Tuesday, August 17, 2010

August Issue

I was lucky in that my father paid for my subscription to Seventeen magazine until I came home from college and had my first job. The first Seventeen I ever read, which signed, sealed, and delivered my fervent wish to have this magazine in my life for always, was the August 1969 Back to School issue. We lived within walking distance of the local market, and having just enough change one day, I snatched the magazine off the rack and skipped home with it.

I was still a tween, so I was slightly wary of showing my mother this purchase. I had an inkling she might not approve of my reading what seemed to me, such a grown up periodical. If she disapproved, she didn’t prevent me from keeping it and I stretched out on the grass and cracked it open that hot summer afternoon. Like Alice, I fell through a rabbit hole and I still haven’t found my way out, although my one remaining tour guide is now Vogue.

Back then, Seventeen was an extra long magazine. It was the same size as my mother’s McCall’s and Ladies Home Journals. Magazines were forces to be reckoned with. The August Seventeens were thick and heavy too. There was plenty to say in August to a young school girl wanting to put her best foot forward in September. The paper was shiny and slippery, the spine hard and taut. But the smell of the magazine! I could smell the ink and paper, certainly chemical, but oh so exciting and full of promise.

Each turn of the page brought a new fascination. I poured over the ads for Bonne Belle Ten-O-Six Lotion, Windsong perfume, Sears Jr. Bazaar department, and Modess. Each page showed me the young lady I wanted to become. With Seventeen’s help, I got there.

In the privacy of my bedroom, I tried pinning loops of braids on each side of my face like the Bobbi Brooks models. I experimented with “baby” barrettes, red nail polish, chunky wooden beads. I made lists of back-to-school items that suddenly became necessities: Maidenform bras, tights, a plaid raincoat.

One fall, Seventeen introduced me to the maxi coat and I wanted one with the military styling and buttons just like the one on page 72. I also wanted the boyfriend on that page too. Seventeen showed me pictorially how to comport myself if I were to have a boyfriend. I was dreamily transfixed on the images of Colleen Corby, Cheryl Tiegs, and Cybil Sheppard. When the boyfriends appeared, at least I would know how to dress for it.

The articles were of some use to me but my real concentration was Seventeen’s fashion, the ads and the beauty advice. I pounced on my issue month after month, year after year and saved them in a makeshift tower that was eventually tall enough to hold my makeup mirror at eye level.

The magic, the glamour, the hope, the wish - that’s what Seventeen meant to my pre-teen self. The August Back to School issue told me it was time to fold the beach blanket with a snap, dust off the sand and head back home. Did Madison Avenue have a hold over me? You bet they did and it enriched me in ways that still make me hopeful when the calendar turns a corner and heads toward fall.


  1. Oh my gosh... I haven't thought of Seventeen Magazine in years! I remember saving my leftover lunch money, a dollar or maybe a little more for an issue. I loved the August issue and would drive my mom nuts showing her the pictures of the things I wanted her to make for me. My mom made all my clothes because I was a size zero until I reached high school when I shot up to a size 4! Now I'm wishing I could find some Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific Shampoo, or the original scent Herbal Essence. I still wear clogs and Earth Shoes, some things never go out of style in my book.

  2. I love the fashions from that period! It was still a time when people dressed and cared about what they looked like.
    LOVE your blog...

  3. O my, such memories. I remember an August issue of Seventeen, probably circa 1965. I don't remember the cover, but I can clearly see--even after all these years--one of the ads. Girls heading back to private schools, all gathered inside an old-fashioned train station with wooden benches and enormous windows--plaid skirts and thick sweaters in autumn colors, rich glossy hair, beautiful shoes and hats too. It was very rich and upper class New Englandy -- I was working class New England, in public school, unhappy and unpopular--how I yearned to be one of those girls! I think I pulled her into my imagination, the girl I wanted to be. Thank you! Katherine Louise

  4. PS Whose painting is that please, in the right column? The woman reading at the breakfast table. Thanks!

  5. KL, that's what 17 mag did to all of us no matter what 'class' we were. I think it gave is a goal to be something. It helped mold us into what we are.

  6. KL, I will try to source this paining for you.

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