Easy and Elegant Life

The Search for Everyday Elegance and the Art of Living Well.

The Carriage Trade

Balancing Act

Balanced Man
Repeated viewings of “The Thomas Crown Affair” is one of my guilty pleasures. Renée Russo, Pierce Brosnan, Dennis Leary…. great story, glamourous, good looking cast, great locations and the idea of money to burn, what’s not to love? It’s been said that Brosnan had to learn to walk “like an American” for the movie — looser than he does as Bond, for example.

Which anecdote brings up the point of today’s post. One of the easiest ways to look more elegant is to adopt what my grandmother would call “correct posture.”

A long time ago, I was an Arthur Murray dance instructor. (I was also a Kelly Girl, but that’s another story.) The single most evident perk of the job was that for two glorious years, I was very coordinated. I bumped into nothing. I glided when I walked. (And since I danced about ten miles a day, I could eat anything I wanted without gaining a pound.) I had a perpetual smile on my face (standard issue for dance instructors.) I wasn’t the best (or even close), but I think that I communicated the fun that you could have when you know how to dance. And I felt great. There is something to be said for holding your head up, shoulders back and keeping your core directly over your feet when you move.

In yoga, the standing starting pose is called “Tadasana,” and is very similar. My father would have called it “standing at attention.” Regardless, the way you rcarry yourself (get the reference to the carriage trade above) can make you look taller and thinner than you will by adopting the popular slouch of the the 1920’s. The trick is learning to move while maintaining that posture and balance. We all have that picture in our collective minds of the debutante or model learning to walk by balancing a book on her head (try that with those who have been raised in sneakers.) There are any number of institutions which teach deportment, but there are a few tricks you can learn quickly and easily. Do try this at home:

Stand with your feet a few inches apart and “grounded” (in other words not leaning forward onto your toes or too far back on your heels.)

Tuck your pelvis under (you are not to stand “sway-backed”) so that your hips are over your feet, not too far forward or back.

Tighten your stomach muscles.

Shoulders are squared and back, opening your chest. Shoulder blades are a little in and down.

Now pretend that your head is attached to a string that is being pulled straight up to the ceiling. Lengthen your neck and make sure it is aligned with your spine.

You should feel very comfortable like this. In time, you will feel less “stiff” or formal.

Now c’mon do the locomotion with me: take a step forward with your left foot, push off your right foot, but lead with your chest. This will keep your center of gravity directly over your feet. Begin to walk forward, mindful of looking straight ahead, leading with your chest and swinging your arms naturally.

Smile. You look more confident, alert and better already.

9 thoughts on “The Carriage Trade

  1. I love love love Thomas Crown Affair–for all the reasons you mention. It certainly features a lifestyle to aspire to (well, not the criminal element…).

  2. My dear father used to threaten to send me to boarding school in England if I didn’t improve my posture! I never did know why- is their posture any better than ours? Do they teach that at their boarding schools?? Regardless, it worked and I learned to sit up straight!

  3. Oh this is too droll, earlier today, I was illustrating for a client, a similar sketch of a square shagreen, “book-like” bag perche upon the head of a very starched looking gal, straight and upright, and very hard to do this exercise without a smile! Now, did you take the photo?

  4. I am working on perfecting my Tadasana pose! I’ve been doing yoga and pilates for several months now and I love it! I feel happier, healthier and taller (granted I am already 5’9).
    I take it that is you Mr E&E?

  5. I learned good posture by imagining a thread (rope) coming out of the top of my head and imagining pulling it so my spine straightened, my shoulders went back and my chin came up… i still do it today.

  6. Love your blog! The Thomas Crown Affair is one of my favourites. Both versions (although I’m more familiar with the Brosnan one) are films that both men and women can watch together without someone being secretly resentful that it’s not a chick-flick (not me, I’m not guilty of this!) Renee Russo has such a commanding strut! I learned good posture through dance, but having given that up it’s all gone to seed. I’m probably sitting imporperly hunched over my keyboard right now…

  7. Is that you Mr. E? Quite dashing. And posture perfect! The Thomas Crown Affair has long been one of my favorites, especially the scene with all of the Magritte imposters strolling through the Met. Hilarious!

  8. CL, there’s a little larceny in all of us. My family crest sports a “griffin” being shot through the neck by an arrow. I assume it means that we were chicken thieves before we managed to make it to the new world.

    Hi Peak, beats me. But whatever works right? My father-in-law was kicked out of an English boarding school and he sort of slouches. Maybe why he went the private tutor route?

    Yes, Mrs. PVE, I took the shot with my very own Photobooth application. It took several attempts…

    AtB, guilty as charged. That is your faithful correspondent. I’m interested in Pilates now. I have a “Pilates in a Box” that I’m sure I’m managing to murder.

    Fairfax, a very good technique. Forgot “chin up!”

    Thank you katiedid, The faceless businessman no more. And that’s one of many of my favourite scenes.

  9. Hello Emily,
    Thank you! I’m enjoying having my own little elegant corner of the web. Or at least striving to be elegant. My favourite Russo scene has the be the one in which she chugs down the health drink. Leary’s “What is that?” is priceless. I took to drinking Green Goodness for a while after that, but I still didn’t look like I belonged in the movie.

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