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From the Victorian era to the not-so-distant past, society was governed by a set of etiquette rules that might seem bizarre, if not downright oppressive, to us today. While some of these customs were rooted in genuine respect and politeness, others were downright restrictive, especially for women.
Women Couldn’t Dine Alone in Restaurants
In the early 20th century, it was considered inappropriate for women to dine alone in restaurants. They needed a male escort, or they’d be relegated to the “ladies’ section.”
Hats On for Men, Always
Men were expected to wear hats outdoors at all times. Removing one’s hat was a sign of respect, especially in churches or when greeting a woman.
No Trousers for Women
For a long time, women wearing trousers was seen as rebellious. Dresses and skirts were the acceptable attire, regardless of the activity or weather.
The Gloved Handshake
In the past, it was considered rude for a woman to shake hands without gloves on, especially with a man.
Waiting for a Letter Introduction
Before the age of instant messaging, if you wanted to meet someone new, especially of the opposite sex, you’d wait for a formal letter of introduction.
Strict Dance Card Rules
At formal dances, women had dance cards where men would sign up for a dance. Once the card was full, she couldn’t accept more partners.
The Obsession with Ankles
Showing one’s ankles was once considered scandalous. Women’s dresses were expected to cover them entirely.
Young couples in the past often had a chaperone (usually an older woman) accompany them on dates to ensure proper behavior.
Men Walking on the Outside
It was customary for men to walk on the side closest to the road, shielding women from mud splashes from passing carriages.
No Public Displays of Affection
Holding hands, hugging, or any form of physical affection in public was frowned upon, especially between unmarried couples.
In certain cultures, it was considered polite to eat breakfast in silence. Speaking was reserved for more “appropriate” times of the day.
Women Couldn’t Propose
The idea of a woman proposing to a man was unthinkable. It was always the man’s role to ask for a woman’s hand in marriage.
No Writing in Ink for Ladies
Women were expected to write letters in pencil, while men used ink. This was because pencil was seen as more delicate and feminine.
Covering the Table Legs
In the Victorian era, even table legs were considered “indecent.” They were often covered to prevent any impure thoughts.
No Public Laughing for Women
Women were advised not to laugh out loud in public. A soft, restrained giggle was the most they could muster without being considered unladylike.
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