At one time, the handkerchief was meant to be hidden, like one’s underclothes, for it was regarded as an article of toilet. But this rule proved utterly futile. The beauty of the handkerchief – its exquisite lace embroideries – made it too beautiful and too effective a weapon to be hidden.

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 handkerchief, one must be wary of its abuse. When the handkerchief is abused, it hisses and becomes garish. But treated poetically, it becomes the stylish theme of an individual’s storyline… a thing of romance… suggestive… a weapon for woman’s art.

Few women understand the etiquette and dance of the handkerchief. Its treatment may be a matter of instinct. But more often, it is a studiously acquired art. To handle it well, to successfully control the hands, is a matter of study and practice… a triumph of culture and good breeding. Here are a few beginner rules for using a handkerchief…


  • Do not let it drop to the floor. If it does, it is dirty. So, do not use it again.
  • Do not play hide and seek with it. It is not a toy and you are an adult.
  • Do not wind it between your fingers, toss or twirl it in your hand, or finger it nervously.
  • Do not put it into your mouth. Chewing the end of it is very bad form.
  • Do not stuff it into your collar or bodice. Never use it as a bib.
  • Do not use it if it is dirty, especially if it is clearly soiled.
  • Do not roll it into a wad or crumble it when storing it in your handbag. Always fold it.
  • Do not mop your mouth with it. Instead delicately dab your lips.
  • Do not rub your forehead or head with it. Only use it to delicately dab your skin. But always be careful not to get too much make-up on it. Make-up can make it look unsightly. If there are obvious make-up stains on it, stop using it and pull out a new one.
  • Do not wipe your hands on it. Instead, press your fingers on it or press it onto your palm. They are not towels or napkins.
  • Do not tie an article, like flowers, in the corner of it.
  • Do not wipe your eyes with it. If you are crying, you can lightly dry your tears with it. But always be careful not to get too much eye make-up on it.
  • Do not use the handkerchief as a mop or a duster. It should be treated as the most treasured bit of fabric.
  • Do not sop it with perfume so that it looks like a moist rag or smells like the inside of a perfume bottle.
  • Do not blow your nose enthusiastically into it. You should only use it to dab the end of your nose. If you need to empty your nose, excuse yourself and empty it in a restroom or bathroom with a tissue paper.


  • Do not carry it if it’s dirty or yellowed, torn, ragged, or resembles a tattered rag.
  • Do spray it lightly with a light-colored perfume. This way when you remove it from your handbag, a delicate aroma will rise to your nose and exert its fascinating influence on your senses.
  • Carry 1 to 3 handkerchiefs every time you leave your home. The number should depend on where you are going, if you are ill, if it is hot, and how many times you think you will need to use it.
  • Carry handkerchiefs in a elegant pouch or slim box (eg. an etched silver case about the size of a women’s cigarette case). Handbag interiors are rarely cleaned and the things you put in it like cellphones, keys and wallets are usually full of bacteria and viruses. This rule will help keep your handkerchiefs separated from the insides of your handbag, thus, clean.
  • Carry a dirty handkerchief pouch, especially on days you know you will dirty more than one handkerchief. Dropping a soiled handkerchief into your handbag in front of onlookers instead of a trash bin, like most do with disposable tissue paper, can appear disgusting.


  • Do not carry one that is boldly lettered with a colored initial.
  • Do not carry an overly large handkerchief.
  • Do not use a vivid or gaudily colored handkerchief. Use white or light-colored ones instead. The lighter it is, the less it will attract. However, you can carry a sophisticated print in sophisticated colors (not gaudy) when attending masculine, sophisticated, or ultra modern events. The most popular and traditional handkerchief is white in color and has no vivid print. However, handkerchiefs should match your style as well as the event you are attending. For example, if you do not feel comfortable pulling out a dainty white handkerchief while directing a group of strong-willed men at work, pull out instead a more masculine-looking one. Just make sure the color and/or pattern is elegant, not gaudy or attention-seeking.