Le Marché Aux Puces de Saint-Ouen is a large sprawling treasure trove of antiques which I visit from time to time. Most of the shops are filled with gold-framed rococo furniture, blocks of hollowed-out medium format cameras, helmets that date back to the colonial period, musty furs, toy car collections, buttons and every other type of treasure that an antiques lover would salivate over. As for me, I just like walking around and flipping through old books or running my fingertips along pretty but overpriced baubles.
There is one antiques shop that is just dedicated to French women’s magazines. I’m not an avid reader of magazines such as Vogue, Votre Beauté, Elle and Marie Claire. But when you visit this shop and look at the years when they were printed, you realize some of these magazines have been around since the turn of the 20th century. Your own great grandmother could have been reading one of these magazines! I was curious to see just how different these magazines were back then from today’s glossy ad-filled versions.
So I brought home a March 1939 edition of Marie Claire to share with my readers today!
This 73 year old magazine is still in great shape. The paper has a brownish tinge and feels crisp and waxy between my fingers. The pages feature black and white photos of classically round faces, crowned with finger-wave ‘dos. Some of the photos were hand-colored to add a touch of modernity, or at least what would have been considered very modern in those days. What really caught my attention, however, is the amount of text and reading content which fills almost entire pages. I must say, this amount of reading wouldn’t be as palatable in today’s bite-sized twitter text culture.
Here is a peek into beauty pop culture from the late 1930s :
The Table of Content included the following sections :
- Famille Et Art De Vivre – Family and the Art of Living
- Le Courrier De «Marie-Claire» – Letters to Marie Claire
- Beaute Et Hygiene – I guess Beauty and Hygiene were subjects that went hand in hand
- Lecture – The Main Reading Contents
- Mode – Fashion
- La Maison – House Keeping
Since this is a blog on Beauty, I immediately flipped over to the Beauty section. And that’s where I found this gem of an article on classic ways to get “That Special Glow.”
A woman walks by… she’s neither very beautiful, nor very young, nor is she even very elegant. However, every man admires her and every woman envies her. Her secret? The glow on her face that leaves behind a lasting and unforgettable impression. Simply because she follows these practical rules of beauty….
That is how the article began. Now I will translate and summarize for you the best of these “practical rules of beauty.” Let’s see if they still apply today!
1) A perfect and thorough cleansing of the skin in the evening before going to bed.
Basically, no matter what beauty techniques you apply during the day, they amount to nothing if you go to bed without first having carefully cleansed your face of dirt and impurities.
My thoughts: Okay. Check! I do that. We should all do that.
2) Just the right amount of powder
The women who have that enviable glow know that a lot of powder over a thin layer of cream is the secret for that glowing skin tone. In order to make the cream and the powder form a base that will last all day, use the help of a special brush in order to eliminate surplus powder and leave only what’s necessary in order to have that “pearly, transparent, matted look.”
My thoughts: There is such a thing as too much powder. Although this probably worked well for those black and white photos.
3) Red on the Lips That Doesn’t Smudge
When applying lipstick, don’t scrunch up your lips but open them and apply lipstick to the corners.
My thoughts: Um. Okay, I get that.
4) A clean face, without the unnecessary fuzz
Bleach the fuzz found above your lips and above the ears, while applying oxygenated water with a few drops of ammonia (huh, what?). Leave this solution in contact for a few minutes and then rinse with clear water.
Carefully pluck and shape the eyebrows without overdoing it.
It is also completely normal to remove with electricity the numerous spots and blemishes on the face (I have no idea what this “remove with electricity” means but it sounds dangerous).
After applying makeup, brush the eyebrows and eyelash with cotton that’s been dipped in eau de cologne.
Brushing your hair at least 100 times in the evening is absolutely essential to the beauty of the hair and the face. This provides a perfect circulation of the blood.
My thoughts: These tips made me laugh quite a bit. Fuzz over the ears…
5) Organize your beauty products
That way they don’t spill and clutter into the shaving and bathroom space of the “Monsieur.” Group all your products in a box so it’s easy for you to put it on a little table in front of a well lit window and therefore, provide an easy access whenever you need it.
In addition to the necessary products, you should have cotton balls, tweezers, a powder brush, and a black head remover.
Keep the following very clean and organized : combs and brushes which have been washed with ammonia water (again, the ammonia water) and wiped each time before using. Wash your powder puffs with soap and water.
My thoughts: I think it’s become the other way around. Now guys are the ones who have to make space for all our girlie beauty products. Also, cleaning your brushes and combs with ammonia? I think people today just buy new ones.
6) A strict but satisfying diet
Most of your meats should be grilled, very little bread, don’t drink much while eating, touch pastries on the rare occasions. On the other hand, you should eat plenty of salads and fruits. The slow drinking of a large glass of water in the morning and before going to bed should be done almost like a religion. Before going to bed, eat an apple which of all the fruits is far better for your complexion, thanks to its properties which eliminate acidity and toxins.
My thoughts: Atkins diet, anyone?
7) A good mood!
Physical beauty isn’t essential. It is not the absence of physical imperfections but rather the presence of certain qualities that create true charm. Among these qualities are : a smiling, friendly, vivacious expression, which is the most precious of all attributes. It is better to be “charming and ugly” than “cold and beautiful!”
Don’t believe that you’re ever too old to do physical exercises. Whatever your age, stay flirtatious with your husband and remain stylish so that your children will be happy to be around you.
Don’t refuse going out with your husband to the cinemas on the pretext that you’re too tired.
When the children feel like dancing, be the first to roll out the rug in the corner and consider it good fortune that the kids are having fun.
Don’t ever say in a reproachful tone “Back in my day…”
A bad mood is the worst of venoms for health and beauty and achieving that glowing complexion.
My thoughts: With the exception of not refusing your husband’s desire to go to the cinemas, these tips are classic! We need more of this kind of attitude in beauty magazines today.
My conclusion? Any beauty magazine from any era can contain a mix of relevant as well as absurd beauty advice. It’s important to sift through all the information and find those little nuggets of age-old wisdom but dismiss the ones that should obviously be regarded as nothing more than old-fashioned gobbledy goop.
My favorite from all of this, of course, is the idea that beauty is not limited to the physical way that you look. Much of beauty is also about making the most of your best attributes and applying the qualities of charm in your life.
I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it!