Advice For "Ugly Girls" From An 1870s Magazine
“There’s nothing like housework for a good figure!”
In the late1800s, Harper’s Bazar was a popular magazine for women. It was a fashion magazine that looked like a tabloid and came out weekly.
Omg, the opportunities for women writers!
Harper & Brothers were publishers who published books and periodicals (magazines for men) about the arts, science, and politics.
This one was just for women. The first issue came out in 1867.
And they needed writers.
It was a *very* forward thinking magazine…
Harper’s were about empowering women. They ran articles about access to education and better career options for women. It was the first magazine to support suffrage and votes for women.
“Women who have to spend their days consumed with nothing but tending husbands, children and domestic affairs are trapped in absolute bondage.”
~Harper’s Bazar, August 1871
Harper’s was forward thinking. Society wasn’t.
Excerpts from “The Ugly Girl Papers”
The reality was that women buying the magazine wanted to be beautiful and marry well — or they wanted that for their daughters. So when a writer pitched a beauty column, they said they’d try it. Just for a couple of issues. See how it goes.
It went wild. Readers loved it. They even wrote in with their beauty problems.
And so “a couple of articles” became a regular column.
The column was called “The Ugly Girl Papers” — filled with advice for how not to be an ugly girl. And how to get a man. All the stuff women wanted to know.
1. Don’t wait until it’s too late!
Omg, mothers — don’t wait. Puberty is too late. Start teaching your daughters early. As soon as the baby fat is gone. Because egads, the “developing” stage of girls is ugly. Start. Start now!
The work must begin early. A girls should be put in training as soon as she passes from the plumpness of childhood into the ugly age of development
2. Women aren’t depraved, we’re just born that way!
The world (men) thought women were depraved. All that crazy excitement one minute and dreadful whining the next surely seemed depraved to men. Nope. Sorry. Stop calling it depravity. It’s nature. We’re just born that way.Sigh.
There is a time when girls are awkward, indolent, and capricious. Their boisterous spirits at one time, their sickly minauderies at another, are very trying to mothers and teachers. The cause is often set down as depravity, when it is only nature
3. We’re not lazy, we’re weak.
I have no idea what lapsided means, but it doesn’t sound good. Worry not , it’s not because we’re lazy. It’s because we’re weak. Big difference. Get that straight, okay?!
Girls are lapsided and indolent because they are weak or languid, between which and being lazy there is a vast difference.
4. Being a woman is tiring…
Children have lots of energy. As soon as we’re not little girls anymore — zap. No energy. But it’s okay. Sitz baths will help. Into the bath she goes! Which explains an awful lot about the water dunking at sanitariums.
Languid girls should take cool sitz-baths to strengthen the muscles of the back and hips, which are more than ordinarily susceptible of fatigue when childhood is over.
5. Don’t talk about feelings!
Yes, we know girls have feelings. Too many for the comfort of polite society. Good god, don’t talk about them in front of her and don’t let her dwell on them forcripesakes. It’s very bad for her. Both physically and mentally.
But never talk of a girl’s feelings in mind or body before her, or suffer her to dwell on them. The effect is bad physically and mentally.
6. If she doesn’t have boobs, lungs will do…
Ever heard a man look at a woman and say she’s got a nice set of pipes? Guess where that came from! Yup. Apparently girls should sing the scales with their corsets off. It will give her a good set of “pipes” even if her boobies are small.
Singing scales with corsets off, shoulders thrown back, lungs deeply inflated, mouth wide open, and breath held, is the best tuition for insuring that fullness to the upper part of the chest which gives majesty to a figure even when the bust is meagre.
7. Curvy, but slender, dear. Men don’t like over-ripe pears!
Unmarried woman aren’t supposed to have big breasts. It’s not admirable. (Said no single man, ever.) lol. Breasts are supposed to “pop out” once you find a man. Unmarried girls are supposed to be curvy, but slender.
A low, deep bosom, rather than a bold one, is a sign of grace in a full-grown woman, and a full bust is hardly admirable in an un-married girl. Her figure should be all curves, but slender, promising a fuller beauty when maturity is reached. One is not fond of over-ripe pears.
8. Housecleaning is good for the figure, sweetie.
If you want a good figure, you need to throw quoits or do housework. Quoits are ring toss, if you didn’t know. Iron rings you toss onto a pole. Anyone want to play ring toss?
