Sparkling Vintage Fiction. Among other things.

Monthly Archives: January 2016

If I had a hammer . . .

feminine tool kitOn this snowy Saturday morning, I’ve been enjoying an old (1909) copy of a ladies’ magazine. In particular, I’m noticing how often the writers encourage homemakers to create something, do-it-yourself style, instead of encouraging them to go out and buy something.

For example, one tip says, “Floor cleaning is made much easier if one will take a piece of a two-inch board about twelve inches square or large enough to set a pail on; bore holes about one and one-half inches from each corner and insert casters. The pail may then be pushed from place to place with the foot, and saves much lifting. Such a device may also be used for many purposes, such as moving heavy jars of meat and barrels of apples in the cellar or kitchen.”

Today, the advice would certainly be to purchase a brand-new rolling bucket or cart.

Another hint says, “For a cheap and serviceable wash-stand in the kitchen, take two orange or lemon boxes with partitions and nail them together lengthwise. A curtain of dark silkoline [fabric] and a piece of oilcloth on top complete it. In this way, one has four handy little shelves in which to keep small articles necessary in the kitchen.”

What? No enticement to go out and purchase a new piece of furniture?

To be sure, the magazine does contain ads for many products. But I found it interesting how the editors also kept in mind the homemaker on a budget, and also assumed she possessed some degree of skill with a tool kit. Refreshing! And makes me think I should start brushing up on my own next-to-nonexistent carpentry skills.

Down to Business: To rouge or not to rouge?

Photoplay-cover-flapper-applying-lipstick-1920s-221x300“To rouge or not to rouge–is it even a question nowadays? When the daughter of the most exclusive* family paints her face for her afternoon walk as did the soubrette** of former years to counteract the glare of strong footlights, one can hardly blame the business woman–often overtired and wan–for doing likewise. Yet the girl of office or shop who uses her rouge pot without conscience, her powder puff without mercy, and her charcoal pencil without discretion, and who plasters her lips with a vermilion cupid’s bow, is oftenest the one who is heard complaining because she ‘never gets a raise.’ The wise business woman will distrust the appeal of over-artificiality and if she coaxes a tinge of color into pale cheeks and touches a shiny nose with a film of powder, will know when to stop. Perhaps the best description of the competent business woman has been given by Fannie Heaslip Lea: ‘Neatly dressed, smoothly coiffed, closely hatted, as neutral as a mail-order catalogue, as harmless as her own clacking typewriter, as controlled as an electric bulb–and just about as warming.’ ” (From The Complete Book of Etiquette by Hallie Erminie Rives, 1934).

*”Exclusive” used to be a compliment in those pre-“everybody-must-be-the-same” days. Today, “inclusive” is the sought-after adjective. Interestingly, to be called “discriminating” in the olden days was also a compliment, meaning you had refined taste and good judgment. Today, the meaning of the word has shifted to something negative” “judgmental,” or worse, the ridiculous non-word that grates the ear: “judgy.”

**”Soubrette”: a coquettish maid or frivolous young women in comedies, or an actress who plays such a part (per Merriam-Webster)

Elegant Air Travel: Gone with the Windshear

PAN AM 1In what alternative universe was air travel ever like this?

“Today the great, luxurious airplane glides through the air as smoothly as the most perfectly equipped automobile takes to the road. The airlines plan everything for the passenger’s comfort. As soon as he enters the terminal of an airline, his baggage is checked and stowed away in the plane, to be forgotten about until it is claimed at the end of the trip.

Aboard the plane, the same efficiency and courtesy prevail. An attendant places the passenger’s belongings on a rack above his head. Just before the take-off, either the copilot or the stewardess (many of the large planes now provide this boon to mankind and womankind alike) hands him a package of chewing gum and some cotton for his ears.

The passenger remembers that he must not smoke until he is in the air; but once aloft, the stewardess passes cigarettes and points out the convenient ash tray.

The plane affords a generous assortment of magazines and newspapers of the city just visited, and at various intervals refreshments are served by the stewardess or “hostess.”

The traveling clothes of the well-dressed woman are admirable in their simplicity of cut and design. A close-fitting dark hat, preferably one with a flat back, so that one may lean back comfortably, a tailored dress and smart topcoat, little or no jewelry, and sensible footgear mark the experienced as well as the fashionable traveler.

Reclining chairs, individual ventilating systems, and, in some transport planes, motion pictures, all provide for the traveler’s comfort. But whether in plane, automobile, steamer, or train, the unfailing rule of courtesy always prevails.”

(Hallie Erminie Rives, 1934)

 

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