From the Publisher
“Can a girl be absolutely fabulous and a pillar of civility at the same time? Ceri Marsh and Kim Izzo think so, and their smart, authoritative guide to modern urban manners gives life to the girl of our dreams: sexy, sophisticated and well dressed, yet never less than perfectly considerate. She’s a gem, and so is the book.” — Mark Kingwell
“’She’s smart, fun, stylish and, of course, beautifully well-mannered. She’s the girl you admire, the girl you want to be.’ And ‘she’ can be ‘you’ — with the proper amounts of aforethought and home study. Such encouraging notions come by way of Toronto fashionistas Kimm Izzo and Ceri Marsh in their updated book of etiquette for the modern girl. The chic duo tackle these life complications and more, all with a view to arm readers with a ready sense of what the savvy, confident career gal would do to save the hour.” —Toronto Star, Arrivals
“…it’s a fun, quick read because of its elegant prose and cheeky voice…there is something truly admirable about The Fabulous Girl’s Guide…I liked the book’s honesty and non-judgmental tone…it assumes the voice of a truly excellent girlfriend, who gently advises but never reprimands, no matter how shocking the situation.” —Daphne Gordon, Toronto Star
“In a world filled with rudeness, it is refreshing to read a book that dares a young woman to be ‘grand’ — in the same way that Jackie Onassis, Holly Golightly and Coco Chanel were models of taste and diplomacy…Izzo and Marsh…give advice that seems ‘retro’ but is actually as solid as the pillars of civilization itself…This timely, self-help guide also functions as a crash course in survival for those sweet young things who have been dazed into dysfunction by watching Melrose Place, Jerry Springer and Limp Bizkit videos. Absolutely everything is covered in this book, from what to wear to a job interview, to how to leave your lover, to what kind of utensils should be stocked in your kitchen.” —Donna Lypchuck, Globe & Mail
“I graciously admit after reading this Carrie Bradshaw-meets-Peggy Post handbook that I had a thing or two to learn about being fabulous…These tips we should know (but don’t always) are cleverly dispersed between clips of fictional tales of girls with decorum getting by in the real world — fabulously.” —Flare Magazine
“The Fabulous Girl’s Guide to Decorum by Kim Izzo and Ceri Marsh hauls Ms. Manners into the new millennium…In bright, snappy prose, they offer solutions to such dilemmas as sex with your boss (not always a no-no for ambitious FGs), the classic how to meet his/her parents (courteously, of course), and what to do when the condom breaks (a fast call for the morning-after pill). A fair bit of tongue-in-cheekery makes the book witty as well as wise.” —Elle Canada
Read an Excerpt
The WorkplaceCopyright 2001 by Kim Izzo and Ceri Marsh
"I was praying this morning that you wouldnt be wearing that skirt. And here you are," sputtered Claire, a woman with a shape that women's magazines refer to euphemistically as "pear," and my boss.
Now, I hate Monday mornings in general, but on this particular Monday, I had entirely forgotten about my job review. I was a receptionist at Corp Train, a management training firm that was as lame as it sounded.
I was silently horrified. Anyone can criticize my typing speed but never, never my style. Especially not Claire, who's idea of fashion was Annie Hall meets Laura Ingalls. And to add insult to fashion injury, I was being critiqued by a person whose teeth were loaded with poppy seeds.
"We really believe in bringing people along here at Corp Train. We really do," she continued, taking my silence as acknowledgement of sexy-skirt-guilt.
I had woken up feeling pretty good. Hair not too terrible. I wore my slightly see-through, long black skirt because it looked fabulous. As always, I wore it with completely opaque tights, so it was entirely respectable. Biking to work, I'd been thinking about how not so very bad my job was. Nobody expected me to care about the corporate training sessions the company ran. Being a receptionist did not exactly tax a girl. And as soon as I figured out what I wanted to do with my life, I'd be able to put all my energy and free time into that thing . . . whatever it would be.
I mean, who cares about a job review for a job you don't care about? Now it was sure to be my last day. This is how it went:
"It's just not appropriate for a corporate environment. At CorpTrain we have to be seen as a team, and that team is professional and impeccably groomed."
Was she also saying my hair was messy and I needed to use deodorant?
"So Step One, buy some more modest clothes. I know that's a quick fix, especially for someone like you."
Like me? She didn't know me. I've only worked here three months and she'd said little to me other than hello and good night.
"There are two types of people in the world."
"Really, only two types?" I asked and gripped the arms of my chair. Claire nodded emphatically and continued.
