Looking beautiful in the 1950s must have been a full-time job for a woman. Even at night there was no let-up. You were advised to sleep with an elasticated band tied ‘fairly tightly’ under your chin and knotted on top of the head (to prevent a double chin), to don bed socks and cotton gloves (so the creams smeared on your feet and hands would not mark the bedlinen), and to brush your eyelashes with rum and castor oil before retiring. All this – and more – I have gleaned from a yellowing edition of The Penguin Book of Health and Beauty Recipes, by Olga Golbæk, with the most delightful illustrations by Jennifer Rope. Originally published in Denmark, this English translation was issued in 1957 as a Penguin Handbook (PH25), when it cost half a crown, or 2/6 – that’s 25p for those of you who are too young to know about ‘old’ money.
|Tying an elasticated band around the head to prevent a double chin|
There’s also a pretty worrying ‘apple-a-day diet’ which seems to .involve eating nothing but grated apple for an entire week, which is not to be recommended, because crash diets are not good for you. In the dim and distant past I once tried an egg and grapefruit diet, and another time I attempted to only eat bananas for seven days: on both occasions I felt very ill indeed, and the weight I lost went back on within 24 hours as soon as I resumed normal eating. There was also a wine diet, about which the less said the better. Suffice to say I have never been fond of wine since then…
|A facial compress is made from layers of gauze soaked in infusions.|
There’s an amazing remedy for corns, where you to soak thin slices of onion and two slices of white bread in vinegar for 24 hours, then put the bread and the onions on the corns and wrap gauze round them. “By next day the pain will have gone and the corns be ready to be removed,” writes Golbæk, adding: “Sleep in socks to avoid soiling the sheets.” Would it were that easy! To help soften and sooth sore feet she recommends soaking them in a ‘soft porridge’ of oatmeal and lemon juice, then massaging them with camphor oil – just imagine how bad that would smell!
|Women were urged to wash their eyes twice a day, using
Surprisingly, some recommendations are for things that have once again become popular, like massage rollers for the back, and juicing fruit and vegetables. Instructions for exercises are very sound, and the tips on cleansing and moisturising skin are also sensible, but the whole thing seems to be taken to excess. There are exercises, routines and preparations for every part of the body: elbows must be scrubbed and soaked to keep them soft and white, ankles massaged with special creams to stop them thickening, and the bust splashed with cold water after a bath.
|Elbows had to be scrubbed and soaked once a week.|