Weird Words of Wisdom: “Take It on the Chin, Gal” Edition

“The more formal you are in your approach to the party, the better behaved your guests will probably be. Make them understand it’s a ‘party’ not a ‘gang-bang.’”

She-Manners, 1959 (1960 printing)
By Robert H. Loeb Jr.

K. Chin illustrated this book. The K. Chin best known for his 1970s artwork featuring cute animals? Probably. Like Loeb, Chin had an advertising background.

K. Chin illustrated this book. The K. Chin best known for his 1970s artwork featuring cute animals? Probably. Like Loeb, Chin had an advertising background.

About This Books and Its Author: A lot of people wrote advice books for teenage girls in the 1950s, and few of them had any special qualifications beyond magazine writing experience. Most of them, however, had lady parts. It took a certain amount of chutzpah for Robert H. Loeb Jr. to write a book aimed at girls (or, as he prefers to call them, gals.)

This dust-jacket blurb tells us as much about Loeb as I’ve been able to discover: “Bob’s a writer by profession, and an advertising man—no grey flannel suit, no Madison Avenue. And he used to be an editor for Esquire, when he also wrote Wolf in Chef’s Clothing, a hilarious cook book for men. Ah, then he turned his eyes upon the girls and said, ‘Say, they read, too, don’t they?’ That’s how he began. That’s how he dared.”

A writer and an advertising man? It’s as if Mad Men’s Ken Cosgrove wrote an advice book for teenage girls…which explains chapter titles like “The Wolf’s in the Trap—Wedding Time is Here” and “The Boss’ Lap is Not a Chair.”

Loeb is progressive on issues of racial and religious prejudice, devoting a whole chapter to the subject. The myths he sets out to debunk in that chapter are cringe-worthy reminders of how far society’s progressed: They include “The Negro in the United States has primitive morals,” “Negroes are not as clean as whites,” and “Jews have black curly hair and hooked noses. You can always tell a Jew.”

By 1950s standards, he’s even progressive on sex roles, admitting that they are social constructs and often unfair. In 1977, he would write a book called Breaking the Sex-Role Barrier. But his 1950s advice for dealing with male chauvinists doesn’t break any barriers: “Take in on the chin, gal. This is going to be with you always. We men have to stick together.”

Fun Fact: Loeb’s 1950 cookbook for men, Wolf in Chef’s Clothing, was reprinted in 2000. In this newspaper article, publisher Susan Schwartz describes the book and her decision to republish it—she sounds like a “gal” after my own heart.

Quotes from She-Manners

“Any man is wonderful if he is the man in your life.”

“Your best policy is always to accept the fact that (a boy) is a powerful giant, not matter what you may think. If you are able to beat him at tennis or golf or swimming, either don’t beat him or else beat him but tell him you know he’s not really trying or is just letting you win out of politeness. Let him maintain his powerful, caveman role.”

“To make (a boy) feel important, you have to forget your own desires for importance. Compliment him on his physical prowess, his mental acumen, his good looks, his virility. The worst mistake a girl can make is to make a man feel intellectually inferior or inadequate as a male. We men need  a lot of reassurance. So lay it on thick but subtly. Stoke his ego. Let him think he’s king much of the time. He will love you for it, and, you know, it will make you feel extremely feminine.”

“You know—men suffer from an odd sense of inferiority. They’re often terrified by smart women. This doesn’t mean you have to act the idiot role or the cute little ‘Oh, aren’t you smart!’ role. But it does mean that you can let him feel he is superior…The first evening you are together, don’t let him know you read Greek. Save that for next week. By that time he will like you so well that he won’t mind discovering you are an intellectual!”

“If you are a gal who uses frank, men’s locker room language—DON’T on this first date DON’T—EVER! Avoid shocking your date. Even if he uses such language and hears all the guys and dolls in the senior class using it, he wants his date to be better than the rest of the crowd.”

“(Many men will) grab you and kiss you on that first date, just to prove they can. This doesn’t mean they love you. It usually means they’re testing you. If a man can kiss you after a few minutes together, he has three reactions. One, he will think he’s irresistible. We men like to think that. Second, he will think you are an easy target. An easy target is not much to boast about. Third, he will wonder how many other men have had as easy a time as he. When he gets to that question, your market value drops.”

“The man has one set of standards for himself and another for you. He may consider himself a Don Juan for having succeeded in getting you to pet, but he will also decide that you’re too easy to get.”

On marriage: “Don’t be overanxious and feel that by the time you’re eighteen or twenty and have not been asked, you are on the shelf.”

k chin illustration 1Getting a guy to think about marriage: “Perhaps you can wangle an invitation for the two of you to dinner at the house of a happily married young couple? Or take him on a tour of home furnishing departments in the stores? Or on a lonely, romantic walk along the river? Or to an equally romantic formal dance? Maybe you can show him how well prepared you are for marriage—a good cook, a neat housekeeper, a gal who loves kiddies, a perfect hostess for a business or professional man?” Home furnishing departments? That’s really subtle.

