Wednesday, December 24, 2008

All the Diamonds, Rubies, and Sapphires in the World, Smeared

I'm in a flurry of guest preparations, so I'll let Diana Vreeland share her holiday wishes and suggestions with you. These are culled from her longtime column in Bazaar, "Why Don't You."

So, this holiday season, why don't you...

... give a satin-finished platinum box with all the diamonds, rubies sapphires in the world scooped together and smeared in a lovely design on the lid?

... shop at Woolworth's for little Scotch plaid sock arrangements called Hi-Jacks made to skip on your cold drink glasses to keep the table from spotting?

... wear violet velvet mittens with everything?

... wear, like the Duchess of Kent, three enormous diamond stars arranged in your hair in front?

... sweep into the drawing room on your first big night with an enormous red-fox muff with many skins?

... tie black tulle bows on your wrists?

... have boxes copied after Russian Easter eggs in dull enamel and jewels to keep on your afterdinner coffee tray for saccharine for all those who don't take sugar?

... tie an enormous bunch of silver balloons on the foot of your child's bed on Christmas Eve?

Please note that all of those but the very last one were not holiday tips, but just general guides to everyday living. And I know I've posted the same photo of Ms. Vreeland before, but I couldn't help myself; it just looks so festive. Again, the decor was not for the holidays, just every single festive day.

Monday, December 22, 2008

I Am Flabbergasted

"Not only do they get to lose their love handles or chubby belly but they get to take part in saving the Earth."

LipoDiesel  Surely it's an elaborate holiday prank?

I Have More To Say About Slim Tape

If you don't know what Slim Tape is, read the post below or click the link.
I have been thinking about Slim Tape all morning and have decided that of ALL the garments and figure aids in history, this tape is the most horrifying thing to come across when undressing someone.  Not that I ever find myself in the position of undressing women. But I am thinking of those who do.  Girldes, Spanx, even Depends are startling, sure, but they can all be comprehended by the human mind.  Not Slim Tape.  Can you imagine a spontaneous romantic encounter during which clothes are flung to the floor only to reveal extra fat and skin taped into place?
And isn't this the inherent danger of figure helpers?  One squeezes into something frighteningly restrictive (or in this case one tapes their entire self taut), gets dressed and feels more confident than usual, flirts etc.  Fine, but do not drink and tape.  Do not let the optical illusion of toned thighs* make you so giddy that you get tipsy and go home with a stranger.  Because you will become the stuff of urban legend.

* Do I believe Slim Tape really will give the illusion of toned thighs?  No.  No, I do not.

Tone Your Upper Arms Instantly

Ever-vigilant reader, Gina just sent me the best link of the year:  Slim Tape.

I've written about the age old art of face taping before.  And about a vintage Kotex ad that advised teens to tape their shoulder blades together for better posture.  But people, none of that compares to the ludicrous glory that is Slim Tape.  You must, must, must click the link to watch the video.   At bare minimum, I implore you to click to enlarge the picture at left.  

The Slim Tape folks are suggesting that, if you have upper arm waddle, you should literally tape the wobbling flap of skin up and onto your bicep.  Same goes for thighs; if they are looking too gelatinous, use Slim Tape to pull the slack up and under your shorts.  This is the sort of thing that makes my day.  Sometimes I fear that the quirkiest of beauty ploys and devices are behind us, drifting off into history (obviously is my life's work to make sure they are not forgotten) but Slim Tape restores my faith in the charming and inane.  It's like a Christmas miracle!

Hey you know who could really use some Slim Tape?  That scary lady from the chart one post down!  We could fix her right up with this miracle product.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Become Much Better-Looking In Three Weeks

This is one of the first beauty books I owned. Published in 1977, it begins:

"Before you read this book, there are a few things I think you should know.
I am not a descendant of Hungarian "royalty" who ran across the war zone clutching nothing but grandmother's face cream formula (and a faded diploma from a long-defunct Budapest 'university of skin care').
I am not an ex-Hollywood star who decided to dabble in cosmetics after the celluloid faded into cellulite.
I am not one of the world's ten great natural beauties."

