Hatch’s Kamilia Hanna looks into a “duchess effect” course that teaches women the ways of being a lady.
It was a running joke in my family that I had the characteristics and personality of a hormonal 12-year-old boy as I spent my childhood expressing the complete opposite of what was seen as “ladylike”.
When I was Princess Charlotte’s age I may have dreamed of living in a palace, wearing the best clothes and hand-made jewellery but instead, I was kicking a football, wearing K-Mart’s finest and eating the fattiest food I could find.
As an adult, I told myself that I needed to act more like a lady or I would: one, never find a husband (much to my mother’s dismay); and two, probably piss off any boss I would work for because I had a bad habit of talking back.
So when I stumbled across the Duchess Effect course that was run out of Boronia Tea House – which already sounds too classy for my liking – I thought I’d give it a go and see if they could turn me into an elegant lady.
Etiquette consultant for over 10 years, Treska Roden, ran the day, giving the 12 participants a crash course in the art of finer deportment, which included walking gracefully into a room, greeting a person of power and eating the proper way.
“Etiquette is extremely important in today’s society, especially in business. You can not succeed in business if you do not have good manners.” – Treska Roden.
I imagined that the class might be like the etiquette scene from The Princess Diaries, where Mia Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway) learns how to ballroom dance at the instruction of her grandmother (Julie Andrews), the queen of Genovia.
But the Duchess Effect course wasn’t quite like that — there was no ballroom dancing, or Julie Andrews judging me — but I did learn how to walk, talk and eat like a lady.
“Etiquette is extremely important in today’s society,” said Treska.
“Especially in business. You cannot succeed in business if you do not have good manners.”
The class covered multiple topics, such as what to say in a formal setting, body posture, Australian and British dining styles, handshakes and the importance of colour.
“Fifty-five per cent of the colour you wear is what people think of you and only seve per cent of what you say, so it’s very important.” – Anjel Obryant, colour expert.
Colour is a touchy topic for me because I love my dark colours. I have convinced myself that they make me look skinnier and highlight my pale white skin, but colour expert Anjel Obryant gave me a harsh lesson in the importance of colour to a first impression. “Fifty-five per cent of the colour you wear is what people think of you and only seven per cent of what you say, so it’s very important,” she said.
Walking like a model was fun. I quickly learnt that I have been walking like a lanky giraffe for most of my life because I didn’t walk with the correct posture of having my chin up and back straight.
To perfect this technique, model Sheron Sultan gave me a quick rundown in deportment, which involved me trying to walk with a book on my head. After a few failed attempts I finally walked with poise and confidence. and I felt like Daenerys Targaryen walking through fire with three dragons by my side … well, maybe not quite that confident.
“If you want to work in the corporate world you have to talk the talk and walk the walk, and I truly believe deportment can help anybody in that sense.” – Sheron.
Sheron learnt the art of deportment from her grandmother in South Africa and she fell in love with the world of modelling because of it. She entered multiple pageants and was a Miss World Australia finalist in 2011, crediting that success to the lessons her grandmother gave her.
“If you want to work in the corporate world you have to talk the talk and walk the walk, and I truly believe deportment can help anybody in that sense,” she said.
In the dining segment of the class, I was taught to sip wine in small portions. Treska challenged us to drink in small sips to taste both the savoury and sweet flavours of the wine, but the deeper I got into my glass of white wine the more it slipped my mind.
While the four-hour class didn’t turn me into the next Meghan Markle, I did learn some valuable lessons that made me feel more sophisticated and put-together.
I probably won’t stop being clumsy or getting frustrated when the train is running late, but I will remember to breathe and think: “What would a duchess do?” The answer would probably be: say something polite and smile. – @KamiliaHannaV1