Fifteen Ways to Emphasize Shortness and Stoutness, 1939

From Dress and Grooming by Estelle B. Hunter

From Dress and Grooming by Estelle B. Hunter

Although this two page spread is ostensibly about height and weight, I think the real message is to warn against eccentric dress. The woman on the right has clothes and accessories that coordinate and follow current fashion guidelines. The woman on the left, by contrast, is breaking all the fashion rules. Her clothes are too tight, her top and skirt don’t match, and her accessories do not contribute to a cohesive look. Even her posture is “awkward.” The author is resolutely against standing out in a crowd. “Clothes should provide a background for your personality; therefore they should be unobtrusive…Lack of ostentation is still an in dispensable mark of good taste, just as gaudiness is a mark of vulgarity.”(12)

Photos of eccentric older women from the early and mid twentieth century are rare. Such women must have existed, since they are described in literature and used as bad examples in books like these. Perhaps other family members chose not to take their pictures.

These days older fashion eccentrics are everywhere, it seems.  It’s not hard to guess which of these two women would be featured on Ari Seth Cohen’s blog, Advanced Style.

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6 Responses to Fifteen Ways to Emphasize Shortness and Stoutness, 1939

  1. It’s a bit of a cheat to show two women who are not the same size. Incidentally, the 1937 movie Stella Dallas starred Barbara Stanwyck as a mother whose lower-class, flamboyant clothes taste was an embarassment to her otherwise socially acceptable daughter. Like the woman above, her sin was dressing in loud prints and overly feminine hats, fussy gloves, etc., instead of dressing like a matron pushing forty.
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  2. eimear says:

    i love these style tips, and when they are juxtaposed with advanced style blog, it puts them in a new dimension. i know i have some of my own style rules in my own head of what i will and wont wear but the main one for me is so long as the clothes fit correctly then a lot of things fall into place which is why i am going back to making high waisted trousers! personally my tastes are conservative (i am envious of people who can wear jewelry with comfort i tend to wear it then take it off as i feel to jangly). once a person casts aside fashion trends, you can have a lot more fun in how you dress.

  3. Jen O says:

    What adorable but biased drawings. Clearly this was back in the era of “all accessories should be of the same color, and wear no more than 2 pieces of jewelry at the same time” and “after your are dressed and ready to go out, go back and take off 1 accessory before you leave”.

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