At job interviews: “Don’t try to be overly glamorous, but don’t try to be the opposite extreme. You need not look like an old-fashioned eager beaver, all work and no-nonsense in the office…The male interviewer will probably be disinterested and think you’d not be much of an addition to the office décor.”

“If the (job) interviewer offers you a cigarette as a way of putting you at ease or as a gesture of friendship, then you may accept or not, as you wish.”

Fashion Tips (Yes, he even gives fashion tips)

“A word of warning—never overemphasize. A gal may have a terrific figure, but a homely face. So she overemphasizes her figure with tight sweaters and skirts, and walks with a hip-wiggle. All she gets are wolf whistles and leers. What she should have done was to make the best of her figure, since it is more attractive than her face, but not boast about her figure. And she should have realized that her face is not one half as ugly as she thinks.”

Suggested Wardrobe Essentials

2 long-sleeved pullover sweaters
2 long-sleeved cardigan sweaters
1 short-sleeved sweater or polo shirt or T-shirt
2 tailored shirts—1 solid color, 1 patterned
3 blouses—more feminine in styling
4 skirts—2 slim, 1 pleated, 1 full gathered
1 simple suit
1 jumper
2 date dresses—1 with discreetly covered top, preferably with small jacket; and 1 with low, round neck, décolleté style
2 simple dresses—to be dressed up with accessories for casual dates, street wear, or class
2 formals—1 long, 1 short
1 heavy all-purpose winter coat
1 dressier coat for church, dates, special functions
1 in-between coat for spring, summer, fall
1 bulky jacket or car coat
1 jacket to wear with skirts
2 pairs of slacks
2 pairs of Bermuda shorts

“Short short short shorts—no! In some towns and neighborhoods it’s against the law to wear short shorts in public.”

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Weird Words of Wisdom: An Occasional Mad, Crazy Hat Edition

mccalls

Welcome to my latest Weird Words of Wisdom post about a vintage advice book for teens–and to my 100th post on Embarrassing Treasures!

“Besides being clannish, boys are basically conservative, especially when they’re together…They may whistle at the girl in the low-cut red dress, but it’s the demure little one in blue they ask for a date.”

McCall’s Guide to Teen-Age Beauty and Glamour, 1959 (1965 printing)

About this Book: This is the kind of cheap paperback that you could find in drugstore racks back in the day. It must have sold well, since the copy I have is from its 10th printing. Much of its advice is not so much weird as delightfully dated—it includes admonitions to straighten stocking seams, tip ladies’ room attendants a quarter, and take care when eating “Italian spaghetti.”

About the Author: Betsy Keiffer was a writer and editor at McCall’s Magazine. Born Elisabeth Corrigan in 1923, she married a painter named Edwin Keiffer in 1950. You can read about their lives on a web site that their children created about their father’s work. Betsy Keiffer, who died in 2006, was also the sister of New Yorker writer Faith McNulty. McNulty’s 1980 bestseller The Burning Bed became a memorable TV movie vehicle for Farrah Fawcett.

Beauty and Fashion Tips

“Put a few drops of perfume on a bit of cotton and tuck it inside your bra.”

Evidence of the vanity sizing that has taken hold in recent decades: “Of course, if you’re neither tall nor short, but just in between, not thin, not plump but a perfect size 12, you’re incredibly lucky and you’ll look fine in anything from a bikini to a sheath.”

“Don’t ever lull yourself into thinking you can ‘get by’ with those faintly grimy gloves or collars one more day.”

Why I’m really glad that someone invented blow-dryers: “It never seems to fail that when you are planning to wash your hair tomorrow, it’s today that divine boy you just met asks you out. There isn’t time, of course, for a real shampoo and set—but there is help at hand. To remove some of the oil that makes it look so stringy, use the trick of a piece of cheesecloth on your hairbrush, backed up by a hundred firm strokes.”

“When you buy a hat, be sure it will go with the coat and suit you have, as well as with several of your dresses, that it’s becoming and that you feel comfortable in it. Don’t let the salesgirl sweet-talk you into something that makes you feel foolish once you get it home. (Not that I’m against an occasional mad, crazy hat—provided your face and budget can afford it. It can do wonders for morale.)”

If you have wide hips: “Above all, rule shorts and slacks out of your wardrobe. They were never meant for the hourglass figure.”

Some suggested meals for weight loss

Breakfast
½ tangerine
1 soft-boiled egg
1 slice toast
Buttermilk or skim milk (1 glass)

Lunch
Frankfurter with mustard, no roll
2 salted crackers
Medium orange

Dinner
1 medium hamburger, no bun
½ small baked potato with butter
2/3 cup cabbage salad with lemon juice
½ cup fruit cocktail
Buttermilk or skim milk (1 glass)

Getting Along with Boys

“The only grounds for not following a boy’s plans for the evening are if he suggests going to some place your parents have not given you permission to go or if he suggests some sport or activity you don’t know how to do.” (I can think of some other things that might be in a boy’s plans that a girl would be within her rights to refuse. Of course, “some sport or activity” could be euphemism for those things, but I doubt it based on the suggested response for girls: “Before we go, I’d better tell you that I’ve never bowled before in my life—but I’m game if you are.”)

