Wednesday, November 25, 2015

On the First Day of a Feminine Christmas

This year my Christmas is being brought to me by Seventeen Magazine, or more specifically, the now-vintage Seventeens of my youth.  There is a certain breathless charm about the December issues that are delightfully filled with optimism and expectation.  For the girl who read Seventeen, anything was possible.  She could go to college, she could get a good job, she could make Manwich #53 and snag a cute boyfriend!

The Christmas issues are brimming with cheer and good times.  It is simply expected that a Seventeen girl would enjoy her holidays immensely with family and friends.  She could perhaps even handle a little spirituality.  Editor Enid Haupt's editorial often included non-secular wishes for her readers and heartfelt reminders to honor the true meaning of the holiday - something that I could never imagine in a magazine for today's young women.  Miss Haupt just naturally assumed that the Seventeen reader attended some sort of church and thus, cared deeply about her faith.

The Christmas layouts look like so much fun too, with groups of boys and girls dancing and laughing together.  There is a group camaraderie and a feeling of dating within a circle - trying out members of the opposite sex in an easy-going no-pressure, platonic way.  The ads are more romantic with couples paired off, and enjoying wholesome things such as getting caught in a rainstorm, picnicking together in a meadow, ice skating, or building a snowman.  There was an expectation that youth was prime-time for sorting through feelings, setting goals, playfully learning to be oneself in new and different ways.

There is also a sense that real beauty comes from within but can be helped along by homegrown self-care and pampering.  Seventeen advertised all the tools a Christmas beauty would need to get gorgeous on her own turf - hairdryers and facial steamers to be used right at the kitchen table, manicure kits and electric razors. There's plenty of perfume advertised for readers to give and to ask Santa for: Chanel 5, Ma Griffe, Ambush, Chantilly... The certainty that all girls liked these things is palpable. And whether it was really true or not, it makes me want to play Christmas Beauty Parlor right in the comfort of my own home this season.  Why spend $150 for the latest craze in facials when I can give myself one by following the example set out by Seventeen's engaging and adorable illustrations and artistry?

And the clothes...bright, colorful, feminine and full of cheer.  No little black dresses for our girls - they wear China red, blue velvet, gold, and bright Christmasy tartans.  Long skirts or minis with tights, their clothes still leave something to the imagination too.  But make no mistake:  Seventeen is not all buttoned-up Edwardian frocks - these are dresses with movement and a certain finesse - just minus the grasping-at-you cleavage and poured-in tightness.  The covers don't have celebrities in shivery bare-to-there evening dresses - clothes are refreshingly and gloriously season-appropriate.  You just know it's December inside.  The luminosity from a Seventeen Christmas doesn't come from scary over-blown makeup either (although skin and lips glow from Yardley Pot-O-Gloss and Revlon highlighting blush sticks) - but from the lifestyle the magazine promotes - respect for self, optimism for the future, and permission to revel all of the traditional ideals of the season.

Vintage Seventeen also presents Christmas as a time to give more than receive and there are many pieces about volunteerism and how to shop for special gifts for loved ones while preserving one's energy for the actual holiday.  And when a Seventeen girl is stuck at home during a snowstorm, she plays cards, bakes goodies, reads by the fire, or wraps presents - and she uses her time to help Mother whenever she can.  No idle hours texting or internet-surfing - Seventeen girls are fully-engaged members of the family.

While it's true that there is an orchestrated simplicity to the vintage Seventeen Christmas and the world today is far different and so depraved in many ways.  But I think the Seventeen girl knew that the world would continue to go on being the world and she believed with all her joyous trembling Christmas heart, that despite war and upheaval, there was still a place in it for her.  I believe too.





9 comments:

  1. Donna, you hit the nail right on the head...the Seventeen girl embraced the joy and fun of Christmas as a fully engaged member of her family and community. I love the image of this gal in her snowbound house, making cookies, wrapping gifts, going about her beauty rituals...I feel sorry for today's teen girls, whose lives are encouraged to be so self-centered and shallow. Thanks for sharing this wonderful post--heartfelt and beautifully written!! I'm SO having a Seventeen Christmas, too!

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  2. I so enjoy your posts on vintage Seventeen magazines. Does anything exist like that today to encourage young women?

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  3. An answer from me (Kay) to the Donna above. Donna, the only magazine for young women (girls) that's anything like the vintage Seventeens is the American Girl magazine, but it's for much younger kids. Today's teens are expected to be fully matured women, with the brakes off in every way. Sadly!

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  4. This was a fun blog Donna. I remember reading this in my early teens in the eighties. It made me feel good about myself. I loved the cozy knits and cords for back to school and the must haves. It was much more wholesome then. Now I see pre teens in shorts so short you can see the "smile" as they say. My husband says we are in ugly times, but your blog gives me hope knowing there are others out there that embrace the more old fashioned.

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  5. I enjoyed your post on Seventeen. I enjoyed reading the magazine, although I subscribed to Teen instead. I think I felt more comfortable with the West Coast "vibe" of that publication. I think the girls were a little too polished for me to take as role models at that time, perhaps the East Coast style? Thanks for sharing with us! Christie

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  6. oh donna i adored seventeen! i was a teen in the early 70's and i was in love with Patti Hansen! also, i was given the Seventeen Book of Beauty and i devoured that book. i'm going to track down a copy for my grandaughters! x

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