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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Beauty and Charm Archive

Sears Charm School Binder Available!

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

A message to all of the Sears Charm School attendees desperate to find a copy of the binder: Anne wrote to say that her school is doing a fundraiser for their library and auctioning off a Sears Charm School binder on eBay. “This was donated by one of our patrons, and the money raised from selling this book will help keep our library open, so you’re benefiting a charity too.” I asked what year it was, and this is what she had to say: “The back of the book says Copyright 1965, but I can’t be sure if that’s the year it came out.”

I know many of you are interested in this. Let’s raise some money for the library!

What’s Your Charm Rating? (1955)

Monday, April 9th, 2012

So here’s how things go around here somedays. Yesterday I thought about doing an Easter post, and then got distracted by the lovely D.C. weather and went to the National Arboretum with some friends instead. Then I meant to do the post last night, but ended up watching the toe-tapping movie Easter Parade on TV instead.

By the time I got around to doing this post this evening, Easter was way over and the game I was going to share with you, which involved tying strings to the ends of lilies and winding the strings around the house, with each guest following the path to find a candy Easter egg or little holiday trinkets (remember the “cobweb string game“? Like that!), seemed old news and a bit dull.

So I turned around in my office chair, plucked Figure Correction and Beauty for You, by Virginia Fallon, off my shelf, and found this instead! Much more fun! I hope you enjoy. Next time I’ll quote from the following chapter, which is about “Spring Cleaning” yourself. Fits well given my recent bathroom renovation to include a deep tub.

"How can charm be measured? It is an indefinable something, and allure, difficult to capture artificially. If you try to force yourself into some pattern, you are in danger of becoming stilted and affected.

Many a girl has fallen into this trap. Aping the manners of some favourite film star, putting on a phoney accent, either American or British, trying to assume a suave sophistication, she grates on the nerves, becoming as awkward and tiring as a sore thumb.

For charm, above everything, must be natural. It must flow from an inner sincerity. There are a million imitation film stars ~ the advertisements of the cosmetic manufacturers seem to cater specially for them ~ but there is only one YOU.

YOU are different from anyone else in the world, from anyone who has ever lived, and from anyone yet to come. Reduce the body and mind to a parcel of chemicals and perhaps there isn’t much difference between people, but somehow in the way those chemicals have been mingled and built up, a new inimitable something has been created.

Give your individuality full play. Make the most of that difference. Concentrate on being YOURSELF.

A recent survey of over 1,000,000 American women conducted by the research department of a well-known University listed the following factors of feminine charm. Points are scored out of one hundred. Check your score against it and see how you rate.

Figure… 15 points
Personality… 12 points
Voice… 12 points
Posture… 10 points
Health…10 points
Skin… 8 points
Eyes… 8 points
Hair… 7 points
Teeth… 6 points
Intelligence… 6 points
Hands… 4 points
Dress… 2 points

I must confess that there are several surprises among the ratings. Intelligence is put extremely low, but I suppose it only goes to prove that University Dons, like other men, prefer a woman to have a good figure, with beauty of face and complexion rather than a bluestocking outlook.

Dress does not appear as high in the list as many people might imagine, but it is true that a woman can be charming and attractive without wearing Paris creations, whereas many women in the latest Dior gowns are far from attractive.

Important to notice is the high placing of that magic quality ‘personality’ and also that voice, posture and health come well up in the list. Why not check your rating against the charm list, and then go about improving your weak points till you score 100 per cent."

Now, Miss Abigail must confess that she was a bit confused about how to go about rating oneself. If I have a figure and skin, does that count for something? Or do my eyes and teeth have to be most excellent (by what standards, do tell?) to give me all the points I need? If you figure it out, let me know your score!

Glove Personalities (1961)

Saturday, March 24th, 2012

One of my more popular posts on this site has been one I did many years ago on glove etiquette. I recently (re)found in my piles of smaller thinner books the pamphlet that this came from, and thought it would be fun to share another excerpt. Gloves: Fashion & Etiquette was published in 1961 by the Hansen Glove Corporation.

I can just imagine the personalities of some of the gloves that they manufactured!