“If he’s made plans for the evening, don’t try to change them, no matter how much you hanker to see the double feature at the Palace or to show off your beau to the gang at the Pizzateria. Boys resent bitterly, and they have every right to, the idea that they’re being manipulated or pushed around on a date.”

“If you’ve ever taken the time to do any reflecting about which girls are popular and which aren’t—and why—you have undoubtedly noticed that one characteristic popular girls have in common is the ability to be relaxed around boys. They are frank, but never frantic, in their attitude that men are wonderful creatures.”

Some Boy Pet Peeves to Avoid (Supposedly Submitted by Male College Freshmen)

“Dresses that look as though they’d been painted on.”

“A raucous voice or sloppy speech.”

“Stance like a football player’s in a huddle.”

“Underwear straps that show.”

“Charm bracelets that clank so they drown out conversation.”  That must involve a huge charm bracelet and some really wild gesturing.

“Dresses with necklines that end slightly above the waist.”

“Eye make-up that’s so extreme a girl looks like a Chinese vase instead of a girl!”

Other Weird Words of Wisdom posts you might enjoy

Boring Beth and Sunshiny Sue Edition

A Million and One Tricks with a Strand of Pearls Edition

Crisp White Gloves Edition

Teen ‘Zine Scene: Co-Ed, December 1959

Welcome to a new feature that will occasionally substitute for my weekly series Weird Words of Wisdom.

Readers of that series know about my interest in the teenage experience–and especially in the messages that adults have provided to teens through the years. Fueled by this interest, I have amassed a collection of vintage advice books for teens, as well as vintage teen magazines. Today, we will explore one of these magazines.

Co-Ed is a publication we’ve encountered before. Published by Scholastic from 1957 to 1985, Co-Ed targeted girls in home economics classes–both “career girls and homemakers,” as the cover states.

This 1959 Christmas issue includes an out-of-this-world mid-century gift guide; lots of holiday food, decorating, and fashion ideas; and fearless predictions about the brave new world of 1980. All this and Gay Head, too!

So park your bird-car, get comfortable in your underground burrow, cozy up to your atomic brain, and let’s dive in to Christmas 1959. We’ll start with a closer look at this magazine’s cover. Perhaps we can glean some subtle clues about its original owner.

Predictions

As we approach a new year, we all reflect on the past and wonder about the future. In 1959, Co-Ed asked both girls and boys to envision the far-away world of 1980. (They couldn’t just ask girls. They didn’t want all the predictions to focus on fashion, beauty, and child care.)

Answers ranged from the modest but accurate (women will increasingly wear slacks instead of skirts) to the more inventive ones here:

  • “The home will no longer be recognized as a place where children are supposed to grow up. Instead, all children will be raised in institutions as wards of the state.”
  • “There will be no United States, or Russia, or England, in 1980. Instead, everyone will live underground in ‘Moleland.’ All the governments on Earth will unite, and a single government will rule our underground world. There will be no wars on (or rather inside) Earth, because everyone will be busy defending themselves against attacks from outer space.”
  • Instead of just watching a movie “in 1980, we’ll be able to smell and feel what’s going on in the movie, too. Seats will have metal bars on each arm rest. The moviegoer will grip these bars with his hands and ‘feel’ what’s happening in the through a series of mild electric shocks. The smells will be released into the air from little casings on the film strips.”
  • “In 1980, people will have a different type of house for every season. They’ll just pick up the telephone and order a house like they now order a blouse or a shirt from a department store.”
  • “School will probably be taught by electrically controlled robots instead of by human teachers.”
  • “People will spend their vacations on the moon or one of the planets.”
  • “Cars will probably be shaped like birds, and will travel so fast that they’ll seem to be flying. Women will be able to hop on an airplane in the morning, spend the day shopping in Paris, and make the return trip in time to cook supper!”
  • “When a person wants to move to another city in 1980, he’ll probably just have to push a button and his entire house will fold up. He’ll then pack it in his helicopter, hop in, and he’ll be on his way!”
  • “I read somewhere that a person will live longer if he works for three or four years, then has a vacation for the next year. Perhaps this will be the common practice by 1980.”
  • “Encyclopedias and reference books will not be needed in 1980, because every family will have its own atomic brain. If Johnny wants to know where Egypt is, he’ll just ask the brain.”

Okay, if you replace 1980 with 2000, and atomic brain with Internet, that last one was actually pretty good. Way to go, Michael O’Connor from Oakland, California!

Co-Ed’s editors made some predictions, too, about “fabrics of the future.” They envision chemical fibers “which will shrink or grow on the wearer, so there will be no need for clothing alterations.” They also imagine clothing that adjusts to the surrounding temperature, keeping the wearer comfortable in any environment. By what date do they anticipate these innovations being available? 1970!

