WESTMINSTER — They are adages girls have heard from their mothers and grandmothersfor generations:
"Pretty is as pretty does."
"Beauty is only skin deep."
And they're being reinforced at a local department store.
"Creating a 'pretty me' is like putting puzzle pieces together," said Nicky Smelser, special events and fashioncoordinator at Leggett in Cranberry Mall.
Smelser teaches "PrettyMe," a series of six one-hour classes during which girls age 6 to 11learn etiquette, poise, health and fitness and how to develop a positive self-image.
A series of six 90-minute classes called "Finishing Touches," also taught by Smelser, teaches girls age 12 to 17 aboutskin care, makeup, hair styling and fashion awareness.
The cost of either six-session course is $50, plus $12.95 for a study guide.
During the series of weekly classes, guest speakers from the area are invited to share their expertise in health and beauty topics. Midway through the course, aerobics instructor Vicky Yarnell leads the groups in jumping jacks, kicks and pushups.
Yarnell, who teaches aerobics at Leisure Health Spa in Westminster and at the Carroll Racquet and Family Fitness Center in Finksburg, taught an aerobics dance and demonstrated exercises.
At one session, Leggett's Christy Belme coached the young students in applying suntan products and shiny lipstick.
Christina Cruise, 10, of Taneytown, said she learned about "taking care of my skin."
Becki Shortt, 16, of Manchester, said "I got made up last week."
Under Belme's tutelage, the older girls got the works with blush, lipstick and eye shadow.
During another session, Lori McCusker, a hair stylist at the Westminster salon A Cut Above the Rest, was scheduled to teach hair care and styling.
"Come with clean hands," said Smelser, who'll be giving each student a manicure as well.
Though fun and learning are the objectives, this is not a casual undertaking. Wearing jeans and sneakers to class is out, as Smelser advised the girls to wear a dress or skirt and dress shoes.
"Mothers were pleased that their daughters had this opportunity to dress up," she said, adding that it also gave the girls an incentive.
The students also learned manners, and were asked to remember to respond with "Yes, ma'am" or "No, sir." Another evening, Smelser showed the girls the proper way to set a table for both simple and elaborate dinner occasions, going to Leggett to learn about china and silverware.
"It's fun learning to fold the napkins," said 9-year-oldWestminster resident Jennifer Meyers, as her twin sister, Ginger, practiced her table manners.
Future sessions will feature walking and bicycle safety, figure types, critiquing tips, and careers in fashion. Girls will have the opportunity to visit the store and look at merchandise.
The study guide was written by the program's creator, Linda Wilder-Dyer, an actress and model from Hampton Roads, Va.
"The text is valuable because they can refer back to it," said Smelser, adding Wilder-Dyer will attend graduation and autograph books.
Thecrescendo of the course is the Graduation Fashion Show, conducted atthe Mall Entrance on Aug. 9. The girls will demonstrate what they'velearned and model pretty, specially selected outfits. In preparationfor the occasion, class members sometimes walk around balancing a book on their heads.
Ten-year-old Jennifer Greene's book maintained a perfect perch atop her blond hair. The New Windsor Middle School fifth-grader said she's also learned how to walk and sit properly.
Her grandmother, Sandra Hughes, said Jennifer really enjoys the classes.
Smelser encourages her students to practice -- in front of a mirror -- keeping chins up and putting weight on the proper foot to ensure a graceful walk and stand.
Millers resident Laura Towner, 13, is looking forward to selecting an outfit -- "probably a skirt and sweater" -- to model in the fashion show.
As part of the experience,Smelser oversees the choice and fitting of clothing for each student.
Kathy Johnson, 13, of Westminster, said she'd probably pick shorts or a skirt with a matching short-sleeved top. "I always wanted to be a model and thought this class would be fun."
Another series of"Pretty Me" and "Finishing Touches" classes is planned to start Sept. 3.
For more information, call Nicky Smelser at 848-1200, or 876-7008.