Category Archives: Old Advertisements & Popular Culture

Home-Made Masks: Patterns for Making and Donating

During World War I, the Red Cross invited home stitchers to make needed medical masks and gowns. Patterns were issued through women’s magazines.

NOTE: I am not a qualified medical practitioner. I am merely reporting on the work being done by a group of people I know. I’m going to share some of the websites they discovered.

From an article in Delineator, December 1917. It asked, “What Can You Do?”

The community of theatrical costumers in the San Francisco Bay Area has been making masks for distribution to shelters and to other people who need a face mask, but whose need for surgical quality masks is not as great as that of doctors, nurses, and first responders — Those on the frontlines need surgical quality, medical masks. But others — including other hospital staff — are better off with a good quality home-made mask than no mask at all. The non-profit Kaiser Permanente hospital chain has issued a clear, easy to follow, well illustrated pattern for a pleated, all-cotton face mask. Click here to read about it: it’s a pdf pattern which you can print. Follow all instructions carefully — like prewashing the 100 % cotton fabric several times in hot water before you start making anything. (And maintain sterile conditions in your work area, of course.) Masks like these can be used by people who need to leave their shelter-in-place to carry out necessary tasks. They are not as effective as disposable medical quality masks, but they are better than nothing, and they are washable and re-useable.  (Remember, wearing a mask helps to protect others from people who do not yet know they are infected.)

Kaiser wrote: “While the CDC does not consider homemade masks to be effective personal protective equipment inside our clinical environments or for those caring directly for people with COVID-19, staff members in nonclinical areas may use their own personal masks.

“This is where you can help. Kaiser Permanente has developed step-by-step instructions for making masks at home. Please look at these instructions and consider making masks to donate. (A how-to video will be added shortly.) Your time and talents will be much appreciated by the Kaiser Permanente family.”  To see the full letter, click here.

(For a good study of fabric effectiveness in home-made masks, click here.) (There’s a trade-off between effectiveness and the necessity for breathing normally….)

If you are feeling useless (or helpless) stuck at home, and you have a sewing machine, you might try making masks. Contact a senior citizen community, a rest-home, a homeless shelter, a food bank — even some hospitals in your community, and be sure they will accept home-made masks before you start making them. If so, what kind do they want? Figure out how you will deliver them, too. The Deaconess website, from Indiana, even has a way for groups in need to contact mask-making volunteers. Click here.

Kaiser Hospital has even set up a way for these masks to be mailed to Kaiser at Kaiser’s expense.

Other hospitals that my costumer friends have contacted require different types of mask. Some want a seam over the nose. Patterns are available. Some masks use 1/4 inch elastic instead of ties. 

That’s why you need to contact the hospital or group that you will send them to before making masks, to be sure you are supplying what they really need.

The mask pattern from Kaiser is easy to make from cotton fabrics and supplies you probably already have, which is why I featured it. (Is there a stitcher or quilter who doesn’t have a stash?)

I haven’t used my sewing machine in several years, so I don’t know yet if it will even work! But I wanted to spread the word about what a remarkable group of costumers is doing right now.

And, since we can always use a bit of humor, I’m sharing this image from a vintage ad:

A nurse examines toilet paper in this ad from 1935.

2 Comments

Filed under Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Uncategorized, Uniforms and Work Clothes

Nose Shapers, 1920s

Detail of ad from Motion Picture Magazine, Dec 1921.

My local newspaper regularly runs large ads from a plastic surgery clinic, showing before and after photos. The ads that annoy me the most are ones suggesting that a tiny, turned-up nose on women is preferable to an “ethnic” nose — regardless of how it would relate to her other features.

This focus on the “perfect” nose isn’t new. I found ads for two competing “nose shapers” in the same issue of this Motion Picture Magazine from December, 1921.

Which is the “Before” and which is the “After?” Trilety ad from Motion Picture Magazine, Dec. 1921.

Other ads for the Trilety Nose Shaper clarify the problem: Pug noses were not in fashion with M. Trilety.

Ad from Motion Pictures Magazine, 1923. (To be fair, actor Michael Caine*** has also advised that no one wants to see inside your nostrils in a close-up on the giant screen.)