I believe that first line is a dig at Helena Rubinstein, who we'll talk more about later. She had passed away by the time Adrien wrote this book, but she had a storied past and a legacy of beauty recipes. Her products directly competed with Arpel's.
The Crash Makeover/Shapeover has a backbone of sensible advice: a lower carb and calorie diet, plus exercise and a lot of facials. But this book is a pretty involved project. Every day comes with recipes and lessons.
Tomorrow I'll share some makeover photos from the book.
Ms. Arpel was a big fan of what I call The Total Look, an everyday face which takes dozens of products to acheive, and which veers toward the drag-queenish. This look is featured in most every beauty book from the late seventies to early nineties. It tends to be quite aging, as evidenced by the photo of Adrien on the book's cover versus this very recent photo of her. Either her skincare secrets are worth their weight in gold or she set the clock back twenty years by washing off all that slap. She's adorable!

The book recommends an exercise regimen of jumping rope for five minutes everyday. In fact, Adrien reports that this is more effective than jogging for half an hour every day. There are also some pretty simple toning moves. And this, a very convincing chart:

Click to enlarge, please. At left, a woman at forty who exercises regularly. And at right, the same woman, after decomposing in the grave for several months. I mean, the same woman at forty, without exercise.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Welcome To My Pink, Fluffy Future

It's been a bit dark around here lately; three of my recent posts were about people dying, or being dead (and beautiful).  So I thought I'd offer a palate cleanser.  This photo of Jayne Mansfield in her pink shag-carpeted bathroom pretty much depicts what I planned on my adult life looking like when I was a child.  (Please click to enlarge and note: even the sides of the tub and the ceiling are carpeted.)  I used to imagine living somewhere like that, and strutting around in extremely fluffy pink sweaters with hot pink satin leggings.  Physically, I assumed I would resemble Loni Anderson.  
And everything has worked out exactly as I designed.

I kid, but maybe I'll be more Loni-like soon.  I just ordered a copy of her memoir, My Life In High Heels.  Of course I'm hoping to glean beauty tips, and I will share them with all of you.

Meanwhile, one more image of complete pink indulgence.  Fellow vintage blogger and pen pal, Donna Lethal let me browse around in her photos and I found this dreamy ad.  Clearly, this was the only brand of toilet tissue appropriate  for Jayne.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Dark And Stormy Night

My muse Edna and I share a birthday, one hundred years apart. At least, I think we do. Edna loved to obscure her age, and her birth records were destroyed in the infamous San Francisco earthquake. Today is the anniversary of Edna's death. Perhaps this means that I will die on December 14th, 2059?
To mark the occasion, here is a charming 1910 article from the New York Times reporting a near-death experience Edna had on a yacht, in Little Hell Gate, off the East River:
"We never had a bite to eat, not even a drink. Besides that, it was dark and stormy."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Beauty Hints From 1910

This 1910 book by Margaret Mixter is one of the nicest items in my collection. Good balance of sensible advice and charming quirk, plus beautiful photographs. In fact, the photo in my masthead is from this book and illustrates home manicures. I just like the cagey look on the gal's face. Hopefully, I've inserted her image into some of your minds to stand for me. I guess that won't work on the percentage of readers who are related to me.
Tonight let's look at a few of Margaret's hints for applying cosmetics. I find this first tip especially charming because Margaret looked to the past for inspiration, just like I do.

"Beet rouge, that was popular with our grandmothers, can be made by any one. The raw vegetable is thoroughly washed and dried. It is then pressed against a grater until the juice is extracted, and this liquid is then mixed with starch or rice powder until the shade one wishes is attained. It is finally covered with a thin cloth to keep out dust, and set in the sun to dry. This is absolutely harmless when applied to the skin. A few drops of rose or lavender oil worked in will make it adhere to the skin better, but the preparation thus made requires thorough sifting through muslin to make it smooth."

