Train travel has been around for a long time. And even though they are not as popular today as they used to be [at least in the States], they still induce a feeling of old world charm. When many think of this mode of travel, images from vintage movies like White Christmas come to mind… women in elegant suits or dresses sitting in an elegantly appointed dining cart.
Well, if you are one who still travels by train, know you can still infuse glamour into your travel. It may not be as it was in the past, but it can be more than it is today.
First, let’s discuss a few old world etiquette and mores, ladies and gentlemen followed in the past when a lady was being accompanied by a close male family relative or her husband.
1. The gentleman incurred all expenses. He bought her ticket at the station. He paid for all magazines and newspapers that she desired to buy and tipped the porter that had helped her. He also paid for all food eaten during the trip if they dined together. The exception to this rule was if the lady wanted to gift the gentleman with the trip.
In the old days, gentleman automatically paid for their female relations’ activities. It wasn’t because ladies didn’t have jobs or money. On the contrary, women of wealth had a fairly large bank account just for spending on themselves. Some even had a second account solely for household expenses. It was all about feelings. Back then, a gentleman received pleasure from paying for ladies and making sure they had a fun, safe, and hassle-free trip. And ladies received pleasure from allowing their gentlemen this pleasure as well as for the lovely entertainment they were able to provide for him.
2. The gentleman attended to the checking and directing of her luggage, if a family attendant wasn’t available. It was hard for a lady to remain looking elegant and dignified in her clothing while carrying and lifting a lot of luggage.
3. The gentleman always saw that his lady was comfortably seated. A gentleman’s main concern when traveling with a female relation was her comfort. Again, he received pleasure knowing the simple pleasures he was providing her.
4. The lady always knew to walk in front of her escort. This made sure she was protected at all times. And it also helped to signal that she had an escort to other men and women who would want to take advantage of her kindness.
5. When sitting in an open car, the lady always took the inside seat, leaving the aisle seat for the gentleman. This was practiced for several reasons. First, it was a sign of protection. By taking the outer seat, any problem that were to occur would hit the gentleman first. Also, gentlemen were more likely to wonder around the train, doing errands for the lady in his company as well as meeting other gentlemen on the trip in the bar or smoking car. Allowing the gentleman to sit in the aisle seat also kept a lady from being constantly knocked about, having to lean to the side, being touched by strangers. Any one who has sat in the aisle seat on a plane knows how troublesome and invasive the seating placement can be.
6. A gentleman always made sure he spent the majority of the time seated next to his female relative. Otherwise, his protective stance would be useless. He may, if he excused himself, spend time in another car, but it was exceedingly rude to spend too much time there.
7. A lady always bought something to do. This was important for several reasons. First, a lady didn’t extend a conversation to the point of being inconsiderate or boring. Nor did she stare impolitely at others as if that was her sole entertainment. And most importantly, she didn’t spend the entire trip with a bored or sour look on her face, putting everyone around her in an equally unpleasant mood.
8. A lady always arrived dressed the part. She was well-dressed while following the appropriate dress code. She didn’t travel wearing gemstone jewelry or fancy clothing. Nor did she travel in walking or house clothes. She was always dressed in well maintained clothing, that had a touch of glamour.
9. A lady did not bring any food. And if she did, it was at most, an easy-to-eat fruit snack. It was much more preferable for her to eat in the dining cart or to order food sent to her private car. It meant less baggage; less chance for ruining her clothes; less crumbs on her face and clothing; and less chance of offending others and ruining her appearance with intolerable food odors. A lady would never pull out a tuna fish sandwich from her purse.
A SIDE NOTE
Women play an important role in raising courteous, responsible, and well-mannered men. In the past, if was a mother’s responsibility to teach her sons (and daughters) such gentle mannerisms. Some gentlemen even looked for that capability in a woman when considering a her hand in marriage. The wise ones knew if they married an ill-mannered woman, their children would most likely grow to be as ill-mannered. The same wisdom was taught to many ladies. There wasn’t much worse than a boorish husband to a society lady. However, the one important difference was and still remains, women were and are the main teachers of etiquette to children, not men.