Bad behavior has become the new black. In a world where presidential candidates hurl public insults at each other, Olympic athletes are embroiled in scandals, and where online communication has replaced face-to-face interaction, manners are more important than ever.
To guide us from wrong to right, we spoke to leading etiquette expert, author, and founder and CEO of Beverly Hills Manners, Lisa Gaché. This maven of manners has taught Oscar nominees, Saudi princesses, football players, intelligence operatives and butlers how to be perfectly polite. Here, she shares her tips on staying fashionable in every situation, the secrets to red-carpet confidence, and how to leave a sparkling impression in any situation.
Why do we need a reminder of good manners these days?
Manners never go out of style, but they are needed now more than ever. We are currently experiencing a climate filled with chaos—most notably within our political process, but also visible recently with our Olympian athletes and other public figures. Manners are a lost art that desperately need reviving. They play an integral part of our daily lives. They provide structure, meaning, and a code of conduct to live by.
What are the most common “no go’s” you see?
As an etiquette expert, my manners radar is always on. There are certain manners I’ll let slide, but others that really should be paid attention to. The most common manners issues are poor dining skills, intolerance and impatience, and massive cell phone abuse.
Please give us the five essential manners that could make a big difference.1) Dressing up. 2) Exchanging a simple greeting. 3) Wearing a smile. 4) Being present. 5) Saying “I’m sorry”.
Is there something such as "fashion manners"?
Absolutely! Fashion is our personal armor. It’s an advertisement for how we wish to present ourselves. When it comes to wearing clothes, you must start with good posture, and then wear what best suits your figure and makes you feel most comfortable. For women, I believe in a good blow dry (our hair is the crown we never take off), a pair of fabulous heels, and a classic trench coat to protect from the elements. For men, it’s all about the accessories. You must have an elegant timepiece, a belt made of leather or skin, and a pair of suede tennis shoes that can be worn casually or with a smart suit.
Your company is called Beverly Hills Manners. What can we learn from this most prestigious zip code?
I named my company after the town in which I was raised and still reside. All over the world, Beverly Hills is recognized as the arbiter of style. Rodeo Drive is home to the most famous fashion houses. We dictate the rules. We are the leaders in health, diet, beauty, fashion—and manners.
When it comes to dates, are there any specific rules or manners you recommend?
Please remember that your date is a person, not a commodity. Show them consideration. If you’re running late, text or call immediately. When picking up your date, greet them at the door. Be truthful from the beginning. A baseball cap won’t hide a receding hairline. Do not bring up past relationships—focus on the person sitting across from you. Always be gracious and say thank-you whether you’re interested in taking the relationship further or not.
You say manners give confidence—can you explain?
Manners provide the keys to confidence. They are the soft skills that endear us to another person. They help us feel comfortable in our own skin while simultaneously teaching us how to put other people at ease. They provide a guide for how to behave in any situation, and they make us more mindful of when it’s best to just blend in.
What is your life philosophy?
My philosophy on life stems from my daughters and my husband. My daughters constantly remind me of YOLO (you only live once) and my husband is an eternal optimist. My family gives me the strength to take risks, be open-minded, and most of all, remember that each day is precious, so make the most of every minute and have fun!
What manners are essential at a social event (gala/fashion event/movie premiere)?
Red carpet manners: Everyone has at least one red-carpet moment in their lifetime. When that day arrives, you’ll want to shine like a star. Keep an air of confidence with a warm smile, bright eyes, and fresh, minty breath. Deliver an unforgettable interview with words that flow effortlessly. And if you’re being taken to an event as a plus one, make sure you look fabulous and act on your best behavior lest you draw attention away from the person you’re accompanying.
If we can take away one piece of great advice from you, what would it be?
For goodness’ sake, SMILE. A smile is an instant invitation. It conveys friendliness. It makes us approachable and likeable. A smile is one of the only things we can fake that will actually chemically turn our mood around. Remember to smile, and you’ll constantly be surrounded by friends and offered endless opportunities.
How do you say thank-you in an appropriate way? Email, call, presents?
It’s difficult to decipher modern-day thanks. Once the event takes place, you have less than 48 hours to compose a proper thank-you. A text is fine as an immediate response after an impromptu evening or other minor deeds. An email is an effective way to thank a large group or to acknowledge a small gift or favor. However, a handwritten note leaves a lasting impression and is the best form of communication for all other acts of kindness, including gifts received, special invitations, professional interviews, and business dining.
Your favorite Beverly Hills addresses?
I’m a major foodie and love cooking with fresh organic ingredients. When I’m out, I enjoy a healthy breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien. My “ladies who lunch” hotspot is La Scala, and afternoon tea is best at the Peninsula or Montage Hotels. As far as a bar with great ambiance, I prefer the Hotel Bel Air and the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel. For great people watching, Wally’s Deli and Bouchon are also terrific. For dinner, Mastro’s, Spago and E. Baldi are my go-to restaurants for steak, fish and pasta respectively. I’m just as passionate about shopping—I can be found perusing many of the stores in Beverly Hills, however, my personal favorites are Ferragamo for handbags, Burberry for coats and scarves, Neiman Marcus for dresses, and René Caovilla heels embellished with Swarovski crystals!
How does a sparkling outfit leave a sparkling impression?
Your outfit sets the tone for the occasion. Selecting one perfect standout item that exudes taste, style and class will get you noticed every time. Couple that with a positive attitude, a winning smile, and a graceful demeanor and you’ll be fighting off a line of admirers.
Lisa Gaché was interviewed by Katharina Kowalewski.