Trilety nose shaper ad, Motion Picture Magazine, 1923.

The Anita Nose Adjuster was not specifically concerned with pug noses:

Anita Nose Adjuster ad, December 1921. Motion Pictures Magazine.

“Refined features attract; misshapen features repel. Such is nature’s law. If your nose is ill-shaped, you can make it perfect with ANITA NOSE ADJUSTER. In a few weeks in the privacy of your own home and without interfering with your daily occupation, ANITA NOSE ADJUSTER shapes while you sleep — quickly, painlessly, permanently and inexpensively. There are many inferior imitations, but the ANITA NOSE ADJUSTER is the ORIGINAL and ONLY comfortable adjuster highly recommended by physicians for fractured or mis-shaped noses. Write to-day for free booklet, “Happy Days Ahead.” No obligations.

“SPECIAL SIZES FOR CHILDREN.”

Another Trilety ad from Motion Picture Magazine, 1923.

More from the “How the Shape of My Nose Delayed My Success” Trilety Nose Shaper ad, 1923.

Model 25 “has six adjustable pressure regulators, is made of light polished metal, is firm and fits every nose comfortably. The inside is upholstered with a fine chamois skin and no metal parts come in contact with the skin. Thousands of unsolicited Testimonials ….”

It’s incredible how long this company lasted, considering its offer of “your money refunded if you are not satisfied.”

One of the concepts that got me through my teen years was the realization that there is a difference between being pretty and being beautiful. The bust of Nefertiti in the Egyptian Museum of Berlin shows a woman who is beautiful by the standards of almost any nation and era.  Many girls are pretty, at least for a brief time when they have youth and health working for them. But mere prettiness is much more common than beauty, which may require a certain amount of maturity and experience of life. Sophia Loren and Audrey Hepburn were inspiring to me in the 1960s, because they were beautiful, rather than pretty. They didn’t have blonde hair or tiny, turned-up noses, or perfectly regular features. They were not “cute.” Neither was Greta Garbo. Maybe confidence, and feeling comfortable being who you are, is more important than trying to conform to “the norm.” Josephine Baker from St. Louis, MO, made herself the most glamourous woman in Paris — couturiers sent her free dresses and begged her to wear them.  Would Frida Kahlo have been more beautiful with a tiny nose and plucked eyebrows?

*** Sir Michael Caine has written more than one book about acting on film, as well as making an entertaining Video in which he explains why a simple thing like smoking a cigarette while delivering lines in a movie is much harder than you’d think.

12 Comments

Filed under 1920s, Cosmetics, Beauty Products, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture

February Delights, 1920

100 years ago: A woman skier in an ad for Colgate cold cream, Delineator, February 1920.

Daggett & Ramsdell’s Perfect Cold Cream ad. Delineator, February 1920.

Cold cream to relieve chapped and chafed skin. 1920.

Winter weather provided a perfect reason to apply one of the many cold cream products available in 1920. This one was for faces, hands, and even babies. The same manufacturer also sold face powder in “flesh, white, or brunette.”

Another brand, Bourjois Java Face Powder (sold since 1860!) also based this 1920 ad on skiing:

A stylized ski outfit from an eye-catching ad. Delineator, February 1920.

Ad for Bourgeois Java Face Powder, February 1920. “For Youth and Beauty and for Charm.”

“Today fastidious femininity the world over regards Bourjois Java Powder as the indispensable finishing touch a l’art de la toilette.” “Also makers of the famous rouge “Ashes of Roses.”

Happy Valentine’s Day 2020!

 

2 Comments

Filed under 1920s, Cosmetics, Beauty Products, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Sportswear, Women in Trousers

Stocking Memories, 1958 to 1960

Stockings and a girdle from Sears catalog for Fall 1958.

When I started high school around 1958, we wore stockings for dress-up occasions. Usually, those stockings had a seam up the back.

Seamed stockings from Sears, Spring 1960.

(Pantyhose became available in 1959, or so the internet tells me. Seamless nylon or rayon stockings were available — briefly — in the 1940s, but in 1958, seams were the norm for me and the adult women I knew.)

