always took a bath (not a shower) at least once a week to make sure “everything” was clean.
    Have a good move!

  59. susie w. says

    Here’s what my mom said: Do not chew gum in public, do not let a boy kiss you on the first date, make sure you have on clean underwear before going out of the house, and do not walk like an elephant (heavy footsteps). Here’s to all the ladies and nonladies who replied!!

  60. says

    My mother is a source of many important lessons, few of which have anything to do with being lady-like. The one I use most often is (direct quote here): “I don’t care what the rules are, just so long as I get my way.” It’s incredibly helpful when dealing with people who keep insisting that the rules do not allow for your TOTALLY REASONABLE request.

    Also: dress nicely when traveling by airplane. It’s a privilege, and it’s disrespectful to not treat it as such.

    If I win, I promise to always carry a nice hankie on the airplane with me.

  61. says

    My mom didn’t specifically teach me how to be ladylike. My parents never taught us in terms of gender roles. My mom did teach me how to bake and I always feel like a lady when I pull a perfect cake out of the oven.

  62. Maggie says

    My mom said “A lady never burps the alphabet!” This was said after finding out about my talent from a lady at church. The lady was impressed…my mom, not so much. 🙂

  63. Anonymous says

    My mom never had any ladylike advice. I do remember her telling me once when I was going on a date with a really cute guy…*Don’t shave your legs and wear ugly underwear!* Thanks mom!!
    mahgwi21 at yahoo

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