Who and What Is the Modern Girl (Nov, 1934)
Remember girls, follow all the tips in this article or you will end up like Bonnie. And really, who wants to be an immortal legend?
Who and What Is the Modern Girl
A Clear-Thinking Person with the Courage To Be Different and the Cleverness to Avoid Extremes
By Carol Cameron, Director, Department of Beauty Hygiene
THE history of the world proves that every age has had its modern young woman who has “given the current commentators and moralists sufficient reason to lift their eyebrows. As far back as the days of Ancient Greece, Aristotle, the philosopher who thought little of women in general though he chose to marry a second time, had quite a bit to say about the bold young daughters of Athens. Yesterday we were aroused by the scant dress and impertinent manners of the “flapper,” a type which has long since grown up and settled down into that complacent and highly respectable status known as the young matron. The flapper of today is in the minority. Pertness is no longer cute nor is it regarded as especially complimentary to be slapped on one’s back and labeled a “good egg.”
The modern young woman has realized for some time that clothes which bring out one’s latent glamor, as well as drawing discreet attention to one’s most attractive points, have much more possibility of allure than a too generous revelation of exposed surfaces, particularly so when those same exposed surfaces are in the process of recovery from the various disfigurations of insect bites and sunburn. She has also come to the conclusion that being charming to other people, in other words courteous to those older than she, more considerate of one’s own family, and a little more graciously aloof from the fresh boy next door, has certain advantages also.
Today’s young woman is a rather clear-thinking young person who has not only the courage to be individual but the cleverness not to run to extremes.
In appearance she is well-groomed and healthy – looking, alive and intelligent in her expression. She has a good figure because she knows the necessity of such a thing if she wants to do justice to her clothes and the advisability of it from the angle of her feminine appeal. Nobody is particularly attentive to a fat woman, and the recent trend of popularity of inviting curves in the right places have shown her the advantage of possessing slim, lithe lines and graceful roundness where such roundness is desirable. She is no longer eager to starve herself down to a one-dimensional figure, or to be able to boast that she can squeeze into a size twelve dress and display as much hips as a python, though nature unquestionably had other things in mind.
She has learned that many of the loveliest women of the world from the days of mythology down to our modern times have been women of queenly build and adequate dimensions. And with that knowledge came the realization that one’s contour, particularly so when one is of Junoesque dimensions, must be as pleasing when it is in motion as it is in repose.
Grace in carriage, grace in movement, are two attributes of charm to which the girl of today pays definite attention, with the result that many young women have won for themselves reputations of physical loveliness which neither their faces nor figures actually merit, but which they have practically hypnotized their audience into believing by the beautiful, proud manner in which they hold their heads and the superb way in which they move their bodies.
Facial perfection is no longer considered essential to a modern girl’s chances for fame, fortune and happiness. Today’s young woman uses her facial decoration with far more discretion and far more art than the girl of a decade ago.
Facial loveliness she has learned, curiously enough from the manufacturers of cosmetics themselves and the salons where their preparations are used and sold, is far more than a matter of surface decoration, requiring primarily a foundation of health that is a composite of good digestion, adequate elimination and sufficient rest and exercise, as well as pore-deep skin cleanliness. No modern girl would think of applying her rouge and powder over a dusty pore-clogged skin, containing traces of the old make-up. Nor would she be foolish enough to believe that a film of powder can cover up the ravages of late hours and careless diet, or that a lipstick can redeem a peevish, discontented mouth, or eyeshadow enhance eyes that are bitter with unhappiness or whose lovely light has been dulled with illness or fatigue.
The bright modern girl has, first of all, a habitually fresh-looking complexion. It makes no difference whether it has been sunkissed into that state of warm apricot or the golden brown of Laughing Water, or whether she has chosen to abide by her acustomed pink and white coloring or has had the amusing notion of appearing as a cool, pale, lily maid, her skin at all times is characterized by an appearance of radiant freshness which never loses its youthful appeal. To this lovely foundation, she adds, as occasion demands, discreet touches of make-up, applying them wisely, rather than too well, a film of the most exquisite powder she can afford, an accenting of her own lip color with pomade or lipstick in a shade that not only matches her own but one which she has learned by experience will not turn purplish several hours after its application. Her eyebrows she is clever enough to let alone except in the matter of training them to lie neatly and pulling out any stubborn or bristly hairs that persist in spoiling their nice, neat outline.
HER hair is worn any way that is most becoming and since the movies have an unmistakably determining effect upon our pictorial styles, the girls who think they look like Hepburn will encourage their lovely tresses to be directed forward in Edwardian ringlets, while the maidens who fancy that they bear a resemblance to Shearer will sweep their locks back in that windswept movement which resembles Diana facing an Olympic windstorm.
So much for physical appearance. The girl of today who is representative of bright, modern young womanhood is learning how to dress with more individuality than the girl of the past decade, but I’m sorry to confess that she has not yet learned to overcome her ambition to wear an accepted fashion, no matter how ugly, in favor of the type of clothes that will harmonize with her personality.
A Professor of Fine Arts in Columbia University who recently made a country-wide survey of women’s clothes, investigating what is being worn by all types and classes of women and why they select the things they do, comes forward with the statement that most members of the fair sex ignore the essential characteristics of clothes such as becomingness to the face and head rather than to the figure, as well as appropriateness to the individual temperament.
