Saturday, May 25, 2013

Memorial Day

A few years ago, I took my daughter to Arlington National Cemetery. Just outside the gate, our guide told us we were not to laugh or talk loudly. She said she only wanted to hear whispering and told the kids in the group not to run or skip. Then she made everyone who was chewing gum, throw it out. She said we were about to walk on sacred ground and we were to give the experience somberness and respect. She said that she knew we all wanted to see JFK's grave but we would linger there only a few minutes. We would spend most of our time with the soldiers, reading their names and the names of the wives who often joined them years later. What we thought was going to be a quick tour, turned into 5 hours, including the ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Back on the bus we were exhausted but nearly all of us turned and quietly watched the green knolls with the white crosses disappear through the rear window.  Our guide stood up and asked if we had learned anything. In the darkening stillness, we barely nodded. She didn't ask anymore questions.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Book of Model Beauty

Aren't these line drawings adorable? They are from "Eileen Ford's Book of Model Beauty". My friend Kay introduced me to the book when she brought it to my house and I borrowed it for three years.

It's not just written for models, although it contains a lot of advice for aspiring ones. It also contains good solid health and beauty advice that has stood the test of time. The first printing was 1968 and so, the illustrations reflect that time but they seem rather timeless to me. If you saw the film "Nine", you may agree that the girl on far right resembles Kate Hudson in the movie, as they were trying to capture the 1960's.

The chapter titled "The Maturing Beauty" really interests me. In 1968, most "over-40 beauties" looked really old to me. Recently, I have been in touch with a researcher whose focus is how women over 40 dressed in the 20th century. I had an excellent subject for her in my grandmother, whom I've written about more than a few times in this blog. Nana's style was chic and classic, but in my eyes, she was most certainly "old". I will post a link to my guest piece on this researcher's fine blog soon.

What I really love is the message in this book. Beauty care doesn't have to be done in expensive spas and salons. Most of it can be taken care of in your own home - the old fashioned way. As a teenager, I spent my beauty hours doing my own nails, hair, makeup, and more than once, put myself on a successful regimen of exercise and diet. I followed popular advice found in my mother's magazines or books like Eileen Ford's. Today, so many women spend a fortune on getting buffed with facials, threading, waxing, pedicures, manicures, massages, etc. And yet, with running water, a bathtub, some budget-friendly drugstore supplies, I really think we can become gorgeous right in our own homes. Constantly schlepping to a salon and trying to rearrange the family dinner hour, is not the way I want to spend my money or my time. After all, look at our cuties above. See how well-rounded they are? Gardening, dancing, and hanging the wash in the fresh air...They are do-it-yourselfers who have plenty of time to enjoy life. Self-taught self-care is fun too, and it gives you other things to think about than what silly design you want on your nails this week. So, how do you get your beauty on at home?

P.S.  The post about my grandmother:

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Heaven Sent

I love this vintage ad for Helena Rubenstein's Heaven Sent perfume. It ran in Seventeen for years. The sweet and now quaint copy is ostensibly the words of the fetching model, telling us who she is and why she is the kind of creature who wears Heaven Sent. She likes French accents, poems that don't rhyme, and oh yes...her brother's best friend.

There was another version of the ad with a slightly different copy that included "I like girls who are my height". I loved that one too but I couldn't locate it - they are both enchanting. As I read through it again, it is almost a poem itself...I like boys that are shy, girls who aren't, fathers with a sense of humor, and oh yes, my brother's best friend. It conjures up a different type of teenage-hood than today. Perhaps with a father like Robert Young in Father Knows Best or Spencer Tracy in Father of the Bride. Maybe Dad even called her Kitten or Toots. It made me think of homework, music, books, and um...oh yes, my brother's best friend.

Helena Rubenstein commissioned a few of these types of portraits during the late '60's and early '70's. The photos were taken by a woman photographer, Marie Cosindas, who trained under Ansel Adams. She often used polaroids and softening lenses. It certainly made for a romantic picture here.

Heaven Sent was a fragrance that was in nearly every local drugstore and relatively inexpensive. I recall it having a gentle powdery scent. I also love the model's black velvet mini dress with the beautiful lace cuffs. And the baby's breath added to the bouquet of pink roses lends even more softened loveliness.

Still, it's the copy that really touches me. Ads from this time told us it was ok to be the fairer sex, to want to be female, and to enjoy being a girl. It was ok to like long nightgowns, small babies, your middle name and, well you know - your brother's best friend.

Monday, May 6, 2013


All little girls dream of being brides one day, but when I saw the pink meringue confection that my mother wore to my father’s senior prom hanging in the attic, I unabashedly longed for the day I would be asked to a prom by a boy and wear a pretty gown. My grandmother often remarked how exquisite my mother looked in the dress's 1950’s effervescent frothiness.

I was lucky to be invited to two junior proms one spring. The first one was a cold March evening and since my mother chose a mint green chiffon gown, extremely chaste with only puffed sleeves for protection, I froze that night. Mom pitched the dress to me by pointing out the petite embroidered flowers under the chiffon overlay. For the second prom, we bought a wheat linen Gunne Sax frock which to me, epitomized Juliet Capulet in Franco Zefferelli’s romantic film of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. A poster from that movie hung on my bedroom wall for years and also captured my imagination and fueled many a girlhood dream. The gown had a cream lace panel which ran perpendicular to the trim empire waist, and the sleeves tapered down to delicate points over the tops of my hands. It was prosaic and tender and I felt oh so pretty in it. Both dates were gentlemen but the second was a boy who really liked me and 30 or so years later, I still regret my reaction that night in the living room when he enthusiastically handed me the simple white box that held my prom flowers.

The girls in my high school asked their dates for flowered wrist bands for proms. These small posies had pastel carnations and the pervasive baby’s breath, scrunched together on a wide plastic band. They hardly ever survived the type of dancing we did and looking back, I think they were rather pedestrian and uninspiring. However, I was hoping that my date would know enough to order one after he asked what color my dress was. But he had a mother with good taste and so I was unable to hide my disappointment when I opened the flower box that night.

Instead of the candy colored wristband, I found a traditional bouquet. There were no carnations but a blend of unusual blossoms with a creamy lily in the center. Strands of ivy trailed down alongside the deep forest green looped silk ribbons. It was far more special than any trendy wrist band but that evening in the living room, I could not hide the letdown on my face and made a quip that carried the weight of my disappointment. My appalled mother whisked me into the dining room where she told me I had been rude and that I should appreciate my unusual flowers and thoughtful date.

I carried my bouquet and as the night wore on, I came to see that the earthy green ribbons looked very pretty against my romantic plain colored dress. I also noticed the intoxicating scent of the star lily when I held the bouquet at my waist for the prom photograph. And at the end of the evening, despite all the dancing and socializing, I took home a lovely keepsake to place atop my dresser mirror which lasted far longer than any of my friends' flowers. The other day, I found the ribbons from the bouquet tucked inside my old high school scrapbook. I recognized them right away - they are the deepest most everlasting green I've ever seen.

(A thing of beauty is a joy forever ~ Keats)