The romance of the handkerchief is embraced in the etiquette of it. The handkerchief is very much a part of the society woman, and to handle well is a triumph of culture and good breeding. The handling of one, the successful control of the hands is a matter of study and much practice.
Few women understand the etiquette of the pocket handkerchief. But all ladies do. Its treatment may be a matter of instinct, but as is more often the case, it is one of studiously acquired art.
At one time, it was thought improper to show the handkerchief at all, for it was regarded as an article of toilet, not of display. But this argument proved utterly futile in the face of the exquisite little lace creations that were offered, and woman, in her love of the beautiful, decided that it was far too effective a weapon to be so hidden. Moreover, the handkerchief offered something for the hands to do, so woman argued.
The handkerchief can be made to denote a great deal, or nothing at all. It can show anger, petulance, annoyance, ennui, fatigue and haste. It can also be made to denote coquetry, pride, and even delight.
While liberty is given in the handling of the pocket handkerchief, one must be wary of its abuse. Never on any account take it and tuck it in the front of the gown. You would not handle any other article in this way, then why the handkerchief? In a day’s search you would never see a lady unbutton her dress and thrust a purse in her bosom, or a pair of gloves. Then why should she do so with the unoffending handkerchief?
The handkerchief abused is a thing of hissing and by-word. But treated poetically it becomes a thing of romance, suggestive in its attractive possibilities as the fan, and one that offers as good a weapon for woman’s art.
A girl may take her kerchief and wave it at the incoming guest. She may lightly toss a signal with it at departing friends. She may, if on the water, wig-wag with it, and she may follow the fashion of the country in the manner of manipulating it in code style.
But, when she comes indoors, the etiquette of the handkerchief changes. And no article, not even the fan, is as rigidly ruled as the handkerchief. If necessary to shed a few tears the handkerchief can be used to lightly dry the tear drop. It is bad form to weep with abandon in the handkerchief; the emotions must be controlled into picturesqueness.
In connection with the etiquette of the handkerchief a few more don’ts are in order:
- Do not let it drop to the floor.
- Do not play hide and seek with it.
- Do not wind it between your fingers.
- Do not put the handkerchief into the mouth. Chewing the end of it is very bad form.
- Do not stuff it into your collar.
- Do not carry a handkerchief that is not delicately pristine in its beauty.
- Do not roll the handkerchief into a tight wad. Let it rest loosely in the lap.
- Do not bite or tear at the handkerchief.
- Do not mop the mouth with it. You can, if so please you, delicately touch the lips with its lacey edge. And one may sniff it, ever so lightly, to get its sweetness.
- Do not rub the forehead and head with it.
- Do not wipe the hands on it.
- Do not sop the handkerchief with perfume so that it looks like a moist rag. Instead, let one drop, a subtle thing, scent it, so that as you lift it, there will be a delicate aroma which exerts its fascinating influence.
- Do not flirt with the handkerchief. This is not good. It must not be tossed in the hand, nor flourished in the parlor.
- Do not blow the nose enthusiastically. Such a habit is disgusting, and is in very bad form.
- Do not put the handkerchief to common uses. It is an ornament, and not a thing of general utility.
- Do not carry in the parlor a vivid or gaudily colored handkerchief.
- Do not carry in the evening one that is loudly lettered with a colored initial.
- Do not carry an overly large handkerchief.
- Do not carry one that resembles a mussed up or tattered rag.
- Do not tie an article in the corner of the handkerchief. A real lady will not do this.
- Do not use the handkerchief as a mop or a duster. It should be treated as the most treasured bit of bric-a-brac.