Other tidbits in this issue

  • Co-Ed builds international awareness by introducing readers to Maria from the Austrian Tyrol. Sample wisdom: “Austrians love to eat and Maria is no exception.”
  • Household hint: “Slip plastic bags over your hands when shaping popcorn balls.”
  • Potential career path: “Beginning registered nurses earn $3,400 to $3,600 a year…some jobs include all or some meals; others include room and all meals.”
  • Hairstyling hint: If your face is heart-shaped, “wear your hair medium to long. Wear it smooth at the temples, on top, and at the cheek bones. Choose fluff below or behind the ears, but avoid fluff at the temples.”

We close our look at this magazine with the work of our favorite teenage advice columnist, Gay Head.

gay head

Weird Words of Wisdom: Boring Beth and Sunshiny Sue Edition

“Develop a grand passion for the humble hard-boiled egg.”

altkoAltogether Lovely, 1960
By Charlene Johnson

About This Book and Its Author: “Different!” this book’s dust jacket announces. “That is the word which best describes this book.”

I have to agree with that. The teenage advice book market has certain subsets. Religious books, especially those from an evangelical Christian perspective, are common. So are books that focus on beauty and fashion. Not many authors attempt to combine these two perspectives.

Charlene Johnson, though, was both a model and the wife of a budding minister. Knowing nothing more about her than what’s in this book, I can tell she brings a lot of enthusiasm (as measured by exclamation points) to both roles.

Johnson usually spends most of a chapter discussing beauty and personality, then shifts to spiritual life. These transitions can be abrupt. Consider this paragraph from the chapter on skin care:

“Interesting, isn’t it? To think of the glands, pores, body oils, eyes, brows, mouth, teeth and all. How wonderfully we are made! I have often wondered how any thinking person could ever be an atheist.”

The other thing I know about Johnson is that her adolescence must have been a lot different than mine. She calls the teenage years “the most sparkling, exciting years of your life.”

IMG_0003

Quotes from Altogether Lovely

“Everybody wants to be popular!”

“’Miss Popular Teen’ has that indescribable something known as personality. She sparkles! She’s alive!”

“(Overweight) is the biggest bar to good looks; the best looking outfit or hairdo in town just won’t look sharp on an overweight girl.”

When walking: “Keep smoothness and complete poise and regalness foremost in your mind.”

“Walk quietly, smoothly—like a bride.”

Really? Never? Even if you're at the supermarket, staring at the cereal selection or something?

Really? Never? Even if you’re at the supermarket, staring at the cereal selection or something?

“Notice people as they sit down. Observe the awkward contortions many people go through just to sit.”

Well...this one I can get behind.

Well…this one I can get behind.

On Lipstick: “Use light, bright shades. They are so much younger, so much prettier. A dark mouth is a hard mouth.”

“White gloves are a must with heels.”

Proper dress for church: “A teen-ager should always wear nylon stockings and probably French heels…A hat, white gloves and small pearl earrings are in excellent taste.”

“Parties, luncheons, and even teas are becoming a part of your social life; right?…I’m sure you know that such affairs are dressed-up occasions—meaning heels and white gloves.”

clap

By the way, Johnson’s seminary-student husband did the illustrations for this book.

Something you probably won’t see in a current advice book for evangelical Christian teens: “The pitter patter of the teenage heart—the heartbeats, the heartaches, the heartbreaks—they’re all thrillingly yours. Enjoy every wonderful minute of teenage romance. The dating period is one of the happiest, most captivating and important experiences of your lifetime.”

“If you were the boy, which girl would you rather spend time with: (1) Boring Beth—quiet, dull, uninteresting? or (2) Sunshiny Sue—full of vim, vigor, fun, and life?”

You ain’t seen nothing yet: “If I could only tell you girls how deeply concerned I am with the shocking divorce rate in our country.” The U.S. divorce rate doubled between 1960 and 1980. It has since declined slightly.

“Being a housewife is just about the most wonderful profession in all the world for any woman…The housewife is the very center of love and sunshine and kindness in the home.”

On husbands: “Don’t completely domesticate him. Certainly there are little things he will like to do: play with the kiddies, or flip pancakes, or do the ‘man’s work’ around the home. Let him offer to help you, he wishes; don’t ever insist.”

“When he comes home for the office, make him proud of you. Look lovely—your hair combed, your appearance neat, your lipstick on, a pretty smile, and a loving kiss. See that the children are clean and the house tidy. Have dinner ready. Make him whisper deep down inside every night, ‘There’s no place like home. How lucky I am.’”

The Six Basic Personality Types and What They Wear

Sweet and feminine:“This miss is usually small in stature, soft spoken, and fair.” She should wear full skirts, pastels, and flowers in her hair.

Sporty: These types should wear “tailored, tweedy clothes” and woodsy colognes.