"…sometimes it’s the way a glove falls into folds that says ‘elegance’

…sometimes the very opposite creates the effect ~ a short snappy jauntiness like the flip of the wrist

…sometimes it’s what a glove is made of that suggests its role: narrow-wale corduroy to point up fashionable tweeds or country-life leathers; doeskin in pale colours with the look of thick Devonshire cream for pure luxury; jersey for a sophisticated teaming with coats or suits with bracelet sleeves; string gloves in colours or combined with leather for a made-to-order air; a polka-dot cotton for a smart young thing; a hand-embroadered floral, frankly feminine

…it may be the season of the year or the time of day that is immediately associated with the picture of the glove you were wearing on that very important occasion

…and because gloves do have personalities of their own, many women make a certain kind of glove a fashion signature … a fashion editor who keeps several pairs of pale chamois gloves in her desk drawer so that she always seems to be wearing a fresh pair … the best-dressed woman who wears nothing but white kid … the collector of handsome accessories whose glove plan spotlights fabric gloves because they offer such a variety of textures, colors, patterns "

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Icicles (1955)

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011

teen-age glamorWhat else is there do to do on a sweltering summer day but to stay inside and blog about it? Here are some summertime tips from a book called Teen-Age Glamor, written by Adah Broadbent in 1955. These could come in handy on a day like today:

"When the sun is at its zenith, and the days are at their warmest, sunlight fashions and perfect grooming transform you into a summer charmer. This immaculately crisp and cool appearance is worth capturing, so make it yours.

Never, never gasp and sigh about the heat. When the others do ~ and they will ~ you talk about something else. Any yen for arguments is controlled. Why cause your circulation to hurry?

Don’t slump, don’t collapse like a broken accordion in the nearest swing. No one is interested in seeing you go to pieces except Dennis the Menace. Swing, and sip your iced drinks, but there’s sugar in those; the more calories, the more heat your body generates. Icy drinks also interfere with the body’s normal temperature-regulating action. Cold drinks poured incessantly into your stomach are dangerous.

Eat and chatter, but don’t lie around in that swing all day while the others groan, “It’s too hot to lift an eyelash.” Get up and move around and you are cooler.

Summertime fun

Doing things in hot weather make staying dainty a problem. Bathe and shower more often;  a lukewarm shower leaves you cooler than a cold one, which increases the circulation. Pat, don’t rub dry, sprinkle talcum here and there, or spray refreshing cologne over yourself with a lavish hand. These luxuries give that fresh-as-a-daisy feeling which you intend to keep ~ at least for awhile.

Anti-persperants and deodorants are your aids. The liquid kind seems to be the surest safeguard. Make it a habit to use an anti-persperant or deodorant every night, because if it is used in the daytime any moving about may start you perspiring, and the effectiveness is washed away.

Summer clothes are made from many different fabrics, all of them was like a breeze and some need no ironing. The coolest and airiest fabrics are voile, sheer handkerchief linen, breezy batiste, and eyelet cottons; let them be crisp, not clingy.

Some colors give a feeling of coolness, as an icy blue and a pale green. Poppy and nasturtium colors are flattering to many girls, but when the weather is muggy, as well as hot, use those colors seldom.

Here’s fun to you on hot sunny days!"

 

Stay cool, everyone! I’m headed to the pool to sip cool (but not too cold, drinks) this afternoon. I promise not to complain about the heat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Personality: How to Exert It (1915)

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

“Personality is defined as the qualities or characteristics, personal traits or attributes peculiar to some individual. Specifically, it is that quality which sustains poise through self-control in the face of propitious or unpropitious circumstances,” asserts the preface of H. Laurent’s Personality: How to Build It, which I picked up in Austin last weekend. Do you need to go look up propitious? It’s okay, take your time. I don’t think that word’s been used much lately, except maybe in the National Spelling Bee.

This chapter, titled “Personality: How to Exert It” seemed to be a good one to excerpt for the blog. I found the part on “learn to judge everything for yourself” fitting, given the recent hullabaloo over a certain trial in Florida and some jurors, who were no doubt trying to just do the job they were asked to do, despite the media frenzy.

"In everything, even in the smallest things, get the habit of acting for yourself, without following either the example or the advice you have received. Change them according to your own judgment. Make a style of your own. Do not imitate. It is by imitating that everything original is oneself.

No one in the world is exactly like another. The Creator fashioned us all after a different model. It is ourselves who, by some deplorable turn of our character, have made ourselves all about the same. Follow the laws of nature. Live your own life.

The first thing to avoid is that chronic and contagious folly, fashion, which changes our habits, our thoughts, our body and our life. Accept it only in reasonable form, follow it from a distance and under the least enslaving form.

Conserve your innate originality. Don’t be dragged into tastes which are not your own. Defend yourself against any characteristic of others. Learn to judge everything for yourself without being the perfect repeater of the judgments of others.

It is better to be paradoxical than void of all personality. For there is alway time afterward to correct one’s judgment according to the truth or justice. It gives the mind a chance to work independently, without any help from the brains of others.

Accustom yourself as soon as possible to analytical study. Carefully cultivate your intellect, make things clear to yourself, appraise at its own value what you know well and compare your analyses, your judgments with those already made. Learn to like the unexpected, the new, avoid routine. Be bold, go on ahead. Personality and originality avoid everything that is commonplace.

