Query: Edwardian hat etiquette

Dear EtiKate
In Victorian and Edwardian times, would hats ever been worn in the house by residents or visitors?  Also, did ladies put on their hats in their bedrooms or by the front door?
-Alison via Ask Dear EtiKate

Dear Alison and Readers

Hats and Edwardian etiquette are two of my very favourite topics. “Every hat should serve a purpose,” I once read, and I try to live by this. I am not an authority on Victorian hat etiquette, but since they were the forerunners of the Edwardians, in the interest of brevity, let us accept that the latter followed the rules of the former.

In the Edwardian times, hats would be worn indoors by callers but not by the residents or house guests. A lady would put on a hat when she leaves for town, and will not take it off again until she gets back. I had previously written a piece that briefly touches on this.

Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady.

I have a book called An Edwardian Season by John S. Goodall; purchased on a whim from a secondhand bookshop in Cambridge. It contains very little prose, but it’s filled with pictures that render everything that’s enchanting of that vanished age. Below is a photo taken from the book; it is a detail from the picture called “Calling”. We can see clearly identify the lady of the manor- she’s the one in green, NOT wearing a hat.


“Calling” from the book An Edwardian Season by John S. Goodall.

Ladies would put on their hats in their room (with the assistance of a maid for those who have one at their employ) and not at the front door. This is because their hair is styled to suit the hat they will wear, and this is done at the dressing table.

Similarly, ladies would go to their rooms to take off their hats. Downton Abbey’s Lady Mary declared, ‘I’m going upstairs to take off my hat,’ thereby excusing herself from a potentially awkward conversation. This was met by looks of understanding; But of course one takes off their hat upstairs,’ I hear you whisper. Perhaps everyone should start wearing hats again, if only to have a suitable excuse to leave dull conversations.

The most “Downton” line ever?

Thank you for getting in touch,

We would be delighted to answer all your etiquette-related questions. Send your queries, worries and dilemmas on our Ask Dear EtiKate section. Alternatively, you can get in touch via Twitter.


Etiquette: The Card Game

First, an apology. It has been too long since my last post. A tragedy has befallen the House of EtiKate, and I’m afraid every other thing has been left neglected. I have had etiquette post topics in my mind throughout my absence, and I hope to be able to share it all with you in the weeks and months to come.

Since the start of the year, I have been going on more than my usual amount of weekend trips. On the Thursday before, I would already be thinking of an activity I’d like to do, or a place to visit. Then on the Saturday, I’d hop on the train and embark on my little adventure.

The City of Dreaming Spires

One of my favourite places to visit is the city of dreaming spires, Oxford. The city is easy enough to navigate on foot. The architecture, the history, the very atmosphere just commands an expression of greatness.  And in Oxford, one of my favourite haunts (of these there are many), is The Ashmolean Museum, Britain’s oldest university museum. I don’t wish to offend fellow pilgrims, but I would describe it as a cross between The National Gallery and the British Museum. I like to while away the hours staring at the Pre-Raphaelite paintings. I also love the corridor I like to call the “plate room”, where the fine porcelain are kept in large glass cases. Oh, the scandalous conversations those china plates must have overheard in their day!

The Ashmolean Museum

Previously, I wrote of the many books from which I take etiquette inspiration. I also mentioned several films that have added to my interest. I am happy to report, that this time, I have found a new fount of inspiration, and I discovered it in no other place than The Ashmolean gift shop!

This new inspiration, would you believe, is an etiquette card game. It’s called RSVP: Etiquette through the Ages. Think Trivial Pursuit where the sole category being etiquette and decorum. So, perhaps it’s more akin to Cards for Humanity?


The latest addition to my library, Etiquette the Card Game

The deck is composed of quiz cards with questions on one side and the answers are on the reverse. There are topics on dining, communication and even “petiquette”. The cards were written and designed in the US and published with the approval of The Library of Congress. I think that lends more credibility to the card game.

I have picked a random card from the deck, and it reads:

True or False:
When attending a dinner party, it is perfectly acceptable to use the salt and pepper provided on the table to season one’s food.

I will let you mull that over before I give the answer.

I now have these cards in my sitting room in place of a coffee table book. It entertains as well as educates, with its bite-sized etiquette facts. For instance, did you know that, according to the celebrated socialite Gloria Guinness, the best way to prepare for a houseguest is to “sleep in your guest room before any guest who might be too polite to tell you what is wrong”. This would allow you to identify things you may have overlooked, an extra blanket, for example.


Pick a card, any card.

I find these etiquette cards are a great conversation starter at house parties. They serve a similar purpose as the little jokes inside the Christmas crackers. I think my friends would be cautious when I invite them over for a “card game”. I just need to devise a scoring system for the game. On second thought, where etiquette is concerned, (do forgive me) everybody’s a winner!

