Who is Miss Abigail?

Abigail Grotke
Silver Spring, MD
email: missabigail at missabigail dot com
twitter: @DearMissAbigail

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About

Miss Abigail has a collection of over 1,000 classic advice books, spanning from 1822 to 1978 and covering a variety of topics, from love and romance to etiquette and charm. The collection sparked the idea for this site, then a book, Miss Abigail's Guide to Dating, Mating, and Marriage, which has inspired an off-broadway production of the same name!

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Archive for September, 2011

The Most Dire Female Crimes in Looks and Dress (1959)

Monday, September 26th, 2011

One of the books that fell off my shelf during the “The Big Mineral, Virginia, Earthquake of 2011” was a paperback titled McCall’s Guide to Teen-Age Beauty and Glamour, written by Betsy Keiffer. My version is from 1959 and claims to provide “the sure-fire way to become the most charming, poised and popular girl in your set.” Oh boy!

I decided to flip through before reshelving, and stumbled across these fantastic tips for teen girls, from a chapter titled “The Boys in Your Life.” Seems those boys are very particular about what qualities a girl must have to make them like her. I now see what I must have been doing wrong all those years of being single. It was my sloppiness!

"Besides being clannish and conservative, these maddening males are also keen-eyed as hawks. If you don’t believe me, listen to these gripes aired by a group of college freshmen. Asked what they considered the most dire crimes in looks and dress, they unhesitatingly came up with:

  • Make-up so heavy it comes off on a boy’s jacket at a dance.
  • Eye make-up that’s so extreme a girl looks like a Chinese vase instead of a girl!
  • Smeary lipstick. It’s disgusting to see it all over coffee cups and napkins.
  • Fingernails that belong on the bride of Fu Manchu.
  • Dresses that look as though they’d been painted on.
  • Dresses with necklines that end slightly above the waist.
  • Dresses that may be right in style but aren’t becoming.
  • A get-up that would look great at Buckingham Palace ~ when the date’s informal.
  • Not knowing the difference between casual and rumpled (Ouch! That one really hurt.)
  • Charm bracelets that clank so they drown out conversation.
  • Jewelry so blinding a guy needs dark glasses.
  • A raucous voice or sloppy speech.
  • Stance like a football player’s in a huddle.
  • Sloppiness! And this was echoed with such shaming particulars as:
    • Chipped nail polish
    • Underwear straps that show
    • Wrinkled stockings
    • Unshaven legs
    • Grubby handkerchiefs
    • Stains on dresses
    • Unsightly feet

I guess that makes it pretty clear that boys don’t miss a trick when it comes to a girl’s appearance. So never let that look of sleepy indifference lull you into carelessness about the impression you make. Besides making it very clear what boys object to, this awesome list can show you what boys like. Read it again, and a picture of the girl whose appearance they admire should also be clear. She is neat, she is sweet, she is clean, and perhaps most important, she is understated (to borrow that favorite fashion word), not only in her dress but in her make-up, her accessories and her manner. "

In case you are wondering, that “ouch” statement is actually part of the original text.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Personal Hygiene for Young Women and Men (1920s)

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

For my day job, I work at the Library of Congress helping archive the Internet, and I don’t often get to see the physical stuff in our collections. So when a colleague tipped me off to some amazing films from the 1920s that had apparently been in our nitrate vault and scored by another colleague, I was really excited! These predecessors to the health and hygiene films of the 1950s are fantastic. I posted these over on Facebook but they deserve a more permanent blog post, so here you are:

First up is one for the men:

 

And even better, one for the young ladies:

 

Enjoy!