Practice patience also, kindness to others and will-power. Having developed personality, remember that it should be asserted, and that this exercise is the most difficult part of your task. It depends solely on yourself. Little by little acquire the necessary forces to affirm it."

Recent Acquisition: The Answer Book on Naval Social Customs (1956)

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

Naval Social Customs Yesterday a package arrived at the door: a book titled The Answer Book on Naval Social Customs, sent by the mother of a friend who wrote a week or so ago asking if I’d like it for the collection. She said: “It is a first edition, Jan 1956, Military Service Publishing Company.  What a kick!  These were the norms in place when I was dating young Naval officers in San Diego in the late 50’s and early 60’s.  I found it in a Dollar a Bag sale at the library in Bandon, OR.” My kind of book! Of course I said I’d take it. This will go quite nicely with What Every Army Wife Should Know.

In case you need any tips for what to do on a naval ship, here are some excerpts from a section titles “Going Aboard Ship”:

"One of the privileges a Navy wife enjoys is that of visiting her husband aboard ship. She should remember that she is a guest and a civilian, that she is a visitor where work and ship’s routine are being carried out, and that she is not at a social club. The ship is home to the officers on board. Therefore she should be careful not to wear out her welcome.

When may you expect to be invited aboard ship?

Usually when your husband has the duty and will have free time to spend with you. This will generally be for the evening meal, followed frequently by attendance at the ship’s movie. You and your husband may be invited aboard other ships by his fellow officers.

What do you wear when going aboard ship?

If you are a dinner guest or go aboard for a visit, wear a simple afternoon dress or suit and gloves. Wear a hat if suitable with your costume. Extremely high heels or wedge shoes are not advisable as they make getting in and out of boats, climbing gangways, and walking on board ship difficult. Take a wrap if you expect to attend the movie. Panties are a must. Skirts should be neither too tight nor too full. Carry a purse with an arm strap or handle so that your hands will be free when you go up and down the ladders. It is not advisable to carry packages as they will interfere with boarding a ship.

Miscellaneous information on conduct aboard a ship.

You should not go aboard a ship without an invitation.

You should not wander about a ship unescorted.

It is against regulations to serve intoxicants aboard ship.

Do not take a camera aboard ship.

Do not take a pet aboard ship.

An officer’s wife or guest should not ask any of the ship’s personnel to perform a service for her. They are on assigned duty and are not there for her convenience. A wife should remember that she is not in the Navy."

Sears Discovery Charm School Book Teaser: Ideal Body of the 70s

Friday, May 6th, 2011

Ideal Body of the 70sTo whet my reader’s continued appetite for excerpts from my copy of the Sears Discover Charm School book, I’ve scanned in this “fun with graphic design” page from the notebook’s section on Fashion. You’ll have to wait a bit for more from this section; I’ve been so busy and am I’m headed out of the country in a few hours on a work trip. I desperately wanted to give you something in the meantime though. I hope you enjoy!

 

Sears Discovery Charm School: Exercise

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

Peggy Flemming

Per Lynette’s suggestion, Part II of my series on excerpts from the Sears Discover Charm School book (ca. 1972 version) will focus on exercise. This chapter features none other than Olympic skater Peggy Flemming!

Peggy, take it away:

~~

A smooth flowing body. A tingle. A good feeling all over. A scrumptious look. A healthy body. There’s an endless list of good things that happen to you through exercise. It should be enough to make everyone head for the nearest pair of sneakers each morning. But it isn’t. A lot of people still manage to avoid exercise. Mostly because they’re not quite sure about what they should do. And they never get to the point where exercising becomes a regular part of their day. That’s where they get stuck. Here’s how to switch things around  and get unstuck. Here’s how you get going.

The first thing to do is to set aside a certain time of the day…every day…for exercise. Be a wildcat about staying with it. You might find the morning a good time because it can become part of your getting-up routine like brushing your teeth, showering and putting yourself together.

There are many different ways to exercise. Walking, bike riding, swimming, things like that are all good. And very important. But there are other exercises that are equally important. Exercises designed to zero in on certain parts of the body. These are the streamliners. They not only work for a firmer and more supple you, they also give you the kind of physical awareness that shows through when you stand or walk or move.

If you’re planning a career in modeling or fashion or as a performer, these are particularly important for you since your physical appearance is so much a part of your work.

You might recognize some of these streamliners as looking like the exercises done in a ballet class. And you’d be right. I’ve put them into this program because I feel that ballet is probably one of the best ways to reach the hard-to-get-to muscles. The ones that don’t ordinarily get worked on in other kinds of exercise. They make for that smooth and firm look and help you move easily and naturally. That’s what we’re after. All of this will take time and effort. But it’s worth it. Don’t be a softie because of excuses. Stay with it. You might find it hard in the beginning but when you start to see and feel results, it might even get to be fun.