Seamless stockings advertised in Vogue, Aug. 15, 1943.

Of course, stockings are still available and worn by many women, but pantyhose have dominated the market for about 50 years now.

So, for those who never had the dubious pleasure of buying stockings in the 1950s….

A run in her stocking; Lux soap ad from October 1937. Runs looked the same in 1960: a hole with unraveled knit stocking above and below it.

At the Stocking Counter

Perhaps the most astonishing thing about stockings circa 1958 was how many choices you had to make. Faced with the stocking counter — at a department store or even a “five and dime store” — you would see rows and rows of distinctive shallow boxes, each originally holding 6 pairs of stockings. The pairs were separated by layers of tissue; you could buy one pair, incurring the barely concealed scorn of the clerk who waited on you, or two or three pairs of matching stockings (if you could afford them.) Buying the whole box was a wonderful extravagance. Stockings were so fragile that the clerks sometimes wore gloves.

For a young teen, it was a confusing process. You needed to know your size, your “proportion,” the denier, the color, “seam or no-seam,” reinforced heel and toe or sandal foot, knit or “run stop”mesh….

1958 stocking size chart from the Sears catalog.

“What size?” Stockings came in seven sizes. Your stocking size was related to your shoe size, but it wasn’t the same as your shoe size. [Shoes used to come in many sizes and widths, from AAAA (very narrow) to EEE (very wide.)  I wore a shoe size 7 1/2, B width, with a (double) AA heel [Yes, you could buy a wide shoe size with a narrow heel, or many other variations.] As you can imagine, shoe stores had to carry almost as much stock as stocking counters.]

In 1958, your stocking size depended on your shoe size and your shoe width: shoe size 7, width B = stocking size 10.

However, stockings were usually held up by garters (aka suspenders) attached to a garter belt or girdle.

Garter belts, Sears 1958. Also (more accurately) called suspender belts in England.

Top left is a girdle; all the others are panty-girdles. Notice that your stocking top would need to come quite high on the thigh to attach to these garters.

Stockings attach high on the leg, with one garter in front and one in back on this panty-girdle. Sears, 1958.

The suspender part was somewhat adjustable in length, but you had to buy stockings that were long enough to reach the garter comfortably.

Proportioned Stockings for tall women; Sears, 1958. “The extra length reduces garter pull and strain…”

Finding the right proportioned stocking for your height and weight. Sears chart, 1958.  At Sears, your four proportion choices were “petite, shapely, classic, or tall.” (7 sizes x 4 lengths = 28 choices!)

There were so many size variations because 1950s’ stockings did not have much “stretch.” To answer the question “What size?” you needed to know your stocking size and your “pattern” or proportion. (Or you could tell the clerk your height and weight.)

If you wanted long enough stockings, you might have to pay more.

Sears, 1958. The cheaper stockings came in 15 or 30 denier weight, but only one length.

College memory: A friend named Mary was standing in the doorway when my roommate said, “Mary, your stockings are all wrinkled around your ankles.” Mary said, “I’m not wearing stockings. My ankles are sagging.”

Before modern stretch knits, stockings might bag or sag. Worse, if the reinforced top wasn’t high enough, when you knelt down the pull of the suspender could put too much strain on the knee, and your stocking would run or “pop.” Cheap stockings didn’t come in a full range of lengths, so I sometimes came out of church with one or both knees bulging out of big holes in my stockings. All those sizes were necessary because stockings were not very stretchy.

Stocking runs: a tiny hole would unravel the stocking both up and down your leg. This was still true in the 1960s. Lux soap claimed to improve stockings’ elasticity. Ad from 1936.

The stocking clerk might ask, “What weight?” This meant, not your own weight, but the amount of sheerness or strength you needed in the stocking. Light weight 15 denier was very sheer. 30 denier was more durable for everyday wear, and even thicker stockings were available.

