Have you ever taken a moment to judge how you sit? Do you drop into your chair? Do you slouch? Do you shake your leg or feet? Do you sit with your legs wide open? If you haven’t paid attention to how you sit lately, we ask that you spend the next day or two, observing yourself.
Note the way you approach a chair, how you bend your knees to sit, and what you do while you are sitting. Judge yourself. An elegant lady always knows the most graceful way to sit as well as the best way to display herself and the clothing she is wearing. She also knows the best way to sit for each occasion.
Formal events require formal sitting poses. This pose is a wonderful accompaniment to the clothing and jewels you are bound to wear to such an event. For example, let’s take look at Audrey Hepburn in The Roman Holiday in the video above.
Pay attention to how she is sitting in her dress. Look at how straight her back is. Look at her chin. She doesn’t hold it so high where it is unbecoming. She has it at the perfect angle, giving her a formal royal look. Also, look at her feet. They are daintily crossed at the ankles with a slight slant. Her hands are in her lap as she speaks to the press with poise.
Now, please take the time to watch the first 21 seconds of the video below. In this video, Entertainment Tonight is interviewing Southern Charm star, Patricia Altschul. Pay attention to how she is sitting. Do you see the difference between her sitting pose and Audrey Hepburn’s in the video above?
Before moving on, please list on paper the differences you see in the sitting poses. Detailed comparison-contrasts are a great way to learn.
Mrs. Altschul’s pose in this interview is semi-formal elegance and poise. Pay attention to how she crosses her legs. It is a tight cross – meaning her top leg (from the knee down) is close to her bottom leg (from the knee down). She spends a lot of time talking with her hands. The movement of her hands, keeps her from looking too stiff. She balances this out by keeping her legs stiff – meaning she is not waving her top leg around or shaking it.
Also, notice when she is not talking with her hands, she keeps them resting relaxed on her right side, next to her knees, instead of clasped in her lap. She also keeps them on the side where her interviewer is sitting. This hand position gives her a poised, but relaxed look. It also helps her appear interested in speaking to her interviewer.
For semi-formal events, like interviews and dinner parties, you should not sit as stiff and formal as Audrey Hepburn in the video above. You want people to feel comfortable in your presence. Here are the 9 steps you need to sit semi-formal and ladylike.
1.. The minute you walk into a room with chairs, start considering where and how you want to sit. The way you sit will help set the tone for your meeting. Each sitting position has its own purpose and energy. Remember, good breeding is not about being perfect. And in the case of this topic, it is not about having a perfect sitting posture and position all the time. Instead, it’s about knowing what each situation needs from you to get the results you desire.
2.. When it is time, approach your chair or sofa with grace. Do not rush. Do not trip. Walk with your shoulders down, your back straight, and your chin angled parallel to the floor.
3.. Step close to the front of the chair and then, turn. The back of your knees should only be a few inches from the chair. At this point, do pay attention to how you position yourself before sitting. If you want to sit facing slightly sideways, you should position yourself that way ahead of time. This will prevent you from having to shift positions while sitting.
4.. Gracefully lower yourself onto your chair. Make sure to keep your back straight and your legs together, knees touching. Do not bend forward. This will keep your bodice and breasts in place. It also will help prevent those in front of you from seeing down your bodice. Do not drop onto your chair like a sack of potatoes. This can cause the chair to break or, at the very least, create a loud noise and make body parts jiggle in unsightly ways.
5.. Use a hand(s) to quickly and lightly skim down the back side of your hip(s) while you sit when wearing a dress or skirt. This will make sure the bottom of your dress or skirt won’t gather too much on the seat. If the bottom gathers too much, it will create multiple creases and look disproportionate – low in the front, high in the back.
6.. Now, that you are sitting, make sure your back is still straight and not touching the back of the chair. Do not slouch. Also, make sure your legs are still together, knees touching.
7.. When you have comfortably placed your bottom on the chair, get into the position that is most beneficial for the clothing you are wearing and the type of meeting you are attending. The three top positions are: feet flat on the ground, legs crossed at the ankles, and legs crossed at the knees.
For short dresses and skirts, your legs should be crossed at the ankles to prevent anyone from seeing your panty. For longer dresses, skirts, and pants, you can sit with either your legs crossed at the ankle or knees. Sitting with your feet flat on the ground is great for meetings where you want to show you are paying close attention and are ready to jump into action. This position is also good for balancing items on your lap, like notebooks.
8.. At this point, if you are wearing a dress or skirt that needs to be specially arranged for the perfect sitting look, do so. For example, if you are wearing a wrap skirt or dress, you should, at this point, bring the outer flap to the opposite leg, covering both knees. If you are wearing a wide gown, you may want to splay the bottom of your dress out for a dramatic effect. If you do so, please do it quickly and nonchalantly. It needs to be done so effortlessly, it doesn’t attract attention.
9.. Now, place your hands gently on your lap. They should remain there, relaxed. Make sure not to fidget with your fingers or play with any ring or bracelet you are wearing.
Here are two more videos from ExpertVillage to give you a visual idea of the steps and tips discussed in this article.
Now, that you’ve learned how to sit gracefully at formal and semi-formal events, it’s time to refine your sitting poses. Here are 15 more tips to help you do so…
1.. Do relax into a good posture. Meaning it is better to look relaxed than perfectly stiff, except in the most formal of events. But don’t relax to the point of slouching. Find a good balance.