"The inclination of women to darken their blonde brows and lashes is one that must be controlled. Surface colorings that do not sink into the pores do not injure, but chances are they will not improve. Nevertheless, if there is satisfaction in experimenting, it may be done. Burnt cork, obtained by literally charring a piece of cork, is a harmless black.
It will hold better if the hair is first slightly touched with glycerine. It comes off easily.
India ink, dissolved in water, is another harmless application, but it must not be allowed to touch the skin. A fine camel's hair brush is best for putting it on."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Trend: Time Travel

Do you know about My Fifties Year?  I didn't until today.  A woman who goes by the alter-ago Marzipan Jones is living as a 1950s housewife for one year.
Here's a revealing interview with her on Vintage Bulletin.  And Marzipan isn't alone. These Time Warp Wives starred in a BBC documentary.  And apparently, there's a whole movement.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Beautiful Corpses

“I’ve had people mention that they want their breasts to look perky when they’re dead."

This article reports that plastic surgery techniques, such as line-filling, are on the rise in mortuaries.  Actually I've been meaning to write something here about mortuary beauticians because the subject fascinates me.  If you share my morbid tastes, here are some links.
Nadene cosmetics feature colors specifically designed to recreate a lifelike, but natural appearance.  The line includes the lip colors Natural Male and Old Age.  
That reminds me; a few years back some normal cosmetic line came out with lipsticks named after women.  My sister Laura bought the one called "Laura," and it was an awful grayish brown.  Every time she wore it I called it "Dead Laura."
Here is a short article about some of the challenges a mortuary beautician may face.
And here is an interview with a woman who left her job at Disney to go into the field.  She says, "I was working at the Happiest Place on Earth and I was miserable, and now I’m working at the saddest place on earth, and I’ve never been happier."
The interview is really quite disgusting.  So here, if you want.  You've been warned.  Really.

Monday, December 8, 2008

That Corselette Is Ruining Your Figure

I wrote earlier that I'd prefer an old-fashioned undergarment to the ace-bandage shorts that are Spanx. But what I find charming, some deem detrimental. The garment Lilyan refers to below must be a corselette, still terribly popular well into the 1950s:

"No garment has done more to destroy the American woman's figure than the combination corset and brassiere one. No one wearing such a garment can attain the correct standing position because of the downward pull of the suspended garters. The wearer has no shape, no waistline, flabby, protruding hips, forward shoulders, and will find that after wearing the garment for a while that abdominal muscles have sagged thus resulting in constipation and other disordered, Throw this garment away immediately and purchase a step-in girdle.
Let me explain this a different way. You will agree that in wearing this garment you wore the front garters short and the back and side garters long. Why did you do this? Because if you didn't wear the back garters long you would never have been able to sit down. Did you ever stop to think what this would do to your figure? Every fat women has large hips entirely due to the lack of this knowledge. In other words you protrude your hips which naturally give you large hips."

--Lilyan Malmstead, What Everyone Wants to Know (1928)

The Girdles of Yesteryear

Daphne Merkin has a delightful piece in yesterday's TMagazine about her search for a classic foundation garment in this modern city of Spanx.  
Girdles and corsets range aesthetically from sexy to mechanical.  If I was looking for a slimming foundation garment, I would rather feel like I had an old-fashioned secret, than a medical secret.  Spanx seem to me like something prescribed post-surgery.  

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Take it off. Take it all off.

Scandinavian beauty tips... pending!

A copy of Gunilla Knutsen's Beauty and Health the Scandinavian Way (1971) is on it's way to my mailbox.  Gunilla is the blonde bombshell in this Noxema shaving cream ad who famously purred, "Take it off.  Take it alllllll off."

I'm really looking forward to the book because when it came out, the Times reviewer, Judy Klemesrud wrote, "Gunilla's book contains 59 pages of photographs of her, braless ('I don't own a bra') in a leotard and tights, demonstrating Scandinavian exercises."

The book also contains beauty tips such as:
"To clean beauty cream from under your nails, use a few drops of mouth wash mixed with water."

And!  A recipe for a Scandinavian diet secret: Oatmeal Soup.  Oh, I can't wait.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

You Look Terrible, I'm Calling An Ambulance

In 1961 Allan Grant shot these amazing photos of the Beauty Hospital of Dr. Robert A. Franklyn, in Bel Air, California. (LIFE)
On occasion I've remarked to my sister that I need to go to the Hair Emergency Room. Now I know where that could once be found.