"Type A and Type B. Type A's are stars. As soon as they walk into a room, you know it. Heads turn and they command an audience. Super-confident. Then there are Type-B personalities. These people are mild and shy and are often afraid to speak up and join in group dynamics. You are a Type B. Which is fine, but it means that you're not a natural leader. There is room for both types at Corp Train, so there is a place on the team for you too. It's just not a very mobile position, if you see what I mean."
I don't know whether it was the B or the A in me that felt it was the right moment. For two things. "I think next Friday should be my last day. And, Claire, you've got all sorts of poppy seeds in your teeth."
Even though it hadn't been what I'd expected that sunny Monday and my bank balance meant that my actions should have sent me into terrible anxiety, all I really felt was relief and a perverse sense of power. And as I've learned over and over, nothing takes the edge off like a new pair of shoes and a bottle of Chianti with my two best friends, Elenor and Missy.
In those days, Elenor, Missy and I all despised Mondays, the launch pads of five days of Jill Jobs. Over the weekend it was possible to start feeling a bit fab and self-determined. But back at a job you hate, the sheen of your weekend self-image quickly tarnishes. We'd been best friends since university, where we met in Intro. to Twentieth-Century Art. We bonded over the fact that we'd all come from small towns. Missy and El knew exactly how I'd felt growing up, dying to bust out of rural boredom. Although we were ambitious, stylish, smart girls, we had yet to get it together. I wanted to write, Elenor wanted to art direct and Missy--well, she was just vaguely ambitious. Elenor was a production assistant at Colonial Kitchen Magazine and Missy waited tables at French Roast, where after my Type A standoff I too donned apron and corkscrew.
A month later I was not feeling quite so brave about my new life. What if Claire had been right? A Type-A person surely would have bounced right into a better job by now. Sure, I had started to phone editors looking for freelance work, but it took me an entire day to build up my nerve each time. Was I a B? Or had Claire just branded me as one?
I had moments of wanting the drones at Corp Train to pay for all the minor humiliations I'd endured under them all those months. As I'd cycle through the city, dropping off resumes at restaurants and temp agencies, I started to compose a letter that would really blast them. I thought of sending it to Claire's boss. I'd outline all the inefficiencies that I'd been witness to as a receptionist. The thing about most execs is that they're so arrogant that they think the receptionist doesn't notice that they're using the FedEx account for personal use, that they're taking hour-and-a-half lunch breaks at least three times a week or that they've been doing it in the fax room with the new intern when the boss thinks they're working late on that big account. And in particular, I'd outline Claire's utter incompetence as the office manager. I knew for a fact that she made all her personal long-distance phone calls from work.
I thrilled to the thought of Claire being brought down to size.
And then I had what I am sure was a very grown-up moment. I just thought better of it. I was on my way to leaving those kinds of jobs behind. Who cared what a bunch of suits thought of me? And let's face it, they wouldn't have thought much of my letter anyway. Claire's boss probably hired her in the first place.
For no other generation has work been so central to a woman's sense of self. Work has, for many a woman, entirely replaced the identity she may have had in previous times. The work the Fabulous Girl does--or wants to do--is critical to her. While it is still unusual, it is not unheard of for a woman to forgo motherhood and be satisfied with a life that is defined solely by her career.
For several years of her adult life, an FG may work toward her ultimate career goals without pay. She may take a less than challenging job (a Jill Job) just to pay the bills. The modern woman makes these sacrifices with long-term happiness in mind. Although it may cause her some anxiety, she is willing to give up traditional standards of security in the short run to have the life she's after in the end.
At the start of this particular career trajectory, it may be difficult for the outside world (and her family) to understand what the FG is doing or where she thinks she's going. Her life may seem a mishmash of waitressing jobs, volunteering, "projects" (usually creative in character), courses, classes and travel. Indeed at times it will even seem to her as if it's all adding up to nothing. Somehow, by her late twenties or early thirties, an FG finds that it all has a way of coming together. All those experiences, along with her superior charm and grace, are suddenly exactly the right combination for the FG's dream job.
The Fabulous Girl acknowledges and thanks the women who have paved the way for her generation to enter the workforce. She appreciates that she now enjoys nearly endless career choices. But, an FG is not afraid to take advantage of her style and beauty and the benefits these attributes may reap for her in the course of her career. The FG notes the advantages in the workplace of being a young, confident, sexy woman. A self-assured woman carries her wit, charm and intellect with her wherever she goes. Men and women will treat her with respect because she demands it, not merely with words but with action. She knows she deserves the job, the raise, the success, the man and the apartment. She's a Fabulous Girl.
