- Master the "bistro pelvis." This is from the excellent chapter on posture in Tim Gunn's A Guide to Quality, Taste, and Style. Mr. Gunn, likewise, takes his knowledge from a 1934 guide called Your Carriage, Madam! The author instructed her readers to hold their bodies as though one is walking sideways between tables in a crowded bistro. This means tilting your pelvis slightly forward; or "scooping" your navel to your spine, as it is known in pilates. This tip has been invaluable to me. I didn't realize how strong my tendency is to tilt my pelvis forward, resulting in lower back pain and a rather unsightly bulged tummy, it must be said.
- Shoulders down, not back! (Many thanks to commenter Pammie who brought this tip to my attention.) This is another bit of wisdom from my beloved Tim Gunn. He says that people often think of good posture as throwing one's shoulders back. Well, try this for yourself right now and you'll see it doesn't really work. At least for me, it forces me to arch my back, contributing to the forward-tilted pelvis mentioned above. Instead, focus on keeping your shoulders down, away from your ears.
- Imagine a pole going up through your skull. Hmm, that actually sounds rather grisly, doesn't it? Just imagine you have a metal pole going up through your spine and up through the top of your head, like a skeleton in a science lab. Now try to keep the pole straight at all times. This will cause you to lengthen the back of your neck, rather than scrunching it or straining it. Another helpful bit of imagery here is to imagine yourself as a marionette with a string through your head that you must keep taut and pulled straight at all times.
- Beware the dreaded pigeon toe. Commenter Michael is an Alexander Technique teacher and linked to his post on women, fashion, and the pigeon-toed look. He described seeing women sitting on the subway with their toes pointed decidedly inward, creating poor alignment. And don't you know it? I do this too! I think I do it reflexively on the train as a way to keep my knees knocked together while I'm wearing a skirt. But regardless of reason, it's a bad habit and one I'm striving to break.
Best yet, Tim's trademark wit is on every page. In true erudite Gunn fashion, he summons the philosopher Kierkegaard to dispense style knowledge. You see, fashion is all about finding the authentic self and Kierkegaard "counsels that the unmediated choice is the only choice one will never regret. This means no agonizing over whether or not to keep the jumpsuit. If you have to ask, the answer is: throw it away."
Oh, Tim! You're a national treasure.