Queenly: “A true lady.” She likes simple, elegant clothes “and is lost without her white gloves.”

Slightly Sophisticated: She is tall, slender and “likes extremes in fashion.”

Exotic: “She has a ‘different’ look about her, and dresses to dramatize that.”

Vivacious: Full of life and pep, she “has her own happy flare for individual clothes.”

An echo in here: On the subject of makeup, Johnson writes, “Young eyes need no enhancement. They have their own sparkle and fire.” This is oddly similar to the wording in another book we’ve looked at—Once Upon a Dream by Patti Page, also published in 1960. Page wrote, “If you’re young and healthy, your eyes have enough sparkle and fire without needing any ‘extra added attractions.’” I’m not sure what to make of this. Maybe young eyes having “sparkle and fire” was part of the zeitgeist in 1960.

Other Weird Words of Wisdom posts you might enjoy:

A Million and One Tricks with a Strand of Pearls Edition

The Five Types of People Who Go All the Way Edition

Crisp White Gloves Edition

Weird Words of Wisdom: A Million and One Tricks With a Strand of Pearls Edition

“If you don’t know what foods are fattening, ask your chubby friends, because they will know.”

This week’s offering in my Weird Words of Wisdom series will help you get your glamour on for upcoming holiday celebrations—or at least help you learn to stand like a model.

Betty Cornell’s Glamour Guide for Teens, 1951 (1958 printing)

About the Book: This 25-paperback, written by “famous model” Betty Cornell, purports to offer the secrets of beauty and popularity. Actually, it focuses mostly on grooming basics.

About the Author: Betty Cornell is not the pensive blond on the book’s front cover—she is the white-gloved brunette on the inset photos and the back cover. In the 1940s, she was one of the country’s busiest models of juniors’ fashions, but she actually got her start modeling plus-size clothes. She tells her own story in this book’s introduction—the story of how she went from a “tubby teen” to the possessor of “one of the smallest waistlines of any model in New York.”

At age 16, she decided to “really go to work” on her weight problem. By 1947, according to this syndicated newspaper column, she stood 5’ 8.5” tall and weighed only 90 pounds! (The article claims that her waist measured 19.5 inches, and her hips and bust were both 30 inches.)

It’s lucky that 1958 readers didn’t know her 1940s stats, or they might have raised skeptical eyebrows at all her cautions against starvation diets and overly dramatic weight loss.

In 1951, when this book was first published, Cornell had aged out of her career as a junior model. Writing books for teens was the start of a new career. Her other titles would include All About Boys, Betty Cornell’s Teenage Popularity Guide, and (more oddly) Betty Cornell’s Teenage Knitting Book.

In 1952, she married John Joseph “Jack” Huston of Philadelphia and went on to raise three children. Jack died in 2010, at which time Betty was still alive. In 1977, she was one of several former models interviewed for the book Eileen Ford’s Beauty Now and Forever: Secrets of Beauty after 35. Now that’s a book I’ve got to get my hands on!

The Basics of a High School Wardrobe, According to Betty Cornell

Several slips
Half-slips in nylon and cotton (“Cotton to starch for wear under summer skirts”)
Three or four bras
Panties (“Preferably shirred to give good curve control”)
Girdle
Two or three pairs of nylon stockings
White wool socks for sports
Colored socks to match sweaters and skirts
Assorted sweaters, both long- and short-sleeved. (“Pastel colors look pretty in short-sleeved pull-ons.”)
One good basic suit in a neutral color.
Skirts, both pleated and plain, in dark colors and plaids. (“Wool usually wears the best.”)
A raincoat.
A good basic coat, box cut or flare cut.
A dressy coat. (“Here you can take to fitted lines, for you will wear this coat with party dresses and well-cut fitted suits.”)
A party dress.
A formal.
Low-heeled school shoes.
Dress-up shoes. (With Cuban heel—in calf or suede.)
Evening slippers.
Warm gloves for school.
Dress-up gloves. (“A pair of white cottons, kept clean, will fill almost every bill.”)
A hat. (“For church and formal afternoon parties.”)

Sample Menus for Weight Control
Breakfast: Half a grapefruit, 1 poached egg on rye or whole wheat toast with small amount of butter, 1 glass of milk.
Lunch: Small container of cottage cheese, fresh fruit, any kind of lean meat sandwich, consommé, milk
Dinner:  1 glass of tomato juice, generous serving of broiled calf’s liver, serving of cooked carrots, tomato and lettuce salad with lemon juice, fruit Jello, milk.

The liver alone would do much to control my appetite.

Recommended Hairstyles, Based on Face Shape

Round Face: Smooth sides. “The simpler the hair style the better.”
Square Face: Should be short or shoulder-length, never chin-length. “A short bang or flip at the forehead is a flattering touch.”
Long and Narrow Face: Should always be wavy, never straight. “In-between lengths are the best.”
Heart-Shaped Face: “A soft bang at the forehead will help to mask the width.”
Pear-Shaped Face: “She should keep the interest to the top and have her hair at the bottom short enough to curl just slightly over the edges of the jaw.”
Oval Face: “The teen with the oval face may do as she pleases.” (Wow!)

