Manolo for the Big Girl Fashion, Lifestyle, and Humor for the Plus Sized Woman.

August 5, 2009

The Big Question: Lipstick Traces Edition

Filed under: Plumcake's Secrets of Fabulousness,The Big Question — Miss Plumcake @ 2:38 pm

So I WAS going to write a post on how not to leave lipstick marks on a glass, but our right-thinking and well-bred readers beat me to the punch. Just lick the glass (or alternately, your lips) first.

Now, this does take a fair amount of finesse. You can’t be all tonguing it up like it’s the last Color Me Badd slow jam of your 9th grade formal; discretion is key, but if you can manage a discreet moistening of the lips or glass, you’ll leave a lip print, but not a smudge of color.

With that handy hint out of the way, it’s time to open it up to the crowd:

Today Miss Plumcake wants to know:

What secret to graciousness would you like to share with the class?  Bonus points if you tell us where you learned it and how it’s improved your life.



  1. With excellent posture, EVERYTHING looks better, even jeans and sneakers. My little trick to maintaining this posture (and I cannot recall where I learned it, unfortunately), is to pretend that at the very crown of my head, there is a string, tied to a strong helium balloon. It immediately makes you position your head nicely, lengthens your neck, aligns the rest of your body, and makes you walk more gracefully.

    I was called in to teach this trick to a group of local pageant contestants, none of whom could walk gracefully to save their lives. Evidently, the night of the pageant, every single one of them was reminding themselves of this trick backstage. Afterwards, the girls’ mothers were all wondering what on earth had happened to their daughters, as they were suddenly walking (in heels, no less) with such excellent posture and grace.

    The funny thing is that you’d be surprised who notices these things. A male acquaintance about 15 years my junior, when walking behind me one day, mentioned that I “really knew how to walk in a skirt.” :)

    Comment by La Petite Acadienne — August 5, 2009 @ 3:22 pm

  2. The handwritten thank-you note. It’s a lost art
    When I was growing up, at least in my family, if one stopped writing thank-you notes, one eventually stopped receiving gifts.

    Comment by missm — August 5, 2009 @ 4:27 pm

  3. La Petite Acadienne & missm nailed down two excellent tips. La Petite (may I call you that?), the Superfabulous Tim Gunn repeats something similar in his style guide – a trick where you pull down your shoulders. Somehow, it works. missm, I am a freaking evangelical for thank you notes. I send gifts back home quite often, and the parent who rouses their little darlings into writing a note back gets themselves in the line for more goodies.

    My humble tip: when you’re shopping (bricks and mortar), grab a handful of the fabric of the garment you’ve got your eye on, give it a minute, and release. If it’s crumpled from that – think how it will look when you’ve worn it all day. Getting to know even a tiny bit about fabric behaviour is so valuable, I always check the little label of anything I try on. Also, when you shop online, it can give you a much better idea of how the thing will look, often better than those lying pixels.

    Comment by Margo — August 5, 2009 @ 5:32 pm

  4. my lovely future mother in law (FMIL henceforth) is a very talented seamstress. she’s making me a snazzy little dress from a reissued vintage pattern for my cousin’s wedding this month –

    (oh man, i hope that doesn’t put me into moderation).

    so far she’s made a muslin test-dress to adjust the fit. as i was trying it on, figuring out how to sit down with a modicum of grace, FMIL looked at me over her glasses and said – would you like to learn how to sit down in a slim dress without wrinkling it?

    as you sit, create a long horizontal crease in the fabric in the front of the dress. fold it in a long, single drape over the belly. the fold will prevent unattractive wrinkling across the hips and stomach and will disappear when you stand up. it’s like magic!

    Comment by angela — August 5, 2009 @ 5:54 pm

  5. Please, thank you, and you’re welcome make any conversation nicer. Learning to say these things in several languages is helpful when traveling or interacting with those who have traveled far.

    Not only is it nice, being able to say two simple French phrases once got me a $20.00 tip when I was busing tables.

