Outdated Beauty Advice: Looking Pretty for the Holidays

by Bonnie Downing

The holidays aren’t over. Not even close. It’s still, still, still the holidays! You’ve got to hold it together for a couple more weeks, but you can do this. And you’ll do it by following a few supersimple holiday tips.

First of all, you are going to that party tonight, so let’s start with a festive, indulgent holiday drink.

Helen Gurley Brown’s Hot Buttered Rum

Into a mug or a cup put:
• 1 tablespoon “butter” made from Butter Buds
• 1 packet of Equal
• 1 oz. rum
Put a teaspoon in the mug. Fill to the brim with boiling water. Add a few cloves on top. Savor.
(From Esquire)

Satisfying. As sweet and genuine as your holiday spirit. Now let’s get that party face on you.

You must learn to make up your eyes with shadow and painted-on liner, and to wear false eyelashes as inevitably as other girls wear panties.
 — Jean Rook, Dressing for Success (1968)

You are so terribly, chalk-i-ly, creepily pale. It’s easy this time of year to stay out late at terrific parties and then sleep in juuust a little and oops you missed daylight altogether. Again.

A certain preparation advertised to produce rosy cheeks without the help of rouge consists of a powdered silicious sponge. Examined under a microscope, the preparation is seen to be made up of multitudes of tiny, silicious needles. These sharp spines stick into the skin, irritating it, this causing it to redden.
 — Emma E. Walker, M.D., The Pretty Girl Papers (1910)

As usual, you’ve gone too far.

However you accent with rouge, do so lightly. Apply very little rouge in the morning, when your cheeks are inclined to be pale. Later, when activity brings a natural blush to your face, you can add a little more if you still need it.
But remember the pathetic statement, ‘Too much rouge is a sign of despair.’
 — Arlene Dahl, Always Ask A Man: Arlene Dahl’s Key to Femininity (1967)

Now that we’ve prettied you up, what are you supposed to do with your face? For god’s sake, don’t move it.

Learn to smile with your mouth closed. Work until you can do it in such a convincing manner that you are sure you’re laughing with your mouth wide open.
 — Wendy Ward, Wendy Ward Charm Book (1972)

But what to wear? I know what you’re thinking. You’ll just throw on your token sparkly top again. Probably with the same jeans you’ve worn all week and one of your five gray sweatshirts. That will never do. Diana Vreeland collected some reasonable tips for gals on a budget in her column for Harper’s Bazaar, “Why Don’t You…”

…remember that long swinging diamond chandelier earrings are frightfully smart again, and wear them occasionally pinned four inches below either shoulder on a high-necked black satin dress?
 …sweep into the drawing room on your first big night with an enormous red-fox muff with many skins?
 …appear with all the jewels on your lefty side, diamonds set in platinum… on your right side, duplications of these ornaments only without the diamonds and in plain gold?
 …turn your old ermine fur coat into a bathrobe?

BATHROBE? Don’t make me tell you again. You ARE going out. And you have a responsibility not to just show up and drink your drinks but to add to the holiday ambiance. Don’t you want a perfect holiday season? Have you given up on finding love and romance? Your gray sweatshirt says yes.

Women have become too lacking in mystery. Now is the time for romance and and its companion, mystery, to return to our lives. Try veils, hats, antique jewelry, lockets. Don’t reveal too easily who is in the locket; just stare moodily into the distance and smile a tender tragic smile. Life is for fun, danger, romance: live it. Don’t take your clothes off hours after meeting some man: keep them on, plenty of them, keep him guessing, keep him entranced.
 — Jane Seymour, Jane Seymour’s Guide to Romantic Living (1986)

You could really pull this off! There’s still time before Christmas to lock down a Winter Boyfriend. Then the two of you can exchange romantic gifts under the tree. Oh, it will be perfect. But only if you rehearse your Christmas morning reaction faces. Don’t fuck this up.

The correct way to receive a gift is either with childlike exuberance or real deep appreciation, depending upon the circumstances… the gift is of no real importance. The man is! The object given will one day be dust, but your response will live on is his memory.

Whatever it is, keep it. If it’s unflattering, wear it. If it is unfragrant perfume, wear it. If it is not useful, use it, and all the time remind yourself and him of how kind he was to give it to you.

What if he doesn’t give you anything? Should you be hurt, and think that he doesn’t love you? Examine the matter. He may not give you anything because sometime in the past you failed to receive a gift with appreciation. It may be your own fault.
 — Helen B. Andelin, Fascinating Womanhood (1963)

You know what? Let’s not go out after all. Just run out to the store for more Butter Buds and we’ll be set right where we are. Where did I put my ermine bathrobe? Did it already turn to dust?

Previously: How to Never Move Your Face.

Sinister beauty expert Bonnie Downing collected tips like these in her first book, Peculiar Beauty: Three Centuries of Charmingly Absurd Advice. Now she’s writing a book about animals and needs a new agent. You can find her at peculiarbeauty.com and in Brooklyn.