When Miss Manners reads of the return of hats, handkerchiefs, full slips, petticoats, trains on dresses, dresses themselves, or other sartorial signs of civilized life, she struggles to contain her excitement.
This does not, she has learned, herald her own return to being in fashion after a century or two of ladylike retirement. It merely means that once or twice in the following season, she will spot a young lady wearing a slip or petticoat with corset in place of a dress; or an evening dress in which a train has been constructed by removing the yardage that ought to cover the legs in front and tacking it onto the back; or a garden hat worn with what appear to be gardening clothes; or a handkerchief used as a pocket doily while the job of wiping the nose is retained by the paper industry.
Even those sightings will soon disappear, to be followed by a return to modern minimalism, itself a fashion that has accumulated a venerable history by now. Miss Manners is resigned to this, even if it renders useless her knowledge of how to handle complicated accoutrements. (Sample: When wearing a train in a crowded room, make occasional, small, inconspicuous turns in the same direction until you have made a complete circle in place. That way, your train will gather gracefully around you, so that when people approach you -- and people always approach a train-bearing lady -- they will not walk on your dress.)
But when she read in the fashion news that gloves were coming back -- gloves worn not against the cold or boxing opponents, but for their own sake -- she weakened. Could it be true?
Of course not. The pristine pair of gloves, once the symbol of gentility, has unfortunately turned into -- the symbol of gentility. It is gentility itself that has gone out of fashion.
Miss Manners was well aware of when it was that wearing gloves -- especially white gloves for ladies, but also gentlemen's dress gloves -- was scornfully rejected. It was concurrent with the rejection of etiquette. Both were declared laughably frivolous and ominously repressive.
A generation later, the concept -- although unfortunately not the practice -- of etiquette is finally back. This took an exhausting campaign, which Miss Manners would not have been able to win without the assistance of the millions who took the trouble to demonstrate to their fellow citizens what human behavior was like when unadorned by polite restraint.
But gloves retained their fearsome reputation, in spite of repeated demonstrations about what happens when people metaphorically take off the gloves. (Someone gets punched.)
To this very day, horrified young ladies ask older ones, "Didn't they used to make you wear little white gloves?"
Well, at least they didn't make us pierce our noses or navels.
Now we are at the point where the only people who don dress gloves are those who are re-enacting what they believe to be antique periods of either glamour or conformity. They remain innocent of even the simplest rules of glove etiquette, such as removing them when eating or drinking. That gloves used to lead a wildly exciting life, flirting (by floating provocatively to the ground when passing a prospect) and threatening (by whipping out the challenge to a duel) has been lost to history.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: The women's restroom in our office has three stalls and three sinks. On occasion, someone neglects to flush, or leaves an unpleasant odor behind.
What should one do if one is not the offending person, but someone else comes into the restroom and obviously notices the unpleasant condition? Is it appropriate to pretend to not notice, or should one make an exculpatory comment like "It wasn't me" in order to avoid the mistaken impression that it WAS you?
GENTLE READER-- No, no, anything but that. Never mind that this is a denial; worse yet is that it forever associates you with the smell. If you used the facility, you presumably flushed. If it is an odor, what you can say, quietly, is "I almost didn't use this because it's not very pleasant, but I didn't have time to find another bathroom, which you might want to do."