    Comment by Twistie — August 5, 2009 @ 10:10 pm

  6. Angela I feel like I’ve been waiting for that tip about slim dresses forever!! And I have to join the praise being given to the hand written (and hand made?) cards. They make a world of impression when job hunting as well.

    Something I learned from a diplomacy consultant: Always look people in the eye when you speak with them. It sounds simple but is really much harder for most people than you’d think. This woman was wonderful and gave lots of other small tips about how to hand over business cards properly and such but I’ve long since forgotten them (being as I’ve never much been a business card holder. Except for one that told everyone I was a “Project Manger”. For some reason I never really felt like handing those out to showcase my information at that translation and quality inspection company!)

    Also I learned I think in France that the “sign” that you were finished with a meal was to place both the knife and fork together at the “6 o’clock” position. Not sure that I’ve ever since been in a restaurant which confirmed this learned tid-bit though!

    Comment by April D — August 5, 2009 @ 10:32 pm

  7. These are great! The slim dress one, especially.

    Tip: Don’t be afraid to call people sir or ma’am, especially people who wait on you. Cab drivers, hotel clerks, store cashiers, the shoeshine guy. “Thank you, sir, I appreciate the ride.” It’s a tiny thing, but it says “I respect the work that you do.”

    Question: I have a Rack of Doom. And sometimes when I’m eating, no matter how careful I am and how much I pay attention, a drop of condensation will fall off my glass, or drop of soup will drip off my spoon, and I will end up with a spot on the front of my shirt. I hate it. It ruins shirts. I feel like it ties into bad stereotypes about fat people, that we are stained in food. I feel like skinny people drip things off their spoons and glasses too, but it falls onto the table or the plate instead of their chests. How do you fashionable ladies deal with this problem?

    Comment by JenniferP — August 5, 2009 @ 11:22 pm

  8. always saying thankyou for a compliment even if you don’t agree with it. something along the lines of “thankyou, that’s such a kind thing to say”.
    someone told me when i was about 12 that if i always argued with a compliment then the compliment-er would stop giving compliments to anyone.

    Comment by kathi — August 6, 2009 @ 12:14 am

  9. Jennifer P – all I got is a subtle brooch re-alignment strategy. Or wearing everything in gravy colours. But you have my sympathies.

    Comment by Margo — August 6, 2009 @ 2:30 am

  10. I’ll step up to the Rack of Doom plate, since I’ve been dealing with this for quite some time. Part of this is a question of reflexes; if you can manage the “hunch” a la Tyra Banks “advice” for bustier models, you’ll find that it works almost perfectly to get whatever spills to land on the napkin in your lap as opposed to right on your chest. You might have a reaction to lean backward to avoid a spill, but DON’T. Instead push your shoulders forward a bit to decrease the square footage of your décolletage. Afterward, you should of course straighten up immediately. As in so much in life, this is all in the timing, but I manage for the most part to keep my shirt spill free with this method. Oh and if it makes you feel any better, skinny or not, if you’ve got a substantial chest, you will at least a few times in your life, drop something right on your chest.

    Oh, and here’s my tip, which is less with the well bred and more with the really useful. To get dirt out from under one’s fingernails after, say, a fruitful afternoon of gardening, use a small ridged cao (like one from a toothpaste cap or benadryl cream.) Put the cap underneath the nail and rotate it, cleaning the dirt off after each nail. This works considerably faster than brushes and the rotation keeps you from redepositing the dirt back under your nail. I found this out all by myself after fixing a friend’s car for her and realizing that my little nail brush was just not going to get the oil gunk out.

    Comment by megaera — August 6, 2009 @ 3:12 am

  11. Oh the Rack of Doom — that is a tough one. My suggestion would be that when bringing something to your mouth, instead of sitting up perfectly straight, lean forward about 5-10 degrees (while keeping your back straight.) Practice this at home using a drippy water glass and an old gray t-shirt, until you get the right angle for you. The point is for the vertical trajectory of the food/liquid to be just a smidge past the danger zone of the bosoms.

