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Dear Miss Manners: Is it the shape of the sleeves or the fluffiness of the skirt that separates a wedding dress from a princess’s or a debutante’s?

Gentle Reader: Sleeves? You have seen sleeves on wedding or debutante dresses in the last decade?

Since white strapless dresses became the standard for both debutantes and brides, Miss Manners fails to see any difference between them. Or much charm, for that matter. She at least hopes that young ladies who participate in both rituals do not expect their parents to spring for two such costumes.

A debutante is probably attending a ball (as opposed to the tasteful “small dance” of yesteryear), and so a ball dress is fitting. However, some modesty was expected of an innocent young lady on her first appearance in adult society. Ha.

Proper bridal dresses may be fluffy or not, above and below, but they are supposed to be somewhat subdued as a show of respect for the seriousness of the occasion and, when the ceremony is religious, for a house of worship. Unless they are at least temporarily covered, dresses that start at the top (one hopes) of the bosom make it clear that it is the party, not the ceremony, that the bride considers the most important part of the occasion.

Besides, they make her look naked in those head shots of the couple.

Help or hindrance?

Dear Miss Manners: I am a lady who must use a cane when walking due to a medical issue. Many times at social or other gatherings, well-meaning friends will walk alongside me to “assist” me.

This kind gesture often leads them to accidentally and unknowingly kick my cane, which sends me reeling. My friends usually exclaim, “You MUST be more careful!”

I do not wish to be rude, but how do I let them know that they are the ones who must be more careful?

Gentle Reader: This is a version of the scout who kindly helps someone across a street she didn’t want to cross. It is unfortunate that the tender-hearted are often tender-headed enough to think that they know more about the logistics of handling a disability than those who have one.

Miss Manners hears of such would-be helpers taking command of wheelchairs to the annoyance and possible endangerment of their owners. Intended as an act of kindness, that is actually an act of arrogance. And your friends are compounding their error by scolding you.

You will have to assert your authority by saying firmly, “Thank you, I can manage” or “Please walk on the other side.”

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com.