AML in Print

August, 2000

Are You a New Lady?

Are You a New Lady? Staying in tonight to finish your needlepoint cell phone case? You're not alone. You're a Gentry-a girl embracing nostalgic traditions radically. Welcome to the club.

Three women are indulging in a formal afternoon tea at the Pierre, a swanky, old school in Manhattan. As one pours and chimes "One jump or two?" in a pseudo-duchess voice, the other tries not to comment on the appalling skimpy length of a nearby patron's skirt and the third nibbles a fiendishly buttery biscuit. Doesn't sounds like a surprising gathering- unless you consider that all three women are 24 and, as of a year ago, were more likely to be found pigging out on pizza at he beach.

These women are hardly stuck-up society girls to the manor born. Rather they are part of an emerging wave we call the Gentries (Girls Embracing Nostalgic Traditions Radically). Reacting to today's overload of life style choices (neo-prep! Hip-hop! Hippie!), Gentries are breaking the rules by rediscovering decorum. And they're proof that prim purses, personalized stationery and (gasp!) politeness are becoming ultra cool.

Any old-school feminist who worries that Gentries will destroy the ERA can relax. In truth, they reflect the fact that women feel stronger than ever. Gone are the days when a women needed to prove she's as good as a man. Instead she is embracing her femininity and wants to be respected for it.. And Gentries aren't about to give up their day jobs, their salaries or their right to kick ass on the tennis court just because they want to sip a little tea. No, madam!

We found young women all over the country who are part of this trend. But how can you tell if you're a Gentry in the making? Well, stick the roast in the oven, grab a scone and read on.

Do you think you could out decoupage Martha Stewart?
Just because you've killed plastic plants doesn't mean all hope is gone. From cooking to cleaning, gardening to origami napkin folding, the Gentrification of crafts is giving them new cool. What's going on here? Maybe it's the pleasure you get from touching something you've created (minus Stuart's zombie like humorlessness). As Debbie, a 29 year old Web designer from Seattle explains, "I spend my whole day surrounded by computers and technology. But sometimes I feel like I have nothing to show for my work. SO last year I decided to actually grow pumpkins and then whipped up some pumpkin pies for my friends Thanksgiving diner. It was so nice to actually hold something -other than an e-mail printout-that I had created".

Last season the cast of Friends got into the act. Elle Macpherson's character turned Joey onto knitting (with disturbing results), and Monica taught Chandler to make a bird feeder out of nothing more than a pinecone! On the web sites like offer an abundance of updated options like Punk Fui (feng shui to the rest of us) and instructions for knitting a sexy bikini. It's enough to bring out the hobby honey in all of us.

Do you find it refreshing when a woman matches her shoes to her handbag?
The return of the crispy fashionable lady started with Prada's spring 2000 "Belle de Jour" collection, starting at the skirt and blouse ( a word than hasn't been spoken in 20 years), plus shoes with proper bags to match. Since then, the designers have reincarnated the lady many times- from Marc Jacobs's princess coat for fall to Club Monaco's pleated skirts and sweater sets.

For Gentries, the look is all about being pulled together. "I defiantly feel more sophisticated when everything matches," says Liz 29 a writer and actress in San Francisco who favors Miu Miu purses and shoes. "I suppose I started because I really respect women from the 40's and 50's. They just always seemed so calm and collected. I mean you never saw Grace Kelley lose her cool."

Have you ever wondered if Emily Post gives better advice than MTV's Loveline?
You might think that manners are what snobs use to look down on the rest of us, or that they are societies silly constrains to keep us from dancing on the tables at weddings. But Gentries know that good manners can help you get ahead. Lisa Mirza Grotts, who recently founded the AML group ("Allison, Mirza, Lisa"- two sisters with their last name in the middle) to teach etiquette to business people, children and individuals, says that most of her clients are women in their twenties. "They are right out of college and starting work. Learning good manner help them become more self assured and more successful."

One old but new sign of good manners is the hand written thank you note. Kristen a 26 year-old actress in Salt Lake City is a believer. "For a while I just sent e-mail thank you notes because they are easy, but I realized I wanted people to know I took the time to think about them just as they thought about me. I didn't want them getting my e-mail between some spam newsletter and a Mini-me joke." Personalized stationery is the piece de resistance: "It's unique and my friend have something tangible to remember an event we shared".

Gabrielle a 26 year old American living in Chiang Mai, Thailand, claims the written word is all the rage there, too. "Last year it was Internet café's" she explains "and this year it's postal café's where they have free postcards. All the travelers or expats sit around and write letters to friends. It's just a different connection than you get over the Internet."

Does the idea of Lunching suddenly seem less ridiculous? If your idea of a leisurely lunch is siting at your desk and a trip to the vending machine for dessert, you don't know what you're missing. Genties adore their long lunches and take pride in getting away from the office. "it used to be that staying at your desk was how you got ahead, but women today are smarter than that," claims Tiffany a film producer in Los Angeles. " I never used to take lunch and I wound up resenting my job and missing my friends. Now we make it a point to get together once a week and have a girl's lunch out. We laugh, we chat. We don't feel stressed or pressured. I swear when I get back to work I'm invigorated and much more productive."

Are you tired of Guys that call you at 6:00 to go for a drink at 6:05? Sure most of the men you know still subscribe to the cavemen school of courting, but Gentries look for Mentries that want to bring back the old fashioned date. Leigh, a 24 year old travel writer in Chicago, likes her guys to call week in advance. Maybe she should get together with Rhode Island teacher Chris, 27, a man who also believes in heavy lead times. "I think dating became too informal. We'd go out in packs and maybe you'd hook up at the end of the night. But I don't want a girl to think I just expect her to be free. Planning a date in advance mean I don't have to hope she'll show up wherever I am."

Are you starting to think that donating your old flip flops to the thrift store isn't exactly charity?
If this is supposed to be a new era of greed something weird is going on. According to Mary Beth Tulle, vice president of the communications for the Junior League, membership in places like New York City is at an all time high, and volunteerism is increasing across the country. She thinks that women are tired of being defined by looking-out-for-number-one careers and want to explore the "radical" idea of generosity. As Jane, 23, an international equities trader says, " I joined the Junior League because service work has always appealed to me, and it's difficult o meet people with similar interests. Since I've joined several of my friends have too. We really want to make a difference in our community."
Does the phrase "just us girls" make you smile?