Hey, Big Berthas! Studies in Crap and Lady Be Lovely Will Clothe You in the Garment of Glamour!
Lady, Be Lovely: A Guide to Beauty, Glamour and Sex Appeal
Author: Edyth Thornton McLeod
Publisher: Wilcox and Follett
Discovered at: Estate sale
The Cover Promises: Foot stretching! Neck powdering! Widow's peak maintenance! Desperately seizing your hand before it opens the refrigerator!
Page 13: "When a woman forgets to say 'thank you' for some act of courtesy, the man should verbally remind her of her bad manners, or lack of good ones, whichever you prefer!"
Page 199: "I wonder what makes some women think they can wear tight Levis of clingy denim and wild-patterned blouses or sweaters when they are built like Big Berthas."
A toast to the modern American lady!
In the 1940s you hit the factories to
show she could handle any man's work - and that your bombs could
burst as well as his. In the 1960s, you announced that you could
handle career and family both if you so chose.
In the 1980s, you discovered you damn well had to handle both if you didn't want that family to starve. Then in the 2000s you thrilled us all by demonstrating that any of her kind has a crack at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue itself- - provided you're hot enough, or had the foresight to share a bed for decades with a prior inhabitant.
And in the 1950s, you had the Edyth Thornton McLeods of the world commanding you to be lovely.
To be charming.
To "clothe yourself in the garment of glamour!"
Even to maintain your poise right through a third-degree scalding. As McLeod writes, "A poised person would never show anger if a waiter should spill soup on her best hat."
Charm and Beauty
In the preface to this practical guide to the best way to sculpt yourself to the standards of a world that hates the real you, McLeod writes, "The desire for beauty -- or if you are the more practical type, for good looks -- is inherent in every woman. You can be as beautiful or good-looking as you desire."
The difference between "beauty" and
"good looks"? Charm, which McLeod defines as "that mysterious
something which sets you apart from the average person."
Here's a measure of charm's importance: "Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923) was actually unattractive of face and figure, but somehow her charm cast an aura of mystery and excitement about her."
So potent is your charm that it can slow the pace of society's crumbling. By 1955, men no longer felt obligated to treat their everyday ladies with the deference customary in the good old days. But the lovely lady inspires chivalry:
"We women must act so charmingly and well mannered that men will instinctively want to remove their hats in elevators, to help us with bundles, as well as with budgets, that they will want to open doors for us!"
So, how does a modern, ugly Sarah Bernhadt-type inspire fellows to bundle-handling? Here are McLeod's tips on charm and poise:
"You should have a 'wardrobe' of stationery, with at least six different styles and sizes of paper."
To achieve a pleasing tone, read poetry out loud for five minutes a day.
"When you read a book, read it; get something out of it that you may bring into your conversation."
Abdicate what gains you've made. "Although they haven't yet achieved equal pay for equal work, women have assumed all of the details and have taken on all of the responsibilities. But when with an escort -- husband, beau, or business acquaintance -- please put on your best lady manners and 'Let George do it!' Let him open doors, hail the taxis, give directions, and order the dinner!"
McLeod's remarks on physical beauty
kick off with a world-class philosophical conundrum:
is YOU, your personality personified."
Besides stirring up fundamental mind/body questions, as well as all that old-school form vs. substance controversy, this is a whole bunch of weird chili. I mean, isn't your personality already its own personification?
And then, weep over the incontrovertible scientific reality of your hugeness:
After breaking your spirit, McLeod addresses the need for good diet, good posture, and how good gloves "without decoration, in costume color" can flatter the short-armed.
She points our that "Our modern civilization demands bodily cleanliness as an aid to health and good looks" and suggests "For stimulation, massage the body with bath oil, then stand under a warm shower."
Shocking Detail: McLeod considers the four basic shapes of ladies: "The Long Type," "The Short Figure," "The Fat," and "The Thin." Here's a helpful crime-scene photo.
From "Your Bosom":
"The only time I would advise you to put up a 'false' front is when Nature has denied you the beauty of a well-defined bosom. Fashion says that the bosom should be softly rounded, with an uplifted contour. Do you qualify?"
McLeod recommends exercise and plastic surgery but draws the line there. "There are no creams or lotions yet made which will increase or decrease the breasts. Massage of this sensitive area is not recommended."
[The Crap Archivist lives in Kansas City, where he originates his on-line Studies for the Voice's sister paper, The Pitch.]