~~

The following images are some, though not all, of the suggested exercises. I particularly like the bosom and hip and buttocks exercises. Now that looks like some fun!

Warm up, head and neck, shoulders

This “Chart your own course” page is partially filled in by the book’s original owner. She didn’t follow through, it appears, so we’ll never know what her finish measurements were. But you know what that means, less for you to white out and and fill in your own numbers!

Next up in the series: Voice and Speech.

Sears Discovery Charm School: Introduction to the 1972 edition

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

Many moons ago, I published a query from a visitor to the site about the Sears Discovery Charm school. Little did I know, that this would be one of my most popular posts on the site! Seems that many of you charming, lovely, Googlers out there have fond memories of the course (which ran from 1963 to sometime in the 1980s, all over the country). I never attended myself, but did partake (courtesy of my Grandmother Bailey) in a charm school on summer in junior high. I am still traumatized by the experience, as is evidenced in the hundreds of beauty and charm books sitting behind me as I write this post. But I digress…

One commenter posted this history, which she obtained from the Sears Archives:

(1963) The success of a charm school for girls 9 to 19 years of age
started in the El Monte, CA. store and has spread to 16 stores in the
Los Angeles Retail Group.

(1965) Since August of 1965, thousands of young girls, mostly in their
teens, have been trooping into Sears stores signing up for 10-session
courses in Sears new charm school. Elizabeth Reed was the coordinator.

(1966) Sears School for Young Charmers had courses in 250 Sears retail
stores across the nation and an estimate of 100,000 graduates.

Many of you still have the three-ring binder in your possession, others are crushed that your parents threw it away and are desperate for a copy. After that post went up, I was lucky enough to receive a copy of the 1972 edition of the binder, D.C. version. The instructor was Mrs. Sherl Conaughton, whose resume included “Registered Nurse, Philadelphia, Pa.; Stewardess, American Airlines; and Model (New York, Florida and California),” among other things. She had 9 years total teaching experience at various modeling and beauty schools.

The binder was found by local director/producer Jeff Krulik in the apartment of a deceased neighbor (he suspects the neighbor’s daughter took the class). In 2009, Jeff tracked me down and handed it over to the Miss Abigail archives for safekeeping. I’ve been meaning to share more of this with you all for ages, but it’s been hard to know where to start! It’s quite a thick binder.

The new year has inspired me, however. I hereby resolve to bring you more Sears Charm School. I’ll start with the very first page. It gives you an idea of what the program is all about.

~~

There’s no one in this world exactly like you. That’s terrific. Because it gives you a particular advantage over everyone else. You’re unique. But it also raises some very important questions. How do you combine the way you look, the way you move, the way you speak, the way you feel so it all comes together and reflects your own personality?

These are some of the questions we’ll be asking, and hopefully be answering during the next few weeks you’ll be spending with us at Sears.

In creating this program, we’ve called upon some top professional people who’ve made it in their own specialized fields. They’ll tell you what you really want to know about things like make-up, skin care, modeling, exercise, fashion, just to name a few. So you’ll be getting the straightest and best possible information to help you toward your own individual personality and your own natural look.

Just what is that natural look we hear so much about? It’s a combination of things that work together to reflect the best possible you. Things you’re comfortable with. Arriving at that kind of look is a matter of learning techniques. Experimenting to find out what works best for you. And then putting it all together. It takes an honest approach and a lot of hard work. But it’s worth it. It pays off.

While you’re finding out about all these things, we’ll also be helping you put together some new ideas about your future. Perhaps you’re thinking about becoming a model. Or maybe you’d like to explore one of the many other interesting careers in fashion. No matter what, we’ll fill you in on what’s involved in the way of preparation, what it takes to get there, and what the life is like when you’ve arrived.

A lot of people talk about doing their own thing. That’s okay, but too often, all that means is just copying someone else’s life style. To really do your own thing, you have to find out what “your thing” is. And that’s what we hope to help you with during the time you’ll be spending with us here at Sears.

We’re glad you’re with us and that we’ll be working together in the discovery of the perfectly natural you.

~~

Help me choose what we should learn about next! Here are our options:

  • Exercise
  • Diet
  • Voice/Speech
  • Modeling
  • Skin Care/Grooming
  • Make-up
  • Fashion
  • Manners

There’s also a special bonus pamphlet that was tucked into my binder: Sears’ “Selecting Teen Fashions” (1971) that might be of interest.

Until Next Time,

Most Fondly,

Your Instructor,

&c., &c.

Miss Abigail