“Seams or seamless?” My first stockings had seams, but the seams on the soles of my feet sometimes gave me blisters, so once I discovered seamless stockings, I always bought those. Seamless stockings were available in 1958, but I didn’t discover them for a couple of years. (A vertical seam up the back would have been more flattering to my sturdy legs, but limping on blisters didn’t improve my looks or disposition, so I chose comfort over vanity.) Besides, it’s maddening to be down to your last two intact stockings when you’re dressing for work and find that one of them has a seam and the other doesn’t.

Seamed stockings with reinforced heel and toe (and a seam under the ball of your foot.) Sears, Spring of 1958.

“Reinforced toe and heel? Sandal heel? Sheer foot?” If you wore pumps, then you could buy longer-lasting stockings with reinforced heels and toes. (Toenails or rough heels were hard on stockings.) However, by the 1940s many women wore open-toed or strap-heeled shoes, making the less durable options necessary.

Nude heel or reinforced heel in seamless stockings, Sears, 1958.

“Run stop or regular?” Runs were always a problem. A tiny snag from a chair or a fingernail would start a run racing up and down your leg. Many women kept a bottle of clear nail polish in their purse or desk drawers, because it was the only thing that could stop a run from progressing. If you dabbed a bit on the run before it passed the hem of your skirt, then the stocking might be salvaged enough for future wear. Otherwise, sheer stockings couldn’t be mended. One reason for always buying several identical pairs at the same time: as long as you had two stockings that matched, you could wear them. Once you were down to one stocking, you would probably never find a matching color or knit again, (too many brands, too many choices) so the final stocking might as well be tossed out.

Rayon mesh stockings from Sears, 1944. “Lockstitch resists runs, snags.”

Run-proof stockings were usually a mesh knit. They did get holes, but they didn’t get runs. The holes, however,  kept getting bigger….

Mesh stockings did not run, but they did get holes. And the weave was rather coarse and noticeable. Sears’ seamless mesh stockings from 1942.

“What color?” Stocking manufacturers and fashion magazines urged women to buy stockings to match every outfit. However, the woman on a budget often stuck to one or two shades. We all had drawers full of not-qute-matching stockings (usually kept in a padded box within the drawer.) Sticking to just one color matching your skin tone (or the healthy tan color you wished your legs were) was the economical choice. However, those black or dark stockings for evening were so temptingly glamourous….

Stockings from Sears to match your skin tone or your dress. 1959 catalog.

If you bought the last pairs of stockings in the box, or the whole box (six pairs,) you would be given the box itself, and therefore you would know the brand and color when you needed to buy more stockings a few weeks later.  Otherwise, stockings were simply wrapped in tissue. It was easy to forget where you bought them, the brand, and the name of the color, so your supply of single, unmatched, surviving stockings continued to grow. (One maker’s “nude” or “taupe” was rarely the same as another’s, and “suntan” could mean anything from light golden brown (in expensive brands) to orange (cheaper brands) ….

One Christmas in the Sixties, my father gave me a nightgown set that I didn’t need, so I took it back to Macy’s and exchanged it for a dozen pairs of stockings — two whole boxes! I had several blissful months of not worrying whether I had a pair of stockings that matched. Such luxury!

Next: The Pantyhose Revolution and Supermarket Stockings.

24 Comments

Filed under 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Girdles, Hosiery, Hosiery, Hosiery & Stockings, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc

Seamless Stockings in 1930

Seamed stockings from Sears, Roebuck catalog, 1939.

Every costume design job is an opportunity to do more research, but there are some things that are just part of your general knowledge. For example, when I was hired to costume a college production of Brighton Beach Memoirs, which takes place in 1937, I automatically put the adult female characters in seamed stockings.

I was surprised recently when I came across this image from 1930:

Seamless stockings could be purchased at department stores in 1930! This image is from Delineator, May 1930.

I simply hadn’t come across this information before, so I checked another source: the Sears, Roebuck catalogs. There they were:

“No-Seam” hosiery for women, Sears Roebuck catalog, Fall 1930, p. 171.

No-Seam stockings text, Sears catalog, Fall 1930.

And another source….

From a fashion editorial about accessories, Delineator, September 1930.

