In the annals of advice literature, there is a special category that examines how young women view their mothers. Some of these are based on questionnaires, but others seem to be a fashion writer’s idea of what might scare readers into action. The advice offers a very fine line for mothers to follow—they should be aware of trends, but not too trendy; spend more money and time on themselves, but not at the expense of the daughter; and have a figure like a girl’s, but not a girlish style.
This particular article in Good Housekeeping from 1945 is a good example. The imaginary young woman in question wants her mother to take better care of herself, spend more money on clothes, and stay up to date on makeup styles. “Two vivid spots of rouge and whitish powder date you. These vestiges of long-dead fashions embarrass your daughter.”
Apparently no daughter wants a mother worn down by housework, a message clearly presented in the illustration. “No, no, no!” says the young lady to the tired looking woman in a house dress. But she is full of praise for the one who looks like she is going out to dinner. The advice on hands is particularly telling in this regard. “Have soft, ladylike hands that don’t give away the lowly chores you do.”
All these tips come with warnings attached. It is possible to have a mother who goes too far, looking either too fancy or—heaven forfend—too young. So if you wear up to date makeup, don’t wear too much; if you choose to brighten up your accessories, don’t add too many; if you follow current fashion, ignore styles that do not suit you. Most of all, she doesn’t want you to copy her. “She doesn’t want a sister, she wants a mother.”
Well, at least we got that much straight.