Turning the Century: Essays in Media and Cultural Studies

By Carol A. Stabile | Go to book overview

7
"Girls Who Come to Pieces":
Women, Cosmetics, and
Advertising in the
Ladies' Home Journal, 1900-1920

LISA BELICKA KERANEN

Not long ago at a Glee Club concert, I sat behind a girl with delicately tinted cheeks. This might possibly have passed unobserved had she not also touched up the lobes of her ears to correspond. I watched these two spots for some moments, but the heightened color remained the same. I was convinced, and then looked for some other evidences of the makeup. They stood out one by one. On looking across her cheek as it was turned to the light there was that characteristic appearance which is always present after the use of powder. The eyebrows were distinctly penciled, and although she was not a'bleached blond' still her hair had been 'lightened,' as could be seen from the contrasting darkness of the roots. She might have been a pretty girl, but as it was, she was absolutely repellent. 1

The year is 1905. Emma E. M.D Walker., writes a monthly column titled "Pretty Girl Papers", for one of the nation's leading women's magazines, the Ladies' Home Journal. Admonishing readers about a variety of grooming and fashion mistakes, Walker devotes her July column to "artificial touches to a toilette." Scoffing at women who carelessly apply cosmetics, she writes: "Such toilettes always raise a question in the mind of the observer. You have the disapprobation of your own sex, but to a man they are abhorrent." She continues her attack, relating an encounter with an arbiter of women's fashion: "'Do you know,'

-142-

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