I love to read vintage magazines from the 40s and 50s, but even more, I do love a good vintage diet or beauty book from the same period. Imagine how pleased I was when my library procured for me 'The Art of Feminine Beauty' by Helena Rubinstein....and how delighted I was to realise that the copy they got for me was from 1930!
As I have been reading Helena's words of wisdom, I can't help but wonder about the ladies who have read it before me...were they young ladies, impatient to start putting their hair up and wearing gloves? Engaged ladies tending to their loveliness in preparation for their wedding day? Ladies who felt the bloom of youth starting to fade? Perfect beauties who wished to make themselves even more beautiful? Or girls pretty to everyone else, but desperate to cure some imagined ill? It feels special to hold a book like that in my hands, and think about the others who have read it before me, to imagine their lives. To think about which handbags it may have been carried in, which dressing tables it has sat on while the reader has diligently followed the advice within.
I have also been reading a volume of Agatha Christie short stories, many from the 30s and 40s, and a lot of the women featured in them I can imagine sitting and reading this beauty book. It takes me back in my mind to a world of chaps who smoked pipes and said 'dash it all!' and ladies who wore clothes I can only dream about.
A lot of the advice is definitely dated (passing electric currents through the face to clear pores, anyone?) but equally much of it could still be used today, and indeed I shall be trying some of her tips out. More than that though, her general attitude to health and beauty is inspirational. It is such a contrast to so many of our magazines and adverts today. I have commented on this before, but now it seems we must be terrified into buying a product (crows feet? wrinkles? buy this cream!) whereas then you were romanced into it (for lovely skin that he will adore, buy this cream!). I know which I prefer!
Here are a few passages that I have enjoyed so far:
...beauty, how to attain it, how to enhance and preserve it, has been from time immemorial one of the permanent preoccupations of womankind.
...Beauty is neither wholly the gift of God nor the gift of the cosmetician. An important part is always played by the desire to be lovely and the willingness to make small daily sacrifices to achieve it. If you follow the rules for your particular type or age you will keep your loveliness to the end of your days.
...There are women not considered beautiful in their younger days who have in later life developed into recognised beauties. Such women, by intelligent cultivation of their persons, make for themselves a second and even a third youth more lovely and impressive than that of the springtime of life.
...A woman's beauty will be a gracious curve from early youth to, shall we say, later youth; for the weight of years seems to be resting ever more lightly on women's shoulders.
...every intelligent woman who really cares can become at least good-looking. How much farther she goes will depend upon herself.
Although her writing style is perhaps a little dated, she does make the clever point that if you see your body only as a machine, then it makes sense to keep it in top working order, and if you see it as more, then the extra work you put in will just add zest to life. I have been following a vintage inspired skin routine for a few weeks now (for details, click on the title of this post!) and it does make me feel lovely, to take the time, to think about all the other women who have used cold cream and witch hazel. To be using simple ingredients and have a routine that has been repeated over the years, it makes me feel connected to the bright young things of the yesterday, reading my vintage magazines and books when they were first published, and who are now perhaps in their 70s and 80s.
I think that perhaps this weekend, I will spend a few hours writing down some new tips from Helena Rubinstein to try out, and look for a new red lipstick to celebrate the Indian summer that has accompanied the start of September. I hope that you are having a lovely week!