Here, a patient idly files her nails while sitting in an Electro-Magnetic Loop said to prevent aging. I'm somehow reminded of Sleeper. These photos are so spookily atmospheric, full of Hitchcock Blondes and perhaps even murder. But first! A series of healing, prettying baths.

Sand Bath.

Seaweed Bath.

And my favorite, the Sponge Bath. Because it is not that one is bathed with a sponge, as in a non-beauty hospital; rather one is bathed in sponges, piles and piles of sea sponges. Soothing, no?

Now you're exactly where they want you.

This woman, trapped in a magnetic collar, contemplates how she could have possibly been so gullible. Beauty Hospital indeed, she thinks.

And then they were upon her.

If this story has not served as warning to you, I suggest Glovie's Beauty Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama.

And Spider Eyelashes, Too

In a captivating profile of Liza Minnelli in this week's New York, Emily Nussbaum describes the star as being, "...back to that beautiful spider's body: the cubelike high-up torso and crazy-skinny limbs."

"... just in case you're wondering, she doesn't seem even mildly crazy.  She's warm, cagey, girlish."

But the real thrill for me in this piece lays in the section about Kay Thompson.  Kay was Liza's godmother and the second act of Liza's new show will pay tribute to her.  As Emily puts it:
"If you've heard of Thompson at all, it's because she wrote the Eloise children's books, or perhaps for her role as the 'Think Pink!' editor in Funny Face.  But to those who knew her, Kay Thompson is a thrilling showbiz secret, a kind of skeleton key to mid-century Broadway and Hollywood."

I mentioned Kay Thompson and that Think Pink! scene here.

Here's Kay, posing under a portrait of Eloise at the Plaza.  From the article:
"'She was this funny, serene source,' Liza tells me of Thompson and her influence on Liza's childhood.  'I remember once we were walking around in New York, I was about 4 and she had a big wolf coat, gray, just heavenly looking-- she was so tall and thin."

Oh, and I was just about to write something about the Lily Pulitzer in W this month, but Sadie Stein just did, and it's perfect:  Palm Beach Story: Lily Pulitzer is Bizarrely Fascinating.

A Call To Eradicate The Eradication of Flaws

British Girl Guides have named the airbrushing of models one of the top ten political and social issues concerning young women today.  Right up there with violent crime, national debt and climate change.

To illustrate this point, I've chosen a tenuously related shot of our gal, Nina Leen, photographing a swimsuit model (who needs no retouching) in 1945.

Monday, December 1, 2008

He Can't WIn

Over Thanksgiving, I was thrilled to meet my teenage cousin's First Girlfriend.  Sure, the red, plastic braces startled me for a moment, but when I figured out her gums weren't bleeding, I saw that she was adorable, a pre-knockout.

I took a walk with my cousin late at night when all the guests were gone.  He needed a female perspective on the new terrain.  "Why does she think she's fat?" he asked, baffled.  "I keep telling her to eat.  She's literally half my size."

I explained that all teenage girls think they're fat and called his attention to the world of stick-figure billboards his girlfriend lives in.  "I know," he said.  "But literally no guys I know like that." (He currently enjoys the word 'literally'.)

Then, he told me she recently demanded he admit that she is not the hottest girl in the world, or even at their high school.  He refused to agree so she tortured him for hours, promising she wouldn't be mad, offering up names and evidence that other girls outrank her.  Finally he caved and named someone just to end the misery.  She smiled and said, "See?  That was easy enough and it's fine!"

"Oh no," I groaned when he told me this.  "That is definitely going to come back to bite you.  Soon, and hard.  Don't ever fall for that again.  It's a trap."

"I couldn't help it, " he said.  "I literally can never win when we fight."

At least he realizes that.  A lovestruck teenage boy is just no match for the emotional complexities of a teenage girl.  I wish so much that I could stop that girl from wanting to be prettier or thinner.  One day she'll look back and know how perfect she was.  Well, at least when the red braces come off.