In answer to the earlier question, it is acceptable to use the condiments and spices provided to season one’s food. The salt and pepper are there for a reason, so guests should feel free to season their food, discreetly, and only after you have tasted the food. And if someone asks for the salt, it is proper to send along the pepper as well, for the two travel together at the table.

Until we meet again,

Etiquette do’s and don’ts

I always start a new year with a list. I am one of those who still writes resolutions. I also make a list of places I’d like to visit and activities I’d like to accomplish in the next 12 months. I even do a little mid-year review to evaluate how the first half of the year had gone. You know, just for the fun of it!
Judging by all the Buzzfeed links on my Facebook newsfeed (’31 Home Decor Hacks That Are Borderline Genius’), I may have missed the trend of giving information in itemised lists.

I hesitated for quite a while before posting this do’s and don’ts piece. I didn’t want to limit the very complex world that is etiquette and decorum into a tidy list. My aim was to present a little “rules of thumb” of social conventions. I hope I have achieved it. So, do read on, these are my “you can’t go wrong with…” etiquette tips.

Etiquette Do’s

1. Do speak softly in confined spaces. It’s called our indoor voice.

Trust him, he’s The Doctor. secretlifexy.niceboards.org

2. Do knock before entering a room. Always. Make it a habit. It’s rude not to.

3. Do chew with your mouth closed. The smacking sound is just off-putting.

Ettiquette and needlepoint, two of my loves. flavorfulfork.com

4. Do hold open the door for the person immediately behind you. And do say thank you if someone does the same for you.

5. Do let ladies go first. Except when going down the stairs.

Etiquette Don’ts

1. Don’t talk when your mouth is full. I’d have to agree with your mum on this one.

2. Don’t apply your lipstick at the dinner table. Under no circumstances is it acceptable. Besides, your lipstick will look more immaculate when applied in front of a mirror. I believe it’s better if we have a complete embargo on all public grooming.

 The Etiket of Etiquette: Applying Lipstick at the Dinner Table

Hardly the image of elegance. Photo from etiket.ca

3. Don’t answer a call at the dinner table, the theatre or the cinema. Please take it outside.

He is being rather rude to his date. Photo from thekotykreport.blogspot.com

4. Don’t interrupt people when they are speaking. Let them finish what they have to say.

5. Don’t converse in lifts (elevators), especially with strangers present. It’s a 30 second journey in a metal box suspended in air. There’s no need to make it more uncomfortable than is necessary.

All the best for a wonderful new year,


How and who to tip

I woke up this Christmas Eve morning to the sound of clinking glasses. The milkman has come to deliver my holiday milk order. I forgot to leave out his Christmas card yet again. This is rapidly becoming a tradition in my house. Whereas last Christmas, I spent the holidays with my beloved’s family; we’ll be having Christmas in our house this year. That means I can give Stuart the Milkman his card, homemade chili jam and his tip the day after Boxing Day. Another fortuitous outcome of this oversight is I get to share my thoughts on tipping in this impromptu post. One gives a tip to show appreciation for a good service. It is acceptable, and in most cases expected, to tip our hairdressers and waiters. I was a waitress in a former life. So now, I never eat out unless I can afford to leave a good tip. I also always tip the bartender after I order my first cocktail. Happy bartenders make better drinks. With that said, one must not feel any obligations to leave a tip if you have received bad service. 

Photo from tippingresearch.com

How much to tip Deciding how much to tip can be tricky. When it’s been decided for you with a service charge, you can just leave it at that. Leaving a tip should appear considerate. Don’t just thoughtlessly leave £1 (or 1 or a crown) on the plate; the waitress is not a homeless person. Nor should you just empty the entire contents of your purse. Ten to fifteen percent of the bill is generally acceptable, any more and it might seem as though you are expecting oh shall we say, “other” favours.

Tipping on holiday In the United States, the restaurant serving staff supplement their wages with tips. This makes it  practically criminal not to leave a tip. If you do the same in Japan, your server will chase you down the street because you “forgot your money”. But as hotels and holiday resorts adapt more and more to Western customs, tipping is becoming the norm.

Photo from The Standard

Debretts advises to think of tipping in units. So for instance, for the porter who helped carry your luggage to your room, that’s one unit per case. For the doorman who got you a cab, that’s one unit. You are not expected to tip the doorman if he simply opens the door of an awaiting taxi for you. Now, I advocate deciding for yourself how much one unit is, within your own budget. For me, one unit is the price of a decent cup of coffee in that city. In Rome, that may be €2, in Manila it’s the price of a latte in Starbucks. Finally, I would like to mention that it is not customary to tip the proprietor of the business.

With that, I will leave you all with my warmest wishes for the festive period. Don’t forget to leave a little something for Father Christmas. Traditionally, it’s mince pies and a carrot for his reindeer. Although in our house, Father Christmas enjoys whisky. Merry Christmas and have a happy New Year! EtiKate


Cheers: toasting and clinking glasses

I was in Munich at the end of September. At the celebrated Hofbräuhaus beer hall, we were sat opposite a very affable father and son from Argentina. The father is a surgeon, in town for a conference. As luck would have it, I had done a little research on the biofuel industry of Argentina last year. I knew a little bit about their country, so I had an instant icebreaker.