Quotes from Betty Cornell’s Glamour Guide for Teens

“Often it is necessary to squeeze blackheads in order to force out the little plugs of dirt…After squeezing, rub the skin with ice cubes.”

“Beautiful hair is about the most important thing a girl has.”

“When it comes to shampooing your own hair, plan to save at least one night a week for the job. Most teens prefer Thursday night because it puts their hair in shape for the weekend.”

“As for making up your eyes, don’t. Young eyes need no enhancement.”

“To walk gracefully one must move the leg in one piece.”

“The next time you get up to dance, pull in those tummy muscles, tuck in your fanny, pull up your rib cage, and then dance. If you keep your arm lightly on your partner’s shoulder and your head high, you’ll look as light as a thistledown, be you five feet one or five feet eleven.”

“If you’ve ever watched a model in repose, you’ll notice that she stands with one foot at a right angle to the other, rather like a ballet dancer.”

“You should shave your legs at least once a week, and your underarms less often…”

Why every girl should wear a girdle: “Even a teen with a trim figure needs to coax her curves a bit when it comes to wearing slim skirts and slacks. To me there is nothing more repellent than a protruding fanny or a bulging tummy marring the outline of a narrow silhouette.”

“Get to be known for your sense of color or your sense of accessory. Be the girl who knows her way with a scarf or can do a million and one tricks with a strand of pearls.”

Weird Words of Wisdom: Betty Betz and Vintage Teen Etiquette That Rhymes Edition

This is the latest installment in my Weird Words of Wisdom series.

“As mother used to say, ‘Be pretty if you can, witty if you must—and pleasant if it kills you!’”

Your Manners are Showing: The Handbook of Teen-Age Know-How, 1946
By Betty Betz

About This Book: Your Manners are Showing differs from most vintage teenage advice books in one key way—it shows teens how to behave with copious illustrations by Betty Betz. Verses by Anne Clark accompany the pictures; in between the illustrations, Betz provides short chapters on topics ranging from money to “vice” (drinking and smoking). Etiquette in verse actually strikes me as a pretty handy aid for mastering tricky concepts, like who gets introduced to whom.

About the Author: Where do I begin? Betty Betz journeyed from Hammond, Indiana, prom queen to 1940s and ’50s queen of all media. She was a Midwestern swimming champion, and her high school classmates named her Most Popular Girl in their school of 1,800. She attended Sarah Lawrence College and earned a guest editorship at Mademoiselle, which became the first magazine to publish her drawings. She went on to work for Esquire and Harper’s Bazaar. Eventually, she began to specialize in teenagers, writing a syndicated advice column for them and publishing several books. Her illustrations of teenage life turned up on everything from stationery to scrapbooks to jewelry boxes.

She was married briefly to Josef Lanz, the Austrian fashion designer who popularized the dirndl dress, a 1940s teen wardrobe staple. His family owned Lanz of Salzburg, which still exists, producing mostly nightgowns.

In 1956, she married her second husband, Frank McMahon, whom Time described as an “oil-rich Calgary wheeler-dealer.” She raised two daughters and settled down into a life of charity work and Palm Beach socializing. Betz died in 2010.

Among the other highlights of her brief career:

  • She published comic book stories featuring “Dollface and Her Gang.” (Dollface’s best friend was named Bun Brain. Really.)
  • She marketed a line of teenage clothing that included a hideous but creative item called a blouse-slip. As a slip, you could lounge around in it at home. If company stopped by, you could wrap a skirt around yourself and be good to go.
  • She hosted a TV talk show that Billboard called “a routine and lifeless concoction, devoid of warmth or sincerity.”
  • She founded the Betty Betz Angels Club for her fans, who pledged “to show respect and consideration to everyone, regardless of race or color.”
  • She served as a Hearst correspondent during the Korean War, providing readers with insights like this one from July 29, 1951: “…what baffles me most of all is the fact that communist ‘wacs’ don’t care for perfume or lipstick.”
  • She published Manners for Moppets, an etiquette book for children, in 1962. At the time, her family shuttled among homes in Vancouver, New York City, and Palm Beach. “An English nanny and a private plane make commuting painless,” The Calgary Herald wrote. “Having complete wardrobes in each house so she doesn’t have to pack and unpack all the time and hiring temporary help for each house as she gets there are other time and trouble savers.” I’ll bet.

Weird Words of Wisdom from Betty Betz

For the most part, I’ll let Betz’ illustrations (and Clark’s verse) speak for themselves. I can’t resist including a few quotes, though.

On tipping: “At least ten percent of the total bill is a sufficient tip, but never leave less than ten cents per person.”

On saying goodnight: “There’s no excuse for a couple to stay out past midnight except for special parties, so make those good-nights short and sweet. Dawdling on the doorstep doesn’t get you anything but a razzing from the neighbors, and a black mark from the girl’s folks.”