    Now, if we can figure out a way for my pregnancy belly of doom to avoid being a food/liquid catchall, we’ll be in business! I just drape the napkin OVER the belly right now, instead of on the lap, and give it all up as a bad job. That, and I wear a lot of black.

    Comment by La Petite Acadienne — August 6, 2009 @ 7:55 am

  12. One of the advice columnists (Miss Manners or Dear Abby or someone) suggested to a Rack of Doom owner that she cultivate wearing attractive synthetic scarves. Food falls on scarf, scarf is removed and laundered. Kind of like a chic bib.

    I don’t know that I’d call it good advice, but it’s a thought.

    I got a gem from my sister: Never ask a question that you don’t want honestly answered. It stops fishing for compliments, fishing for dirt, and a whole host of other awkwardnesses.

    Comment by TeleriB — August 6, 2009 @ 8:15 am

  13. One bit of graciousness that should be common knowledge but apparently is not is the knees-together-and-pivot action in getting into/out of a vehicle. Yes, Britney, I’m talking to you.

    Comment by klee — August 6, 2009 @ 8:56 am

  14. Another Rack of Doom here, advising to lean forward farther, and stay alert. I sympathize 100%.

    Tip for graciousness, alongside all these other excellent tips (esp the thank you note and looking people in the eye): My father drummed into me the importance of being on time. It shows that you value the importance of other people’s time as well as your own. Really, nothing is ruder (or sadly, more commonplace) than lateness; you’re essentially conveying the message that you are more important than everyone else that you’re meeting, which is anything but gracious.

    Comment by rosarita — August 6, 2009 @ 8:59 am

  15. When you shake hands, slide your hand until the space between your thumb and index finger touches the same space of the other person’s hand. Then grasp firmly and shake. Limp, non-committal handshakes make you seem wimpy and insecure.

    Tell a hostess whether or not you are attending her event so she will know how much food to make — even if the invite does not say, “RSVP.”

    Don’t call after 9 pm unless you know for sure I am up.

    If you are my houseguest, please do not leave your towels on the floor.

    Be polite to cashiers and waitresses. Karma can be a bitch.

    Please remove your sunglasses when you are talking to me. I want to see your eyes. I take mine off even though I get headaches from too much bright light.

    Rewind the videos you check out from the library.

    Amen amen amen on the thank-you notes. Please do not make me call you to find out if you got my present. And yeah — no thank-you note for the high-school graduation present? Don’t bother sending me your college graduation announcement. I have a very long memory.

    Comment by class factotum — August 6, 2009 @ 10:46 am

  16. Staring people in the eyes (often recommended to show you’re listening) is uncomfortable for a lot of people. Much better to watch their mouth, and just occasionally glance up at their eyes–it’s less intimate but reads as still paying close attention.

    Comment by Kai Jones — August 6, 2009 @ 12:19 pm

  17. Years ago I was semi-flirting with a much-younger man at a sushi bar. From the stories he was telling, it sounded like his life was filled with a lot of melodramatic people (bosses, baby mama, his father). At one point his phone rang and he checked the display. Then he looked me in the eye, said “I’m really sorry, I’ll be right back,” slipped off his stool, zipped outside, and took the call. He came back inside, sat down, looked me in the eye, and said, “Sorry about that.”

    I never saw him again but always remember 1) his restraint in not answering his phone in front of the entire restaurant and 2) his grace in acknowledging, and apologizing for, the interruption.

    Comment by Lily — August 6, 2009 @ 12:41 pm

  18. Holding your fork tines downward a la European diners can also helps with the slips onto the Rack of Bloom (I have such a rack, and I dislike having everything on my body carrying a negative label from cankles on up). If it hasn’t fallen over the plate, chances are, it won’t fall over your lap. This does not help with soup.

    I echo Lily on the cell phone interruptions. If you have to interact with sales people and callers simultaneously, at least acknowledge the sales person’s humanity and time. If you have to take a call, warn me; if you forget to warn me, apologize sincerely and go outside.

    If you knock into me, the words “pardon me” or “excuse me” are in order. If I accidentally bump into you with a pardon me, then a response of “no harm done!” rather than a stony stare or a glare is in order.

