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‘Good manners never go out of fashion’: Ita Buttrose

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Founding editor of Cleo, TV personality and Priceline Pharmacy Ambassador, Ita Buttrose, knows a thing about work/life balance…PS finds out how she does iT

Ita is a woman who likes to keep busy, and it’s no wonder as she’s had lots of practice! The former Australian of the Year and media trailblazer; and author of nine books; also manages to champion social and healthcare issues, especially breast cancer and Alzheimer’s.

How have your feelings of confidence changed over the years? What do you remember from your teenage years, through parenthood, and now as a grandmother? Have you noticed a change in attitude from others as well?

As the years go by you get a better understanding of yourself, you grow in confidence and hopefully—wisdom. As a teenager, I was eager to start working and get on with life. I still remember the excitement of my first pay packet. Although my first job as a copygirl on The Australian Women’s Weekly meant that I ran messages, collected lunches, and made coffee and tea for 40 people morning and afternoons I was excited to be on my way to becoming a journalist, a decision I made when I was 11 and one that I have never regretted. Journalism has given me a wonderful career and opened all sorts of doors for me. I love being a mother and consider my two children my greatest achievement. They have given me so much happiness. They still do. We had some great school holidays together and did a lot of travelling, both in Australia and overseas. We had great fun going too stage shows on London’s West End and New York’s Broadway. We have shared many memories and often reminisce. Being a grandmother is everything I was told it would be. Joyous! I have five grandchildren ranging in age from four to nine. They keep me fit especially as one of their favourite games is “monsters”. Only trouble is I always have to be the monster, which means I spend my time chasing after them!

You’re known for your immaculate personal presentation. What is your secret to maintaining such a polished look amid a very busy life? Do you have some style advice to pass on to others?

Because journalism is such an unpredictable progression I have always believed in being prepared for any eventuality. My style is classic. I opt for clothes that don’t crush. I always wear clean and polished shoes (my father drummed the importance of that into me when I was growing up). I manicure my nails once a week; I also moisturise them daily and try to remember to use sunscreen on them when I am going walking. Well-kept hands are essential asset for looking well groomed.

What are 5 essential items in your wardrobe?

  • black skirt;
  • black top – i.e. black cami, t shirt or blouse;
  • black pants;
  • black dress; and
  • black blazer.

You can’t go wrong with black. It takes you everywhere morning, noon and night. You can add colour with scarves and blouses and glamour with jewellery, as much or as little as you want.

Has your style changed with age? Do you feel retailers cater well to mature women?

My style has been pretty consistent over the years. That’s not to say I didn’t have a couple of disasters when I was younger! For instance, I love the look of lace but it doesn’t flatter me at all. Nonetheless, in my 20s and 30s I would buy what I thought were fabulous lace creations only to be disappointed when I took a really good look at myself wearing them. No I don’t think retailers cater well enough for mature women especially in ‘after five’ wear. I think retailers miss the boat completely, and consequently, are missing out on a lot of patronage and money. Older women don’t want plunging necklines, sleeveless dresses and tops or skimpy hemlines. They don’t want drab colours either. Underwear, nightgowns and pyjamas could all do with a touch of pizzazz too.

What are the 5 things you couldn’t live without in your beauty kit? How has that changed over the years?

Mascara, blush, moisturiser, foundation, deodorant—it has not changed!

What tips do you have to make sure feel great as well? Is exercise or diet important to you? Any particular types of exercise you enjoy or foods or supplements you prefer?

Exercise and diet are very important to me. I know that exercise is essential for a healthy brain. I try to do some kind of exercise every day. I always walk at least half an hour and on three mornings I walk more than an hour. I do Pilates twice a week. I also have a workout regime that I do once or twice (depending on my schedule) a week at home with weights. I watch my diet but that doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes enjoy ice cream, chocolates and the occasional pudding. I always have breakfast. I usually eat fish three times a week; lots of greens – especially spinach, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. I love peas – especially mushy peas. I opt for sweet potatoes rather than white potatoes. I do eat meat, especially lamb, plus pork and beef, but not every day.

You are a familiar face on television, as well as being well-known for your career achievements. How do you cope with the lifestyle that fame brings, as well as the expectations that come with it?

I have always found Australians to be respectful of my privacy, something I’ve appreciated. They are also friendly and cheerful and it’s fun meeting them. I’m more than happy to say good-day when I hear someone say – “Hi Ita”. When you have a high public profile, I think people do expect a certain standard of behaviour and I am conscious of that. It’s not difficult though – I wouldn’t want to let people down but nor would I want to let myself down either.

You’ve been involved the publication of a number of books, including A Guide to Australian Etiquette and Every Occasion: Guide to Modern Etiquette. How important do you think etiquette is in society today?

Good manners are the basis for civilised living—they are about respect. They help make a good impression when you meet people and make life more enjoyable and less stressful. They give pleasure to everyone with whom you interact – your family, your friends, business colleagues and neighbours. I think etiquette is always important. There are those who claim that manners no longer matter but I don’t agree. Times may have changed, but good manners never go out of fashion.

This is an edited extract of an article that appeared in the December 2017 issue of PS.

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