On fashion for boys: “You’re no Percypants if you are particularly particular about which tie you wear with what suit, so give your clothes combos a little more thought…The best clothes for men are the traditional ones which never go out of style, so if (a salesman) tries to sell you Seabiscuit’s blanket for a sports jacket, tell him to give it back to the Indians.”

On shoes for boys: “If they’re scuffed with run down heels they label you right in the jerk department, so keep your booties laced and polished. When you buy shoes, get the strong and sturdy type which look more manly and last longer than the ‘cute and fancy’ styles. If it’s a dressup party, don’t wear your saddle shoes or moccasins, and never wear rubber soles for dancing.”

On fashion for girls: “If you think you can wear that dress three years from now and still adore it, it’s a good buy. But if it’s a poorly made ‘gag-rag,’ then don’t waste your money.”

On shoes for girls: “Exaggerated heelless or toeless siren sandals are downright unattractive on young legs, so avoid them.”

On girls’ accessories: “A neat purse, immaculate gloves, fresh handkerchiefs and simple, becoming hats are the classic equipment of fastidious and fascinating femmes.”

On where girls should turn for dating advice: “Say, your mother should know a little bit about it, since she managed to snare herself a pretty nice husband, and probably over some pretty high competition, too.”

Acceptable gifts for boys to give girls: Books, records, candy, flowers, a compact, or “your best photograph (unautographed, please).”

Acceptable gifts for girls to give boys: wallets, key chains, books, records, hand-knit socks, or “your prettiest picture.”

Traffic advice that cracks me up: When crossing streets, boys should walk on the side closest to traffic, “so that if there’s any mishap, he gets hit first.”

Wow! A Password?!: “There’s a password, ‘cabbage,’ which is used every time a boy doesn’t take the curb side of the sidewalk when he’s walking with one or more girls. Actually, there’s no need for a password, because every young man should automatically take the outside place without even thinking twice.”

On smoking: “If you like the taste of tobacco and your parents approve, there’s nothing harmful about smoking in moderation.

On drinking: “Light wines and beer are your best bet if you must drink something alcoholic. My favorite is a ‘Sherry Cobbler,” which sounds like a grownup drink, but actually is a plain lemonade with a little wine added.”

Recommended non-alcoholic drink if you want to appear to be drinking alcohol: A “Horse’s Neck”—ginger ale, with a slice of lemon peel.

On conversation: “My Mommy done told me that as long as I wasn’t really a brain-box, I should develop my ear for listening.”

And a final thought: “The trouble with etiquette books is that they’re like dentists…you never pay any attention to them until you’re in agony, and then often it’s too late.”

Read more Weird Words of Wisdom.

Weird Words of Wisdom: Crisp White Gloves Edition

“Above all, don’t arrive at the breakfast or dinner table, or go downtown shopping, with hair up and guard down. Boys (including fathers and brothers) should think that beauties are born, not made—even though all girls know better!”

The Co-Ed Book of Charm and Beauty, 1962 (1963 printing)

By the Editors of Co-Ed Magazine

About the Book: For the latest entry in my series on vintage advice books for teens, we turn to this Scholastic book club offering, chock full of advice for improving every aspect of a girl’s looks and personality. The fashion section makes me sad that I was born too late for hats and little white gloves, though I’m happy to live without girdles and curlers.

About the Authors: Scholastic published Co-Ed Magazine from 1957 to 1985. According to the New York Times, Co-Ed targeted girls in the home economics field. (Scholastic replaced the magazine with Choices, a classroom magazine for teens of both sexes, which still exists.) As we have seen in the past, Margaret Hauser edited Co-Ed Magazine for many years, and she and other Scholastic personnel often wrote advice books under the pseudonym Gay Head. It’s a shame they didn’t do so with this one—that name would make a lovely complement with the cover image.

Hair setting techniques, The Co-Ed Book of Charm and Beauty

Recommended Amount of Time to Devote to Bathing and Beauty Treatments: An hour each night, extended to two hours once a week and to three or four hours once a month for intensive maintenance.

Fashion Tips

“Short white gloves are never out of place, and there are many occasions when not to wear them would show a lack of good taste. Gloves are a ‘must’ at church, at weddings, and most really dress-up affairs.”

“A movie date, a stroll in the park, a casual gathering of your friends, or a shopping expedition should see you skirted casually, perhaps in the outfits you wear to school. A date that’s somewhat special, a church activity, concerts, the theater, and informal school dances call for a suit or that old stand-by, the basic dress…A basic dress takes to a hat, high heels, and crisp white gloves as well as to flat shoes and an all-purpose cardigan. It can go almost anywhere and be your Sunday best.”

“Special finery must be special all the way, from sparkling earrings and delicate bracelet to petite evening bag and satin, suede, or velvet slippers. Such grand occasions permit you to bare your neck and shoulders; to float in chiffon, taffeta, peau de soie, or fine cotton organdy; to wear a jeweled pin and stars in your eyes!”