There are some typos in the original text, as you can see, but corrected, it says, “I made a new discovery a few days ago — stockings needn’t have seams in order to fit. You may remember the old seamless stockings … which went into Grecian drapery at the ankles after their first contact with soap and water. The new Guildmode hose is knitted in a special way so that it fits just as snugly as a full fashioned stocking. It is dull [matte] and very sheer.”

“Full-fashioned” meant stockings which were shaped like the outline of a leg, curving in at the ankle, and gradually curving out over the calf area.

Before stretchier knits became available, the seam at the back was necessary for a good fit. Full-fashioned stocking illustration from Sears, 1958.

A short history: Knitted stockings have been around for hundreds of years. The simple knitted tube naturally stretched — somewhat — to the shape of the leg, but a seam up the back permitted a closer fit.  As stockings became more sheer (and more visible under short skirts) in the Nineteen Twenties, women became aware of the way the vertical seam up the back created a slenderizing line on their legs.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/hosiery-nov-1928-mar-1929-apr-1929-may-1929.jpg

Gordon Hosiery ads from Delineator, Nov. 1928 through May 1929.

Seams and pointed heels made these stockings flattering. Sears, Fall of 1939.

“Notice how they follow the natural shadows of the ankle — to give you slenderness and grace.”

Skirt hems went down and then up again in the Nineteen Thirties, but seamed stockings were so much a part of normal dress that women couldn’t give up that seam line even when silk or nylon stockings became unavailable during World War II.

There were no nylon or silk stockings available from Sears in 1944 because nylon and silk were needed for the war. Sears catalog index, Spring 1944.

In Spring of 1945, before the War ended,  Sears offered these un-glamourous cotton stockings. Three pairs were guaranteed to last you three months. (I.e., you would have two wearable stockings left.)

But, back to the Thirties:

Chiffon [sheer] and Service Weight stockings from Sears, Fall 1930.

Seamed rayon stockings from Sears, Fall 1930. Rayon, a synthetic fabric based on cellulose, was cheaper than silk.

At the first dress rehearsal of Brighton Beach Memoirs, the director knelt down beside my chair and whispered, “Are those seams on their stockings?” He was clearly delighted. I whispered back, “Well, stockings with seams are too expensive for our budget,** so I taught the actresses to do it the 1940s’ way: we drew ‘seams’ up the backs of their hose with an eyebrow pencil.” (The lines didn’t come out completely when we washed their sheer tights, so they just had to retrace the previous line for the next performance.)

At first, I thought the director was impressed by the seamed stockings because I was much more detail-oriented than my predecessor. Later I realized that anyone who was a teen-aged boy in the 1950s probably feels a certain nostalgia for seamed stockings, which, along with high heels and garter belts, were often seen on pin-up girls.

This 1950s’ stocking ad, shared by Sally Edelstein at Envisioning the American Dream, shows the sex appeal of seamed stockings.

Being allowed to wear high heels (or even kitten heels,) and sheer stockings held up by a garter belt was a rite of passage for girls of my generation. (I think that my first heels and stockings were required for a school field trip to the ballet [or opera?] circa 1958, when I was in 8th or 9th grade.)

Garter belts, seamed stockings, high heels, and a bouffant “crinoline” petticoat in 1958: “Today I am a woman!”

At thirteen, I was finally old enough to ask, “Are my seams straight?”

To return to my costume design for Brighton Beach Memoirs, would this new (to me) information about the existence of seamless stockings*** in 1930 have made any difference? No, because the characters in the play are struggling financially, and because they are not fashionable women. They would have worn inexpensive stockings — probably cotton, rayon, or “service weight.”

Service weight silk stockings were not as sheer as “chiffon” ones. Sears, Fall 1930.

I settled for using sheer tights with added seams because at the time of the production that was the most affordable option. Also, in college productions, most of the actors are younger than the characters they play. The two “mothers” were actually about twenty years old, and the teenaged daughters were also played by twenty year old actresses. Putting the mothers in seamed stockings and the daughters in bobby socks helped to establish an age difference.

More of my own “Garter Belt and Seamed Stockings” Memoirs to come….

** Some very good costume shop supervisors have told me that a seam can be added to inexpensive modern hosiery with an overlock sewing machine, but I haven’t tried it myself.