In her opinion, girls of today accept many unbecoming fashions and too often dress in displeasing manner because they lack the courage to refuse an ugly style if it has been received favorably by the people they admire and whose opinion they respect.
In the main, however, the girls of today are eager to dress with good taste and a certain amount of individuality. They like to wear dresses with good lines and youthful appeal, but with a certain amount of sophistication. No modern young woman would have any yen at all for the brevity of her flapper sister’s dresses or the smothering abundance of the gowns of the Victorian era.
She admires softness and daintiness and richness of material, in other words, that aura of femininity which makes certain fabrics seem destined for romance and happy endings. On the other hand she enjoys the crisp, winsome, little-girl appeal of her washable frocks that make her appear so fresh and dainty during the most wilting weather, as well as confident of the fact that picnic lunches, sudden showers, and long hours of travel can’t do one speck of damage which soap and water won’t repair.
I think perhaps that right there dwells one of the modern girl’s greatest claims to charm and individuality, her adaptability in clothes and mannersâ€” or perhaps instead of manners I should say behaviorismsâ€”to the time and the occasion.
She has learned how to be a grand lady, in the sense of being gracious and poised and serene at the time when such things are in order, and she can with equal spontaneity abandon her dignity and be as gay and carefree and mirthful as the occasion warrants. The reason for this is the fact that the intelligent young woman of today has learned the general advantage of forgetfulness of one’s self and consideration for others. In other words, she realizes that self-consciousness is a social liability, as well as being a tremendous handicap in practically every one of life’s contacts and must be overcome if she would appear and feel at her best.
Feeling at home with strange people or, for that matter, being at ease socially with those whom one actually knows, is largely a matter of habit plus the assurance that she is appearing well and the gratifying consciousness that she has done a few or many things with creditable success. Few girls of today lack the ability to excel in sports, dancing or one or many of the various arts. The clever girl refuses to extend her talent too much in one direction, however, believing that the more she can round out her individuality the greater are her chances for social success.
NO LONGER do we hear of young women proficient in tennis, swimming, or any one of a half dozen other outdoor pursuits, who shudder at the thought of appearing in an unmistakably feminine frock on a ballroom floor. Your tennis champion by day will be adorable tonight in a tulle and garlanded evening gown listening to some attentive youth whispering sweet nothings about her delicacy and charm. Your long-distance swimmer can be the most gracious hostess in the world in a trailing teagown that gives her wiry young body the most exquisite femininity. The young girl who swings a golf club with amazing proficiency will suddenly surprise you with her flair for music. The clear-eyed young goddess whose airplane defies an angry storm to wrest it from life and safety, will tell you calmly how much she loves to cook and make her own clothes. It all goes to show that your up-to-date young person is more or less a composite of several individualities, each one of which has achieved a worth-while attitude toward what it expects from life and how much it is willing to do for life in return.
Very few modern girls take it for granted that they will be pampered and sheltered because they have conferred an honor on the world by the simple act of being born. The average intelligent, fair-minded young person expects a great deal of life but she expects to acquire it by her own efforts and to have a perfectly grand time in the process of attaining it. A girl is considered a back number today who chooses to sit at home and wheedle more money and favors from papa if there is any way in the world by which she can secure such things for herself and at the same time prove to her family, her friends, and occasionally the world in general, that she’s as smart as she’s good-looking.
I recently read an interesting and decidedly optimistic article about our modern young people that is probably making the old meanie, Aristotle, settle more comfortably in his grave, for the writer believes, and with every evidence for his belief, that faced with every sort of discouraging economic problem with its resultant dampening of one’s romantic expectationsâ€”not to mention prospectsâ€”the young woman of today is still bound more than she knows or will admit by the moral code of her father and mother. It colors her actions as well as her thoughts, the writer states, and often she will allow it to decide a momentous question for her against her own will.
This observation, made by a man who knows what he is talking about, should present a rosier aspect of the wideawake and intelligent modern young woman in her relation to the moral standards and behaviorisms of the day.
For when all is said and done, isn’t the modern girl, like everyone else, really characterized by her choice of two active patterns of life, a destructive or a constructive one, or as a substitute the negative pattern of doing nothing, leaving no imprint of herself upon the lives and remembrance of those about her and nothing significant or worth while that can be used as an example by those who follow after her?
It is not difficult to trace among our modern girls those who have carved out special little niches for themselves in the hall of fame of feminine accomplishment. We have our young sportswomen, writers, actresses, designers, radio artists, sculptors, many of whom are way below the age of twenty-five.
We have our youthful business women too, whose charm and femininity have never been allowed to cloud their executive ability. These young persons have chosen what I might term the constructive pattern of life. Allied with them are an army of winsome, eager, contented young home-makers, school teachers, office workers, each of whom in her unobtrusive way is building something worth while and creditable to her individual ability. Of such as these come the happy wives, the wise and gentle mothers of tomorrow!
Down in Louisiana recently, a slim, red-headed girl died with a machine gun between her knees, her bright young face stained with her own life blood, her crumpled body riddled with bullets, her lover and partner in crime slumped down beside her.
For Bonnie, it was the last chapter in the life of a modern girl who had chosen deliberatelyâ€”the destructive pattern!