Friday, June 17, 2011

Crap, I forgot to pack my calling cards...

{commentary by yours truly}

In view of the confusion arising among many junior officers' wives from reading various books on Naval Etiquette, which sometimes contain conflicting and even out-of-date information, the Fleet Officers' Wives Committee has compiled this booklet in response to numerous questions submitted to it.

{Damned junior officers' wives...they are always screwing up Naval Etiquette. Good thing there is a committee to respond...}

Calling Cards:

 In Navy life...calls are still expected and, for very sound reasons, should be made. By means of these social calls, Navy families become quickly acquainted in their new surroundings. In general, we follow the old civilian custom of leaving cards at the first call...

The wife's card is engraved with "Mrs." And her husband's full name. The use of a joint card is acceptable.

If there is a servant answering the door, hand the cards to him. Never hand cards to members of the family.


You are expected to call on your husband's commanding officer and his family, the executive officer and his family, as well as your husband's department head and his family. There is no specific order for making your calls.

When a call is made, a suit or simple afternoon dress, hat, gloves, and stockings are correct attire for you. Your husband may wear either a civilian suit or a uniform, as indicated by the custom of the station. Sport clothes are not acceptable. (There may be exceptions to this rule in hot climates.) If you are in doubt, do not hesitate to ask.

{Thank goodness we are going to hot a climate so I can call in my "sport clothes."}

Never take your children with you.

{I guess the servant is watching the children.}

Receptions and other official functions

The gentleman takes the lady to the receiving line. It is considered discourteous to go through the line smoking or with a glass in your hand. If the receiving line is long, you may decide to have a drink first and go through the line later. This is quite all right at large receptions, but you should go through the line, and you should deposit your glass and cigarette before doing so.

Gloves may be removed before going through the receiving line, if you prefer, or may be worn. Your attire on such occasions should be conservative, and hats are optional, depending on the hour.

Those in the receiving line should not receive with drinks or cigarettes in their hands.

It is always the obligation of junior officers and their wives to seek out and speak to their seniors.

Other parties

While you may have the best-behaved children in town, it is still an imposition on your hostess to take them to an adult party.

{Of course not, with all the drinking and smoking everyone can't put down...}

Don't hesitate to invite senior officers and their wives. They should be invited, and they will be happy to come if possible. Don't always expect the senior officers and their wives to do all of the entertaining. In military as well as in civilian life, you are expected to repay your obligations.

{Oh, those nice senior officers...they are always so generous, throwing parties all the time!}


The following is a basic guide to attire for less formal occasions:

(1). Coffees…A suit or simple dress. Here hats are optional. Shorts, slacks, bobby socks, etc., are never acceptable, unless specifically indicated by the hostess.

(2). Luncheons…A suit or simple dress, stockings, hat, and gloves.

(3). Teas…A simple afternoon dress or suit, hat, gloves, and stockings.

(4). Cocktail parties…Hats are not generally worn. The formality of your cocktail dress will be dictated by the custom of the area. Gloves and stockings are correct.

(5). Dinners…Semi-formal…Would require black tie for men and a short or long formal dress for the ladies. Your hostess can tell you if you are in doubt.

(6). Church attire…A suit or simple dress, stockings, gloves, and preferably a hat-always some head covering-a mantilla or veil.

{What?? No bobby socks? And where am I getting that veil for church?}

Never eat, drink, or smoke with your gloves on.

{duh...everyone know this.}

"Should I wear a hat?" is a frequent question. For any day-time social affair prior to 6:00 p.m., hats are always correct. Hats have become more or less optional, but remember if you have any doubt-wear one-it may always be removed later. Various areas of the country have different customs, so if you are in doubt, inquire.

{Yes, this is always on my mind. So, when in doubt, put a hat on it.}

Social Obligations:

Senior Officers Wives:

When the ship is out, the commanding officer's wife and the executive officer's wife should initiate activities for the younger wives.

The executive officer's wife should be of assistance to the commanding officer's wife on all social occasions.

Junior Officer Wives:

Do not address senior officers' wives by their first name until you are asked to do so.

{See above where the calling cards has "Mrs. Whatever-her-husband's-name-is."}

When asked by a senior officer's wife to take on a responsibility, do so if it is possible. A senior officer's wife often has many responsibilities which must be delegated.

{You know, help out. Her servants are busy watching the children.}

The wife of your husband's commanding officer has no rank. A certain courtesy is extended to her, however, regardless of age, because of the position her husband holds


Shipboard Etiquette:

It is a privilege to be invited aboard a ship! The wardroom of a ship is like a man's club, and you are expected to dress and behave accordingly. Under no circumstances are shorts or slacks proper on board ship. 

Children are definitely out of place in a wardroom except on specified family occasions.

Be on time for all shipboard functions, especially for meals. You should wear the same attire on board as you would at the officers' Club.

{What is the official dress at the good ole' O Club? Oh yeah...when it doubt, wear a hat.}

It is best for wives not to get involved in shipboard business.

{Amen. And hallelujah.}

Final Notes

Your attitude will make a great difference in your husband's job, his career…in short, his happiness. 

You will enjoy the Navy even more as you learn about it, and the Navy becomes a part of your life. However, the most important tradition of all for you is the one that is handed down by the wives, and if you who are now in the Navy will preserve it and "pass it on", the "Navy family" will always be a happy one.

{The pressure is on! Don't mess your husband's career, happiness or the future of the Navy family!}

**Linked to the Foreign Service round-up...this week's theme: manners!**


Jordan said...

hilarious!! Aren't you glad you didn't live in that time period? I love those dresses in that photo, gorgeous.

Bethany and Will said...

A great post! Thanks for the flashback :-)

Nomads By Nature said...

Oh my!

SMW said...

I'm not sure "that time period" is so long ago. I remember Noah getting "a talkin' to," (I'm not sure who from) before a group of wives were going to France. I had become very close to the CO's wife, and I apparently needed to be made clear about what was and was not expected of me on our trip.... Mainly that we were not going to be hanging out with the Captain and his wife seeing the sites of France (which was never in our plans). I should have told them that my calling card was going to say Dr. MALLARD Wakefield and see what they thought of that! :) SO excited about Guyana!

Anonymous said...

Really funny... I will remember to check on "gloves and stockings" when we pay our next visit to the naval base here in Recife.... Hummm.... kinda hot for that, but I'm curious now! :o)
Than you Heather!

Miko's Girl said...

this post makes me laugh...My MIL used to have a fake silver tray for calling cards as you remind us they are not to be placed in a hand. Back in the day, Navy wives were not to be in public in pants. When getting admitted to the hospital after her water broke, she was first asked at the Navy hospital, "Ma'am, why are you wearing pants?" Remember to pack your gloves and hat....

simplecall said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
simplecall said...

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