“You’ll wear a hat to church, of course, but what’s the rule for other times? It’s good taste to wear a hat when traveling, on ‘downtown’ shopping trips, and whenever you know other women or girls will be wearing them.”

“When you’re within the walls of your home, don’t fall into the ‘nobody will see me’ rut. What about your family? What about the neighbors and store clerks who see you as you dash to the store on a last-minute errand for mother? They’ll view with horror, and remember with regret, the vision of you in pin curls, shirttail flying.”

Recommended at-home wear: Skirts or culottes, pants or Bermudas, with classic shirts or knit tops.

“On occasion, treat (your family) to the pleasure of seeing you in pretty separates or a dress at dinnertime—a ‘must’ if company is present.”

“Ankle socks or knee socks pair with sturdy school shoes, while you’ll want to wear nylons with soft ballet-type flats and little heels. Sneakers are for sports and after school.”

Make-up Tip: “A bit of petroleum jelly applied to eyelids, brows, and lashes, will make the eyes sparkle, lashes look longer, and brows stay neatly in place.” (I hate when my brows wander.)

Fragrance Recommendations by Personality Type

Single Floral: For girls who are “sweet, fragile, feminine.”

Floral Bouquet: For “the All-American girl, crazy for football and hi-fi, happy in the thick of things, always ready for fun.”

Spicy: For girls who are “alert, alive, mad for bright colors and songs with a beat.”

Woodsy-Mossy: For “the born athlete who lives in shorts and sweaters and delights in long walks in the rain.”

Oriental Blend: For “the intense, dramatic type of person who looks great in unusual jewelry, offbeat styles.”

Fruity: For “the quiet kind of girl who thinks more than she talks, enjoys soft music, serious books, daydreaming.” (I’m fruity, apparently.)

Modern Blend: Good if “you’re always on the go, always in the know, a clever girl with lots of zip and a wonderful sense of humor.”

Sample exercises

Clothes and Body Type:

“If you’re over five feet six inches tall and weigh 125 pounds or less, lucky you! You have the fashion model’s ideal figure.”
DOs for this type: Shirt-waist dresses, bold prints (including “coin-size polka dots”), large accessories.
DON’Ts: Too slim skirts, deep V necklines, vertical stripes.

Girls 5’6” and over, weighing “135 or thereabouts” (Anything higher than this is too terrible to contemplate, I guess)
DOs: Vertical and diagonal stripes, middy collars, cardigan tops, three-quarter sleeves, straight or gently flared skirts.
DON’Ts: Princess dress lines, pleated skirts.
“If you’re pining for a print, pick the ‘teeny-weeny’ polka dot, a calico, or baby-check ginghams.”

Girls 5’3” and under, weighing 105 or less
DOs: “The princess line, with its snug-fitting bodice and flared skirt,” straight sheaths, softly tailored suits, delicate buttons and jewelry, knife-pleated skirts.
DON’Ts: Bold-patterned prints, “suitcase-sized handbags.”

Girl 5’3” and under, weighing 115 or more
DOs: Skirts with “gentle gores or center pleats,” narrow self-belts, cardigan-topped outfits.
DON’Ts: Pencil-slim sheaths, ballooning skirts, deep V-necks, box pleats, overlong jackets, “giant trimmings.”

Sitting, Standing, and Walking Attractively

Sitting: “Try the S curve. Knees together (always—even when wearing shorts or slacks), place your thighs diagonally across the seat of the chair, your legs in the opposite direction, and cross your feet at the ankles.”

Standing: “Stand with correct posture, feet parallel. Step back with one foot and point that toe out at a forty-five degree angle. Keep the front foot straight, the heel a couple of inches away from the instep of the back foot, and turn your hips slightly toward the back foot (so that they present a slim line).”

Walking: “Beware of arms swinging, taking too long (or short) a stride, letting your chin lead and your derriere follow as it may…Your ‘bounce’ should be less than two inches…If you consciously let your fingertips brush your skirt as you walk, you’ll avoid that ‘swinging out’ look.”

Fearless Charm Inventory: The book includes inventories to help girls assess their charm levels. To the authors’ credit, they include prejudice, along with shyness and laziness, as a barrier to charm. The original owner of my book was not prejudiced or lazy, just shy.

Goody! Quizzes!: The book also includes quizzes on humor, tact, family interactions, and dating etiquette. Quizzes were always my favorite part of teen magazines. I think the wrong answers on the tact quiz may be a wee bit too obvious, though:

“I should have known you were sick because…”

a.)    You look so awful.

b.)    I missed seeing you around.

c.)    Sally’s been dating your boyfriend.

Final Fun Fact, Courtesy of the Authors: “The word grooming comes from gromet, an old French word meaning ‘servant’ or ‘assistant.’ Before you jump to the wrong conclusion, bridegroom comes from a combination of two Anglo-Saxon words: ‘bryd’ (bride) and ‘guma’ (man)!”