2.. Do shift your position every few minutes. Meaning no matter how perfect your posture is, it will appear unnatural to sit as still as a wall for the entire meeting.
3.. Do change your hand position every few minutes. If you are one who talks with your hands, you do not have to worry about this tip. But if you are one who can sit with your hands in your lap for more than 10 minutes, prevent yourself from doing so. Stillness can be disconcerting in many cultures.
4.. Do not slap or rub your knees while sitting. Do not rub your legs either. And definitely do not touch or rub your toes and feet. No matter how informal the event you are attending or hostessing, your feet should never be touched. Think of the person who will now have to shake your hand or use the same serving fork as you.
5.. Do not hold your knee in clasped hands while sitting. Do not put your clasped hands in between both knees, whether crossed on uncrossed.
6.. Do not fidget – adjust your clothing, touch your hair, twirl a hair lock, play with your jewelry.
7.. Do not tap or swing your feet continuously. Do not tap or shake your neighbor’s chair with your feet.
8.. Do not shake your leg(s) or swing your top leg around. Especially avoid doing this when sharing a couch or table. You don’t want the couch or table to vibrate. Ever heard someone ask why is the couch vibrating?
9.. When crossing your legs at the knees, make sure to keep your top leg either touching your bottom leg or very near to touching. Your leg lines will look cleaner if your legs are parallel and not at a (wide) triangular angle. You will break the clean lines if you cross your legs improperly by keeping the top leg far from the bottom leg. This type of crossing will leave your top foot dangling in the air. It will also increase the chance of you swinging your top leg or foot around.
10.. Do not uncross and cross your legs with your legs wide open. Keep your legs together when crossing and uncrossing. Also do not cross and uncross your legs continuously when wearing a short skirt. You do not want to bring extra attention to your legs or accidentally show too much.
11.. Do keep your hands folded and placed in the middle of your lap when wearing a short skirt or dress. Placing sufficient weight there will prevent your panty from showing.
12.. Do take into consideration the height of the chair and the length of your legs when sitting down. For example, a long-legged lady in a low chair would have her knees as high as her chest if she were to cross her legs at the knees without proper positioning. This is never a great look from the vantage point of those sitting across from you. When placed into such a situation, cross your legs at the ankles.
13.. Do not place your hand on the person with whom you are speaking. Do not touch people’s hand, rub the back of their neck, or punch them in the arm. Definitely, do not touch another person’s leg, especially the leg of man with whom you are not in an intimate relationship. Know your personal space. And respect theirs.
14.. Do try to keep your hands, legs, and feet in your space – the width of the chair or your seating area. If you have long legs, be very aware of them when you sit. You don’t want to angle your legs in a way where they intrude into another person’s space. If you cross your legs at the knees, make sure you cross them in a parallel manner. You don’t want your top foot to be so far out, it prevents others from walking by. People should not have to dodge your feet. If you talk with your hands, be careful you don’t hit someone with them, knock something down, or cause a waiter to lose his tray. Keep your arms and hands close to your body and always be aware of everyone’s position around you.
15.. For a formal and very dignified look, sit on the edge of your chair at an angle. Rest your hands together in your lap. With this pose, you do not want to talk too much with your hands. Because you are sitting forward, your personal space in front of you will be decreased. Nevertheless, it is a very elegant sitting pose.
Make sure not to sit too forward in your chair. You do not want to accidentally slide off the chair or give the impression you want to rush off. Before doing this pose in public, practice it at home first. You don’t want to accidentally miss the chair and end up on the floor. It would be horribly un-lady-like.
Sitting in a chair can be as beautiful and graceful as a ballerina performing a pirouette. On your journey to becoming an elegant lady, you should continuously practice this art form. Don’t wait for an event. Practice at home. Practice at your neighborhood cafe. Practice.
Practice how close to a chair you need to be to get the best sitting position. Practice how to cross your legs with the least amount of movement. Learn the best way to sit for each type of clothing item. Practice how to sit without jiggling, bending forward, or bouncing. Practice on different chairs and sofas, and in different locations. The more you practice, the more graceful you will become.
Not all occasions require a straight back, knees together sitting posture. If you are with your sisters or close friends, eating pizza on paper plates, drinking beer from a can while watching TV – it is better to use a casual sitting pose. You do not want to discomfort anyone or appear rigid with a formal sitting pose.
The reasons why you should adopt a casual sitting pose at events where the hostess herself is sitting informally is to show:
1.. you are comfortable in your hostess and her guests’ presence;
2.. you are interested in taking part in this intimate moment;
3.. you are capable of adapting to and enjoying a very casual event;
4.. you want to do your part in adding an informal and joyful energy to the event.
There are many situations and events that call for informal sitting poses. Some examples are camping, outdoor festivals, yoga conferences, pool parties, rubbing a dog’s back, playing with small children, gatherings in rooms using floor furniture, picnics, beach outings, and bbq’s.
Please always remember: etiquette, at its core, is about making others feel comfortable and respected in your presence. Doing this will help secure you many social invitations in the future.
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Poise, grace, elegance, and savoir-faire are the end result of study and practice.