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180820 August 20, 2018


Back in My Days: Girl's Magazines
Carolyn Burgess Featheringill 
LHS '65 

    I'm not quite the "packrat" Tommy is, but I do have some credentials in that area. I am the proud owner of my collection of teen girls' magazines from the sixties--"American Girl" and "Seventeen."  "American Girl," no longer in business, was a publication of the Girl Scouts directed to pre-teen and early teen girls. "Seventeen" is still around although publishing far more risqué copy today than in the sixties.  Recent issues feature fashion tips from the Kardashians and advice on "hook-up do-overs."  After reading your articles about the magazines in our homes back in the day, I thought  I'd share some excerpts from a paper I did for a study club reminiscing about the culture of the early sixties as shown by our magazines:

    These magazines consisted primarily of articles, fashion layouts, advice columns, advertisements and something that used to be a staple of women's magazines of all sorts, short stories. 

    *  The titles of the articles alone speak to what is a universal desire to be, well, desirable:  "Shape Up for Summer," "What to Expect from a Boy,"  "Pep Up a Pooped Party," "Your Etiquette is Showing," even "How to be a Guest Dishwasher." 

    *  The fashions can only be described as innocent--hats and gloves, skirts and sweaters, suits, swimsuits that could now transfer to the pages of the Old Vermont Country Store catalogue and always with a swim cap.  After all, you wouldn't want to ruin that hairdo that you spent hours reading about, rolling, feathering, teasing, all after a substantial application of a gelatinous substance called Dippity Doo.  For some reason that I had never noticed until I worked on this paper, there was a real fascination by the girls (and, I'm sure, the boys as well) with lingerie--every sort of sleepwear from "baby doll" pajamas to quilted robes;  half-slips, whole slips, crinolines or "stand-out" slips, even "pettipants";  lethal-looking bras, innocent-looking garter belts and girdles on girls who probably didn't even weigh 100 pounds.  But, how else could one keep up one's stockings (generally advertised at $1 a pair) in those pre-panty hose days!

    *  None of the magazines in my collection or most of the other teen magazines of the era were complete without advice columns.  Problems abounded, often revolving around friends or lack thereof, dates or lack thereof, parents of over-involvement thereof.  In retrospect, the problems for which advice was sought seem awfully innocent to us today;  but, the advice always came down on the side of being a "good girl."  For example, one sweet young thing posed the problem (Nov., 1960) that when she went to parties with a boy, he almost always wanted to go out to the car to hug and kiss.  (Imagine that!)  Not only did the magazine suggest a method of avoidance of such activity, it editorialized that her question touched on one of the reasons parents are generally reluctant to have their daughters go out in cars--"traffic accidents are not the only things they're concerned about!"

    *  The magazines in my collection encouraged their readers to engage in domestic activities with cooking being primary.  The ads and articles made no bones about the way to a man's heart, and I assure you that the body part involved was his stomach.  Recipes often featured some concoction that could only have been turned out by a home economist or advertising writer who had been locked in solitary confinement until she turned out a new way to use  canned soup.

    *  Advertisements geared to teen girls were a study in the culture of the day.  Of course, they all pounded home the need to make the most of your looks, especially if you weren't blessed--or cursed--with naturally curly hair, a perfect teen-aged complexion (what  an oxymoron) and weighed anywhere north of 100 pounds, with or without your girdle.  The pages of these magazines abounded with ads showing the latest colors in lipstick and nail polish, probably to the chagrin of some of the younger suppliants to the advice columns as a oft-repeated indictment of "my mother" or "my parents" was that they wouldn't permit them to wear lipstick at all.  Of course, advertisers of skin-care products to teen-age girls tapped into a huge buyers' market.  From Noxema to Bonnie Bell's 10-0-6 lotion to a nasty astringent called Ice-o-derm, the advertisers had us where they wanted us.  Seeing these ads today has confirmed my suspicion that we spend our teen-age years trying to get the oil out of our complexions and the rest of our lives trying to put it back!

    Obviously, much has changed since those days over five decades ago.  We've learned how to "pep up a pooped party," most of us generally know "what to expect from a boy", and we've ditched our swim caps, pettipants and girdles;  but, it's always fun to look back on these times.  I enjoyed doing so as I perused the pages of these magazines, and we're all grateful to Tommy for giving us a weekly opportunity to do so!

        Memphis, TN -  Thanks to Carolyn for this week's feature article.

    I just returned from a long weekend's reunion with the people I served with in the B-52 during my Air Force career. Although it was tame compared to our Lee reunions it was still fun. The most disappointing part of it was to see everyone leave the hospitality room and head to be at 9:30 pm. This was a group of warriors who used to drink and raise hell until the wee hours of the mornings. Still, many of them were decorated heroes of the Vietnam War and several were survivors of B-52s which were shot down during the conflict.


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