Photo from bavariatravel.com

When our beers arrived, they offered their glasses for me to clink with the customary ‘Salud!’ (In deference to our location, we should have said ‘prost’.) Right before I touched my beer stein to theirs, I hastily said, ‘Oh, you have to look the other person in the eye or you’ll have seven years of bad sex!’ (Siete años de mal sexo.) Whether this was a silly superstition I picked up from my Spanish friends, well, I didn’t want to risk it. Seven years is a long time!

During a speech
Speeches are usually given after a meal.
Sometimes it is given between the main course and the dessert. When the speaker invites everyone to “raise their glasses,” in hounour of someone (or something), guests are expected to stand and do just that, raise their glasses. Do not touch your glass with your neighbours during a toast.

At a drinks reception, it is a good idea to leave a little bit of your drink, just in case there is a welcome speech. You can always finish it right before you enter the dining room. If you find you have polished off your champagne too early, don’t call attention to yourself, just raise your glass with the rest of them.

President Obama giving a toast at a state dinner at Buckingham Palace. Photo from The Telegraph

Cheers, to your good health!
In the very olden days, when individuals still drank and talked unreservedly with strangers in pubs, people clinked glasses with each other to signify trust. This is because some of the other person’s ale will spill into your glass and vice versa (somehow it’s always ale in the days of yore). This acts as a deterrent to the sinister, if someone had slipped poison into your drink, there is a chance that some of the poison might be mixed into their drink too. Was it irony or mockery that the words “to your good health” precedes the touching of glasses?

Later on, perhaps because people developed greater (dis)trust of drinking companions, the middle and upper classes eschewed the practice. Indeed, in the early part of the 20th century, clinking glasses was an indication of a working class upbringing.

To clink or not to clink glasses?
Undoubtedly, clinking glasses gives a gathering a friendlier atmosphere. It also gets people talking. If people offer their glasses to you, do not hesitate and touch your drink to theirs. It is considered rude not to do so.

Although I must admit, it can get awkward when there are more than four people at the table. It causes confusion, crossing of arms and spillage. Whatever you do, just make sure you look the other person in the eye and smile.

Cheers, to all that we love,

A royal toast! Photo from fashionmagazine.com

Happy blog birthday!

Dear Readers

Today marks the 1st anniversary of The Etiquette Butterfly. We are grateful to all our readers and followers, especially those who have left kind messages and feedback.

When we started a year ago, we could not have conceived such a wonderful reception to our little etiquette website. Thank you to Stilettos on the Glass Ceiling for commissioning exclusive articles. We would also like to thank Communication Daily, Adrienne Henry Millinery and Hand Luggage Only for featuring several of our posts.

Finally and most importantly, thank you to friends, family and all our readers for being part of The Etiquette Butterfly community.

With love from,


Remembrance Sunday, poppies and how to wear brooches

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation at the Tower of London

November is truly upon us. Tomorrow is (already!) Bonfire Night. During my university days in Scotland, we would spend the night on West Sands Beach, drinking soups from flasks, and always with toffee apples. November is also known for being “Poppy Month”, when we wear poppies to commemorate those who have died in conflict. This year marks 100 years since the start of the First World War. Remembrance Sunday, 9th of November will be all the more poignant. In this post, we present the etiquette of wearing poppies and brooches. When to wear a poppy The Royal British Legion, the nation’s custodian of Remembrance, recommends wearing one from the launch of their appeal at the end of October until Armistice Day, 11 November.

Photo from The Guardian

How to wear your poppy This is a hotly debated topic. Some people say wear it close to the heart, on the left side of your body. Others say that men should wear theirs on the left and women on the right. There is also a school of thought that says the poppy stem should be pointing down, and never worn at an angle. Again, I echo the advice The Royal British Legion: there is no right or wrong side “other than to wear it with pride”.

A proud poppy

Brooches and corsages Traditionally, women wear brooches on the right and men wear badges on their left. I find this is no longer observed. I find that because women’s hats and fascinators are designed to be worn to the right, a brooch worn on the left achieves a balanced, put-together look. (More on this hat etiquette later). What I have noticed is that flower corsages are still worn a certain way, at weddings for instance. Married women would tend to wear them with the flower pointing down (see photo below). While the opposite is true for single ladies, they would wear it with the flowers pointing up.

Observe how the flowers are pointing down. Photo from http://www.sarahflowers.co.uk

So wear your poppy with pride. Pin it on your coat, wear it in your hair or even buy a giant one for the car. We must not forget that the sentiment that goes with wearing a poppy is more important than social customs. I leave you with this very cool “educational” video on how to wear your poppy.

In remembrance,