*** If you need a research topic, note that some of the images make reference to seamless stockings earlier than 1930.

8 Comments

Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, Hosiery, Hosiery, Hosiery & Stockings, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Vintage Accessories

Curling Iron Memories

A curling iron like this one was not heated with electricity. Illustration from Delineator, February 1934.

A curled hair style with ringlets over the ears, from 1838. From La Mode, in the Casey Collection.

Novelist and fashion historian Mimi Mathews has written another wonderful post about Victorian women’s hairstyles and beauty products. Click here for her latest, and then follow the links at the bottom of that post for the answer to many other “how did they do that?” questions about beauty and hair styling products from the 1800s.

In 1920, Silmerine hair curling liquid, applied with a toothbrush, was used to set curls in women’s hair.

Ad for Liquid Silmerine hair setting lotion, 1920. It could probably be used to set hair in rag curls.**  The chemicals it contained varied, but some would have been cousins to the Victorian hair preparations Mimi Matthews researched.

The Silmerine ad says that “You’ll never again use the hair destroying heated iron.”

I have personal knowledge of the heated curling irons — sometimes called curling tongs — like the ones below, because my mother used them on me almost daily until I was about eight years old.

An old fashioned curling iron (in three sizes) from  An Illustrated History of Hairstyles, by Marian I. Doyle.

Ad for the Lorain gas stove, 1926. The stove we had in the 1940s was similar.

This kind of curling iron didn’t plug into an electric outlet; my mother turned up the flames on one burner of the gas stove in our kitchen and stuck the metal part of the tongs into the fire for a while.  (Our curling iron had wooden handles.)  I was sent to the bathroom to bring her several sheets of toilet paper. I sat on a stool in the middle of the kitchen. If the curling iron curled the paper, but did not burn it, it was ready for my hair. (Our toilet paper was not soft and quilted.)

I hated the ordeal of the curling iron, and I hated having to wear a bow in my hair to school every day, too. This picture is probably 1952 or 1953 — and these curls were not in style!

Girls in the combined 2nd & 3rd grade class, Redwood City, CA, 1952-53. Only one (me) with long sausage curls. My best friend, Arleen, wasn’t fussed over; her Mom had 5 daughters to get off to school.

Once I started school and discovered that other girls — like my friend Arleen — did not have long ringlets, this daily ordeal became an ongoing battle. I hated it. But my mother’s idea of how her perfect child should look was unshakeable. We fought, I cried, I begged, but I was only allowed to leave for school once — that I remember — without being curled with that hated hot iron. (I remember skipping with joy, and then feeling the ringlets bounce into their usual shape before I had gone half a block.)

My mother frequently told me, “You have to suffer to be beautiful.”  I doubt that the saying originally referred to curling irons.

[I should make it clear that I wasn’t especially afraid of getting burned, although my squirming must have made it more likely. Getting snarls combed out of my hair was worse, as my mother got increasingly exasperated with me. It was the whole, time-consuming, pointless (to me) process that I hated.  At least I often got out of the house with just a brushing and a barette on the weekends.]

Once, I was allowed to stay overnight with my Uncle Mel and his beautiful wife, Irene. Aunt Irene had naturally bright red hair that fell in waves to below her waist. She coiled her thick braids on top of her head for the office, but one night Uncle Mel brought me to her house just after she had washed her hair. She was sitting on the sofa in a pale blue satin robe, brushing her red hair as it dried. It was so long she could sit on it. She told me about having her hair set with rags when she was a girl my age, and that night she offered to give me rag curl.** In the morning, when she brushed my hair, I was amazed and happy to have curls without any pain! I told my mother about this wonderful way we could stop using the curling iron. She wasn’t impressed — and I was never allowed to stay overnight with Aunt Irene again.

My mother as a teenager, with her own Mary Pickford curls.

Maybe Mary Pickford was to blame for our battles about the curling iron.  And Shirley Temple.