Entering the Workforce
You are what you wear
One of the keys to the Fabulous Girl's success is her sense of style. Of course she is intellectually or financially brilliant--or both--but what we're talking about here is what makes the FG succeed beyond other smart women. She knows how to dress, and while she may not be rich (yet), the FG simply loves clothes. She can put together a head-turning outfit from cheap chic shops and vintage finds. She knows how to apply makeup and never leaves her home without lipstick. She is always put together and well-groomed.
The Fabulous Girl reads fashion magazines from around the globe both for pleasure and to keep up with what's going on in the world of style. She window shops on her lunch hour and before cocktails. While she is never afraid to try new looks, she knows what suits her body type and sticks to it. Why does any of this matter? Shouldn't this be dismissed as wanton vanity? Rubbish! The Fabulous Girl understands the importance of appearances and doesn't get in a knot about whether wearing lipstick makes her a bad "sister."
An FG knows that great style commands respect from employers and colleagues: it reads as self-respect. Employers are impressed when a staff member makes an effort with her appearance, as it demonstrates that she cares about the work she does and that she wants to be a good representative of her company. An FG appreciates that first impressions count, especially in the workplace. Stylishness is an enviable trait, and the Fabulous Girl relishes being envied, even copied.
The way you dress can definitely influence your success at work. When your boss is trying to decide between you and the smart but sloppy woman next to you for that management promotion, guess who gets the job? Dress for the job you wish was yours. Every workplace has a subtle dress code beyond the basic rules written up in your employee's handbook. Take your cues from your boss's own sense of style (unless he or she is a slob). And please, no whining that it's not fair. Life is not fair--these are the tricks to winning the not-fair game.
Who you know
Nepotism is still the most unjust but effective way of landing a good job or freelance gig. Remember the play Six Degrees of Separation? When you are looking for work, there is something to be said for asking everyone you know, even your parents, who they know. Make sure, however, that it's a firm connection and not just someone your best friend's boyfriend met once at a barbecue last year. Those are more desperate measures. As an FG gets older, her friends will get into better positions and she will benefit all the more. The reverse is also true. A successful FG is also a confident one and therefore not afraid to help a friend develop her own career.
Brains: There for the picking--yours included
When you become successful enough, you will eventually get the call: "Hi, my name is Felix. Fifi gave me your number. I'm dying to get into floral design, and I wondered if I could pick your brain sometime?" You will roll your eyes and look at your already packed daytimer, but you should also be flattered, and you must oblige if at all possible. Everyone needs help at the start of a career--you did, didn't you? To balance universal karma, and to be polite, you must dispense whatever advice you can. How much time and mentoring you offer will depend on your schedule, of course, and on your assessment of the asker's potential. But remember: everyone deserves a chance. If you're the one requesting aid, there are very specific rules that must be followed in order to graciously maximize your brain-picking:
1. You are asking for someone's time, their most valuable commodity, so make it sound like a request, not a demand.
2. Do your homework. Know two or three answers, addresses or names you'd like to get out of the conversation. Don't just chat; you can't ask for a brain-pick when what you really want is a new pal.
3. Keep it brief. (See number 1.)
4. Pay the bar, cafe or restaurant tab. The generous pickee may offer to pay, particularly if they're financially successful and you're a struggling newcomer. You must refuse (so choose to meet someplace you can afford).
5. Remember all the favours you ask for now--and start storing up lore to share when your turn comes.
As a newly minted graduate, the Fabulous Girl needs to find herself a job. Depending on her level of education and her field of study, she will either enter at a junior level in her chosen profession or accept a Jill Job to tide her over until she finds her niche. In either case, an FG should never sell herself short. Peruse the want ads in the local paper and check out the alternative presses or the trade publications for your desired field. A girl can find a multitude of entry-level jobs that may satisfy her rent cheque and also lead elsewhere. An FG should certainly also apply for jobs she's not quite qualified for. For example, if she's just getting started in her freelance writing career, she should still submit her resume for that associate editor job. Even if she doesn't get an interview, she will get her name out there. Likewise, she should ask others to keep an ear open for interesting job opportunities they may hear about.
An FG always updates her curriculum vitae and keeps various drafts of it on her computer. She may at various times in her professional life need both a dream job resume and a lackey resume. For the dream job, an FG will pump up the volume of her related experiences in her coveted field. Everyone either lies or embellishes on their resume: an FG does it with style. Use different fonts for your contact information and name, bold your headings, experiment with margins and spacing to build a strong one-sheet on yourself. Whatever is most exciting about your expertise should be placed first. For the resume that is used to secure Jill Jobs, less is more. You do not want to appear too smart, accomplished or ambitious or an employer will sniff out that you'll be gone in six months and therefore pass you over. Dumb yourself down for these just-for-the-money jobs.