Throwing quoits and sweeping are good exercises to develop the arms. There is nothing like 3 hours of house-work a day for giving a woman a good figure, and if she sleep in tight cosmetic gloves, she need not fear her hands will be spoiled.
9. Don’t look like a washerwoman!
If you’re not one of the wealthy with maids and you actually do chores — you don’t have to look like it. Just fill a pair of gloves with wet brain or oatmeal and shove your hands in there. Before bed. Don’t forget to tie them at the wrist. And when you’re saying your prayers before bed, pray your gloves don’t leak. Gross.
One of the best ways to make the hands soft and white is to wear at light large mittens of cloth filled with wet bran or oatmeal;, and tied closely at the wrist.
10. Acid makes a great skin peel!
Warning! Only do this when you can hide from the world for an entire week. Then, mix one part muriatic acid with 12 parts of water and wash your face with it. You’re going to blister. Bad! But when you heal, your complexion will be lovely. All that fresh skin, because you burned yours off. Good gawd! What was wrong with them?
muriatic acid, sixty per cent strong, diluted in twelve parts of water, might be used as a wash, and gradually eat away the course outer envelope of the skin, if any one had the fortitude to bear a slow cautery like this. Lady Mary records that she had to shut herself up most of a week, and her face meantime was blistered shockingly; but afterward the Italian ladies assured her that her complexion was vastly improved.
11. Don’t forget the décolletage, darling.
We all love plunging necklines. But honey, not with flabby flesh. Boil 4 egg whites in rose-water and add a few grains of alum. Beat until thick. Yes, it will be like custard. It IS custard. Spread it all over the top of your chest and shoulders. Then wrap yourself in old linen and go to bed. Firms the flab. Honest. I saw it in a magazine.
A paste for the skin of the shoulders and arms is made from the whites of four eggs, boiled in rose-water, with the addition of a grain or two of alum, beaten till thick. Spread this on the skin and cover with old linen. Wear it overnight
12. Sexy French-girl hair is easy, too…
You want to be sexy, why not have sexy dark hair. It’s all the fashion in France. 4 ounces of wax melted in 9 ounces olive oil. Then add burned cork. You should have lots of cork from all the wine you drink just to exist. Mix the burned cork into the oil and wax. Then comb it through your hair. Do not use a curling iron afterwards, okay? Wax and oil are flammable.
The best dye is this French recipe, which is seen to be harmless at a glance: Melt together, in a bowl set in boiling water, four ounces of white wax in nine ounces of olive-oil, stirring in, when melted and mixed, two ounces of burned cork…
13. In case you burn your eyebrows off…
Dresses were flammable. So, if you lived through an unfortunate dress fire and made it out alive but without eyebrows, it’s okay. Just put some quinine in alcohol and brush it where your eyebrows used to be. But not too often. Quinine has nasty side effects. Like, blurred vision, confusion, diarrhea, and hearing loss. Not even kidding.
For causing the eyebrows to grow when lost by fire, use the sulphate of quinine — five grains in an ounce of alcohol
14. Beauty is your duty, honey.
Beauty is hard. I get it. Know what’s harder? Being the ugly girl. Jealousy corrodes your heart, so suck it up and do the things. Read the column. Take the advice. Mind your business — and your business is to be beautiful. Beauty is your duty!
The loveliness of a rival eats into a girl’s heart like corrosion; every fair curling hair, every grace of outline, is traced in lines of fire on the mind of the plainer one, and reproduced with microscopic fidelity. It is a woman’s business to be beautiful.
15. Last but not least, never stop looking for love
Love will give vitality to your face even when you’re an old hag. Which is 26 or 36, depending who you ask. Love makes ugly girls pretty. Never stop looking. Ever.
Let women, if they would remain charming, by all means keep their hold on love, their faith in romance. The power of feeling gives vitality and interest to faces long after their first flush has passed. Speaking as a matter of fact, this is the case, for emotion has a livelier power than the sun has over the blood and the miracle of love in making a plain girl pretty is explained by the stimulating effects of happiness on the circulation.
So popular, the writer got a book contract…
Omg, women loved that column. It was so popular that Harpers offered the writer a book contract. Her first published book!
I can’t even get mad at the woman who wrote all that stuff. It’s not her fault. Apparently, we’re born that way.
It's hard to believe young women lived to be 20.