Saturday 22 January 2011

The Modern Girl's Beauty Book 1938 - Preface

Whilst I was sitting at my dressing table last week, waiting for the bleach to work its wonders on my upper lip (the curse of being a brunette, it's all just glamour, glamour, glamour!), I got to thinking about my beauty regime or should I say lack of. Oh I'm not completely hopeless, I do pluck my eyebrows (I have no choice they are bushes) and bleach the aforementioned tash, but other than a splodge of E45 cream in the morning under my makeup before work and a dab of tea tree oil on the rogue pimple or two, I really don't look after my skin the way I should.

Whilst pondering this, I remembered a book that I got from ebay a few years ago, Titled 'The Modern Girl's Beauty Book' it was written by Beryl.M.Cross and published in London 1938, it is essentially a chapter by chapter guide to making the most of yourself (in the 1930's way of course) from exercise, diet to making your own cosmetics. This is what the Blurb on the dust jacket says:
"This is a new beauty book with snap and verve in every line, for the girl in the office, the shop, the factory or the home.  It is smart, provocative and amusing, the author, out of her experience of American and Parision Beauty salons, gives a wealth of advice and innumerable useful hints to those who seek the quality of desirability which every woman coverts... The joy of this book is that it sets out a simple plan for you, whatever special beauty problems happen to be - bringing out your best points, dispelling all cause for worry over others-so that you can make it your personal adviser in achieving loveliness, serenity of mind, poise, and glamour."
Wow what grand claims!

So I thought, being that it's January and those New Year resolutions are still fresh in our minds,  it would be a bit of fun to start a little series of posts, as I work my way through each of the various chapters, to hopefully come out on the other side, with " loveliness, serenity of mind, poise, and glamour." (hum, we'll see) and with a proper beauty regime. But if nothing else a whole new found respect for the sheer effort women of the 30s and 40s put into maintaining their appearance.

Ms Cross' style of writing is very typical of the era, it's a very, gung-ho, tell-it-like-it-is, approach which at times comes across as almost rude, so be warned! Though she does occasionally let her humour shine through. So brace yourself ladies, as we begin at the very beginning and establish "what it is we want to work on" with the preface....

What is one of the most sought-after attributes in the history of the world? Beauty.
What does the poor girl ask for at once when the Fairy Godmother grants her three wishes? Beauty.
Yet the pursuit of beauty alone can be as tiresome as the pursuit of money, or power, or anything else that is made a sole and absorbing end.
       But to find a way to look here very best gives to the real daughter of Eve a new meaning to life.
Why be plain? There is no need to be plain. As the philosopher Bruy√®re said, “There are no ugly women; there are only women who do not know how to look pretty.” Any woman can bring out her best points, minimize her poor ones, and emphasize her personality.
       All through the ages women have sought beauty; in Egypt with baths of asses’ milk and with henna; in China with honey masks, in India with kohl made of fines mother-of-pearl. Yet it is not the milk baths, the fragrant skins, the lovely eyes that are the only things, which count – the real secret is making the most of the person you are . . . . Be an individual.
The first step to beauty is thinking beauty. If you go about thinking of ugliness, thinking ugly thoughts, seeing the world as a poor place, what happens? Your shoulders sag, your eyes are dull, down-drawn lines appear from nose to chin. Relax.
Everything is gong to be lovely. But you have to start by being lovely yourself. Those eyes take on a more luminous look at once, the lines are disappearing, the mouth is softer instead of hard and unhappy line… Now here is the making of a lovely woman.
       Your thoughts are revealed in your eyes, your walk, the lines on your face. Do you walk as though you are listening to invisible music, as though you saw life through rose-coloured glasses … or do you slink along as though you hoped to evade discovery?
       Pull back your shoulders, face up – smile!
       Now take stock of yourself. You may begin with your figure, or your face or just take a long good look all over yourself. Be Critical. Be your own best friend. What do you see?
       To make the most of yourself, to find out where you really stand, to start on a businesslike basis, you must use your brain. Beauty is not the haphazard business of buying a face-cream one week and a box of powered the next, and sighing and wishing. It can be achieved in the shortest space of time with a little thought, the sort of methodical planning you would give your housekeeping or office work or a hobby.

The Modern Girl's Beauty Book 1938 - Preface

       Have you some idea in your mind what you want to look like? Ask yourself “What do I want to look like?” Do you look that way? What is wrong? What is different? Have you a small but obvious paunch where you should have a straight or very faintly curved line? Is your hair stringy when you would like glossy curls? Do you put your hands hastily out of the way because they do not look like the long, white, tapering, rose-tipped hands you see photographed next to gardenias and not being put to shame? Do you think that you could be slimmer, perhaps; your eyes may not be taken care of; is your hairdressing right? Is the faintest line of down on your upper lip – or isn’t it?
       Take a piece of paper and a pencil, and jot down the things you notice about yourself that want altering.
       Now, we’ll take of the job methodically. To attempt too much at once is to get tired and discouraged and to give up. To go step by step is to build a firm foundation that needs just a few well-formed beauty habits to keep you walking in the way of beauty for good.
       You see, I want to make this business of beauty easy for you. For the more uncomplicated it is, the more you will follow it, and good habits - and beauty habits - are just as easily formed as bad ones.
       Think of yourself and what you want to look like, and compare the two. Now we’ll start. Are you ready? One, two, three go!
So I've got a paunch, stringy hair, more than the faintest line of 'down' on my upper lip and hands that have never even seen a Gardenia. Oh help me Ms Cross, help me...

Wendy x

Next up: Chapter 1 "The face That Launched A Thousand Ships"


  1. Loving this post, can't wait to see the next installment! I, too, shall be hoping to wave bye bye to my paunch and hope that Ms Cross can help me with my fuzzy hair!

  2. After reading that, I think we all need help!(well I do anyway) Can’t wait to get started on the road to beauty….. Thanks for sharing. Tups x

  3. oh yes I want that luminous look in my eyes..
    and to be lovely, lovely...
    thanks wendy

  4. I love the way she says with such certainty 'Everything is going to be lovely'. I am making that my motto for 2011....

  5. Oh, I love the illustration! Can't wait for the next installment.

  6. I just found this post and love love love! Please tell me you'll be doing more on this! or have you and I just haven't found it yet?

    I'd love to see what else is in the book, and maybe have a go myself?

    Loving the blog by the way :) and rather impressed by your crafty skills!