Friday, January 24, 2014

The Arts of Costume and Personal Appearence by Grace Morton

The Arts of Costume and Personal Appearance by the Late Grace Margaret Morton, published by John Wiley & Sons printed  in 1943

This textbook was used by college women in their education. Imagine--a book of nearly 400 pages to teach college women about beauty, clothing, outfitting a wardrobe, fabrics, and how to choose flattering styles and color.

"This volume deals with one of the important and absorbing pursuits of modern society."

These pursuits continue to absorb contemporary women.

The author asserts that "personal attractiveness and marriageability" are a major impulse. She warns "intellectual girls" not to undervalue about the importance of appearance by mentioning successful women of beauty such as Clare Booth Luce.


Sure, the author acknowledges, there exists a competitiveness about clothes, but one must attract that necessary spouse. And once he is hooked, you need to keep him coming home at night. Plus a gal feels good about herself when she knows she looks good. Think about the reality show What Not To Wear, with Stacy and Clinton helping a depressed gal who has given up caring about how she looks, but who after the make-over has self-esteem to spare.There is truth to Grace's assertion that how we look impacts how we feel, and how other's respond to our appearance does change our feelings of self-worth. I am not asserting this is ideal or positive. It is hugely important that we instill a healthy self-esteem in our children, not based on appearance's.

"In these troubled times there are many who sorely need a sense of security and feeling of significance."

Significance! Our achievements and contributions, our family life and faith life, these are not enough?

Let's remember what life was like in 1943: WWII is in full swing with fronts in Europe and the Pacific; the Ukrainian Insurgent Army massacred Poles in Volhynia; the Nazis took over Denmark, and were killing thousands of "undesirables" in the killing binge we call The Holocaust; The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was going on; Gandhi was on a hunger strike; The Siege of Leningrad and the Battle of Stalingrad, the Battle of Kursk, and the Battle of Tarawa all happened in 1943. The PT-109 was rammed, with John F. Kennedy aboard. Just to name a few events.



And employment had skyrocketed due to the war industries and the Depression was OFFICIALLY ENDED. It was time for the ladies to indulge themselves a little. Rationing limited supply, but there was still a lot a gal could do. Feedsacks, for instance, provided many a gal with clothing.



Chapter Two deals with "self-made beauty," based on cleanliness, good grooming, healthiness, and posture. Also voice and facial expression. "Every modern woman should learn to "place" or pitch her voice agreeably" and "to enunciate beautifully." Animation and warmth should radiate from one's face, she advises.

Eleanor Roosevelt radiated love and warmth, but her voice was not very pleasing. She was not beautiful and her clothes were dowdy. Yet her inner beauty still radiates down through the years, and she is considered one of the most influential American women.

Today we indulge in daily showers and regular hair cleaning, but in 1943 a hair washing every 10 days to 2 weeks was considered normal.

"Unless the scrubbing makes the skin pink" you have not scrubbed it hard enough! Pumice stone was "positively one of the greatest beauty aids of which we know," a physician was quoted as saying!

Four pages are devoted to proper posture alone. Helena Rubinstein's advice was: "Pull the abdominal muscles and flatten the lower curve of the back by pulling down the rear muscles--grow tall. The chest will take care of itself if the abdominal muscles are pulled in." My 7th grade teacher chastised me about posture. She said boys liked girls who sat up straight...and I understood she meant one's bosom was better displayed. It embarrassed me to death and I think I have slouched ever since! But now I understand she was a product of her education. I bet she read this book in college.

Two pages on daily cleaning include a recipe using almond meal or grains with water rubbed into the skin, particularly areas with large pores, and teeth cleaning with salt and soda blended together equally. Hair brushing for three minutes distributed hair oil, followed by a three minute massage, and then another brushing of 50 strokes. Last of all she advises pasting a 'frowner" to relax the face muscles before turning off the lights.

I will be sharing Grace's information on fabrics next post.