I was an only child, born after twelve years of marriage to parents who were forty years old. My mother had had a long time to dream about the child she hoped for. I honestly don’t think it ever occurred to her that her child, and especially her daughter, would not be exactly like her — a perfectible extension of herself. She was always surprised — and saddened or angered — by every sign that I was my father’s daughter, too. I remember her disappointment when she discovered that my skin, even where the sun never touched it, was not as milky white as hers, but halfway between the whiteness of hers and the cream-white of his.  And the lunch when she suddenly exclaimed, “Dammit, Charles! She’s got your mouth!” (instead of her shapely one.)  My mother was so worried that I would take after his family and be taller than the boys in my class, that she lied about my age and enrolled me in first grade instead of kindergarten. I heard her tell a friend that she had decided to do it after driving past a school and seeing my older cousin in the playground with other children: “She looked like a G**-dammed giraffe!”  So instead of being the youngest child in kindergarten, I was (secretly) the youngest child in first grade and in every grade until high school.  It was lucky that reading came easily to me, and I had plenty of experience in being quiet and obedient, so my first teachers never realized that I was so young in other ways.

My mother had been pretty and popular; she loved to dance; so she never noticed that I was bookish and uncoordinated. I certainly never asked to be entered in a Beautiful Baby contest!

“Crowned Supreme Royal Princess Better Baby Show, Dec. 7, 1947.” I hope I didn’t wear the cape and tinsel crown to the contest! (She was sure I’d win.)

I came in second, but she made this outfit and put this picture on her Christmas cards. (The trophy said that I was “99 1/2 % perfect….)

She was certainly proud of me — or, proud of herself for having me. Relatives have told me that she treated me like a doll. She kept me dressed in frilly dresses that she washed and ironed and starched, and changed twice a day. (I got my first pair of jeans when I stayed with her mother, because Uncle Mel said Grandma was too old to cook and clean and look after a child AND do all that extra laundry.) I was completely happy at Grandma’s house. And Grandma didn’t try to turn me into Shirley Temple or Mary Pickford.

Mary Pickford shows her famous long curls in this ad for Pompeiian face cream. Delineator, November 1917.

In the 1920s, movie star Mary Pickford played little girls with long curls well into her thirties. Here she is in “Little Annie Rooney” in 1925. Pickford was born in 1892, and was only five feet tall. (She was also a formidable movie producer.) It was big news when she finally bobbed her hair in 1928, partly because she wanted to play an adult role for a change.

She would have been a megastar when my mother was a teenager.  (Pickford made 51 silent movies in 1910 alone!) These pictures of hairstyles for girls from 1917 show the kind of ringlets Pickford wore, probably achieved with a curling iron. Did my mother always dream of having a child who looked like these girls?

Hair styles for girls, Ladies’ Home Journal, November 1917.

Hair in ringlets; Ladies Home Journal, November 1917.

Girl with ringlets, Ladies’ Home Journal, November 1917.

The disadvantage of curling irons was that you couldn’t curl the hair closest to your scalp — the hot iron would burn you.

My 1920s’ curling iron ringlets, done in the late 1940s.

Ringlets from 1924. Delineator, May 1924.

The Pickford influence can be seen in these fashion illustrations from 1924, when my mother was twenty.

Fashion illustrations of girls, Delineator, February 1924.

Perhaps my mother formed her idea of the perfect little girl back then, although she was forty when she finally had a baby. That’s a long time, but she still had her curling iron and knew how to use it….

My curling iron curls, late 1940s.

By 1933, when my parents were married, there was a new super-star named Shirley Temple, age 5. Shirley was famous for her curls, although hers were shorter than Mary Pickford’s.

Shirley Temple in Rags to Riches, 1933. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Shirley Temple could sing. I could sing.   Shirley Temple could tap dance. I suffered through lessons in “Tap, Ballet, and Acrobatics.” Shirley Temple had a full head of curls. Click here for a picture of Shirley Temple in Curly Top (1935.) And I was given a permanent wave as soon as the beautician said I was old enough ….

These curls were the result of a permanent wave, although they needed to be kept in shape with a curling iron.

What I remember about this trip to the beauty parlor was how incredibly heavy the rollers were.