    Learning to listen–really listen, patiently–is the sexiest and most gracious trait I have ever encountered.

    Comment by Lisa — August 6, 2009 @ 2:42 pm

  19. Oh, btw, the recommendation is not stare into people’s eyes. The recommendation is to make eye contact. That’s different. Staring can be aggressive or seductive and a whole host of things. Eye contact is about recognizing the humanity of the person you are interacting with. Looking at the mouth is a listening strategy.

    Comment by Lisa — August 6, 2009 @ 2:45 pm

  20. Soup Spilling-
    Fill your spoon by dipping it into the soup then pull the spoon across to the far edge of the bowl. You can then brush the drip on the bottom of the spoon back into the bowl of soup and raise the spoon to your mouth. Bringing the spoon to the far side of the bowl is old fashioned yes, but it can give the drip a second longer to grow. You can brush the drip off the bottom on the inside bowl edge too, of course.

    A bit of salt on your paper napkin will stop your iced drink from sticking to it.

    Old oily stains will come out of tshirts and other washable fabrics- use Dawn dishsoap and let dry on the stain. Then wash as normal. Old stains might take a few washings to get out- but it will work! Inexpensive to try, won’t harm your colors. I use this trick often, it saves tshirts.

    When someone takes your picture, do shrink back from the camera- it gives you a double chin. Put your shoulders back, sit up straight, and lift your chin just a bit up and forward. You will look so much better and people will tell you how photogenic you are!

    Be early to interviews, on time to appointments, fashionably late to parties and leave a party as it begins to wind down.

    Fish and house guests go bad after three days.

    Comment by Yosa — August 6, 2009 @ 3:56 pm

  21. “Little ships go out to sea!”

    I’m going to guess that you mean “Soup Sipping” and “don’t shrink back from the camera”

    Comment by Plumcake — August 6, 2009 @ 4:20 pm

  22. LOL yes. I should add to the post- “and always proofread.”

    As for where the tips come from?

    Soup- some random reality show claiming to teach girls charm.

    Salt on napkin, soap for stains- those I have no idea.

    Picture trick- my own experience.

    Timing- good advice from friends and a lovely little book called:

    Boobs, Boys and High Heels: How to Get Dressed in Under Six Hours
    It is a totally silly book with a mix of utter nonsense and some pretty spectacularly good advice. Well worth the $3 for a used copy.

    Fish and House guests- family saying.


    Comment by Yosa — August 6, 2009 @ 4:46 pm

  23. These are more about simple etiquette and not so much handy tips, but the replies seem to be a mix of both, so here goes:

    Elevators: When waiting for the elevator, do not bum rush the doors as soon as they open and try to push your way on while people are trying to exit. Stand back a little bit from the doors, let those who are trying to exit the elevator do so, *then* get on.

    Public restrooms: For the love of God, flush after you are finished.

    Comment by Cat — August 6, 2009 @ 4:58 pm

  24. My ones are:

    * Stand to the side on escalators (which side will depend on which side of the road you drive on in that particular country) to let people who are in a hurry pass (that person will probably be me).
    * Let the people on the train/bus get off before you try to get on. Always stand politely to one side of the door.
    * ALWAYS use your car’s indicators when changing lanes.

    And while I’m here with all these people with magnificent advice, does anyone know how to make the heels on stilettos less slippery on perfectly smooth floors?

    Comment by Icy — August 6, 2009 @ 7:57 pm

  25. I have polished concrete floors in my loft which is a huge problem with slick shoes, so I take mine to the extremely clever cobbler downtowns who adds an extra bit of material the heel to make it catch better. If you are not worried about wear…I will sometimes shuffle my feet lightly on rough sidewalks…just a bit…and it scuffs the bottoms enough to keep you upright…that is, until you’ve had too many gimlets or find somebody you want to fall down with.

    Comment by Lisa — August 6, 2009 @ 8:54 pm

  26. Klee – your post reminded me of Joanna Lumley’s demonstration of how to enter & exit an automobile like a lady on Graham Norton’s show. It was wonderful – and she has magnificently long legs which greatly emphasized the proper technique.

    Comment by g-dog — August 6, 2009 @ 9:21 pm

  27. Icy says: * ALWAYS use your car’s indicators when changing lanes.

    YES!! I don’t understand why people think their turn signals are just for decoration. Use them when changing lanes or when turning. And turn them on long enough before you turn or change lanes to give the person behind you some warning. If you’re already halfway into the next lane or around the corner, it’s too late. GOD.

    Comment by Cat — August 6, 2009 @ 10:45 pm

  28. My favorite rule on good manners is to remember that manners are used to make people feel welcome, respected, and comfortable in all situations. Manners are not a tool to inflict discomfort or embarrasment on people who may not know the rules.

    Comment by Melissa — August 7, 2009 @ 7:29 pm

  29. Building on Yosa’s comment, in etiquitte classes we were taught a little rhyme to remember how to properly eat soup:

    “Like a ship going out to sea, I dip my spoon away from me!”

    When you’re getting close to the dregs of the soup, you also tilt the bowl away from you, thus preventing spillage onto your lap in the case that you tip it too much.

    Another tip or two?

    When speaking, especially to men, try to pitch your voice a little lower than normal, and speak slower. This makes you much more pleasant to listen to! Don’t force it though, making your fake “deep voice”, you just want it a little lower and relaxed than normal. Men love it!

    Lipstick: keep it on your lips while drinking by placing the straw in the corner of your lips, not the centre. This will keep the colour from wearing off! A makeup artist taught me that one :)

    Comment by Ginger — August 7, 2009 @ 8:10 pm

  30. As someone who’s worked in retail/customer service for years (and is currently waitressing) – a sincere thank you (especially when someone’s gone above and beyond for you) just means so very much. And servers and customer service staff will remember the people who are pleasant just as much as they’ll remember the extremely unpleasant ones, and they’ll spread the word to their coworkers. :)

    Comment by Abbey — August 8, 2009 @ 2:03 pm

  31. I thought you were not supposed to tip a soup bowl at all?

    Mine is, if I let you out in traffic, acknowledge it with a wave. If it’s to pass approaching me where there is only room for one, lifting your fingers over the steering wheel will do. If it’s to let you enter a queue, a little wave in the vicinity of your rear view will be seen and appreciated. For some reason, drivers in the UK seem to me to be much more likely to be courteous like this. American drivers just carry on regardless. And then I think “F you – see if I’m nice to you again!” Although I will say American drivers are more forgiving of mistakes. Much of the time, again, they will just carry on, where you would have earned the horn and the finger (tee hee) from a Brit.

    Comment by serpentine — August 11, 2009 @ 5:13 pm

  32. A good firm handshake – I learned that in high school, and had it drilled into me a little further in business school: handing out a limp rag to be squeezed says, among other things, that you’d rather not be touching the other person’s paw. Having worked in mostly manly-men environments when I was younger and taking martial arts, I also got into the habit of lowering the pitch of my voice, though it wasn’t so much a question of sounding better as a question of being a small and rather femme female, and I needed even more girlie-girlness like I needed a hole in the head. Always keep in mind that most people today lead busy lives, and have respect for other people’s time, even if they happen to your loved and closest ones, and can’t disown you for treating them like you wouldn’t treat a stranger.

    Abbey, YES! I work in retail too, and the complete rudeness and sense of entitlement that so many people have is just unbelievable. Even before my current job, I always tried to be patient and corteous to wait and sales staff whenever I went – besides it being elemental good manners, I now have another incentive for it, and find find that it absolutely pays to do so, too.

    No advice on how to avoid food drippies, but if it’s any consolation, I’m also propense to have drops of condensation or soup fall on me, only I don’t have a rack of doom to catch them – instead they fall on my lap, if I’m lucky, or right on the lower belly area that’s not covered by napkin if I’m not. If it has to happen at all, I’d prefer to sport drip stains on the chest area rather than there.

    Comment by Maggiethecat — August 14, 2009 @ 8:27 am

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