This is what getting a permanent looked like in 1932. The process was similar when I was a child in the late 1940s.

This Nestle home permanent machine had only one curling device. It took “a few” hours!

But the professional Nestle machine could curl a whole head in an hour … or three….

Professional Nestle permanent waving machine, from  An Illustrated History of Hairstyles, by Marian I. Doyle.

I was fortunate that the home permanent arrived around 1950. The smell was so terrible that my mother once took me to the Saturday matinee show at the movies just to get that smell out of the house! Ah, Peter Pan in 1953! My one happy memory associated with those hated curls.

There were other, much more serious problems poisoning our relationship,  but I sometimes wonder: if my mother had known that she would die when I was nine, would we still have spent morning after morning after morning fighting about my hair?

[Sorry to write such a personal post, but I mention this as something for other mothers to think about….]

** Putting your hair up in rags required some strips of clean cloth four or five inches long. You wrapped your moistened hair around a finger, slid the finger out, put the rag strip through the center of the coil, and tied it. No hairpins were needed. And you didn’t have to sleep on wire rollers, as we did in the 1960s. Sleeping on rollers should have proved that suffering doesn’t guarantee beauty!)

17 Comments

Filed under 1830s -1860s fashions, 1860s -1870s fashions, 1870s to 1900s fashions, 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1940s-1950s, Children's Vintage styles, Hairstyles, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, vintage photographs

Pyorrhea and Toothpaste Ads

From an ad for Forhan’s toothpaste, September 1931.

Afraid to smile because of Pyorrhea!

“Four out of five” would be victims of Pyorrhea, warned Forhan’s toothpaste ads. This one is from 1925.

I’m still reading magazines from the 1920s and 1930s. Every time I see a toothpaste ad about Pyorrhea, I think of a story  Ruth Gordon told. She attended a charity gala where the Great Houdini was entertaining the guests. Houdini used to do a magic act where he would “catch a bullet in his teeth.” Before performing the stunt, he would always ask for a volunteer from the audience to come up and look in his mouth, to prove the bullet wasn’t concealed there.
Performing at the charity ball,  Houdini called for a volunteer. A man came up from the audience. When Houdini opened his mouth and asked, “What do you see?” the man said:
“Py-o-rrhea!”
Poor Houdini: With a hundred celebrity guests to choose from, Houdini had selected Groucho Marx to inspect his teeth!

Forham’s ad, warning about pyorrhea. April 1927.

Forhan’s’s toothpaste ad, May 1928.

Just as Listerine ads frightened women into using mouthwash, …

An example of the famous Listerine ad campaign blaming”Halitosis” for unpopularity. This one is from June 1930.

… the discovery that tooth loss was often caused by gum disease, rather than cavities, led to advertisements warning about “pink toothbrush” and pyorrhea.

Forhan’s ad, May 1928.

Top of Forhan’s’s ad, March 1935.

“Pyorrhea is a relentless foe. It destroys clean, healthy-looking teeth. It undermines the gums. It is responsible for more than half the losses of adult teeth in this country.”

Two women wait to see the dentist. 1928 ad.

The good news was that pyorrhea need not cause tooth loss.

Tooth powder ad, April 1925. (My uncle Mel still preferred tooth powder in a can to toothpaste in a tube in the 1950s.)

Forhan’s toothpaste in a tube, May 1928.

A woman in a striking cloche hat gets dental advice in this Forhan’s ad, December 1926.

Forhan’s toothpaste ad, March 1927.

Brush, floss, see your dentist twice a year, and keep smiling!

P.S. I once accidentally ruined a dinner party game: The hostess asked each guest to choose a time period when they would have liked to live, and to say why. I was No. 3, and blurted out the truth: “I’m 65 years old and I still have all my own teeth; I really love hot running water and flush toilets, so I am happy to be alive now!” Loving to read Jane Austen doesn’t mean I want to live like her. (Yes, I do have personal experience with outhouses and no electricity….) And there’s a good reason (in addition to the length of exposure time) why women are usually not smiling in 19th century photos.

 

7 Comments

Filed under 1920s-1930s, Hairstyles, Hats and Millinery, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture