"Dress plainly; the thinest soap-bubbles wear the gaudiest colors."
- fashion advice from the Godey's Lady's Book
On a recent used book store trip I discovered a tome about the history of the most popular women's magazine in the 1800s, Godey's Lady's Book.
I remembered how excited Ma Ingalls was in the Little House on the Prarie books every time she even got near an issue of Godey's Lady's -- even if it was more than a year old -- so I knew I had to investigate. Caroline Ingalls didn't get excited that often on that prairie.
My used book store find is called, Mr. Godey's Ladies: Being a Mosaic of Fashions and Fancies, edited by Robert Kuncior, published in 1971. Turns out the Godey's Lady's Book was the reigning women's fashion and lifestyle publication for sixty-eight years. That's some run.
The magazine dolled out exercise advice...
"Daily exercise in the open air is absolutely indespensable to health and beauty. American ladies are not good walkers simply because they do not practice walking. Many confine themselves at home during the long winters, keeping close in their heated rooms. Of course, debility ensues, nervousness and loss of all bloom as well as sprightliness."
Recipes for beauty products...
"Fine Lavender Water - mix together, in a clean bottle, a pint of in-oderous spirits of wine (I think that means it has no smell), and ounce of oil of Lavender, a teaspoon of oil of bergamot; and a tablespoon of the oil of ambergris."
And offered photos and advice on how to wear all the latest fashions. Of course Ma Ingalls used these photos to make patterns so they could sew their own. I can't imagine trying to wear these dresses, much less make them. The pictures are fun though and I can see how it might be considered a lifeline out on the prairie.
"Do women dress to please themselves? Do they dress to please each other? Or do they dress to please men? A cynical bachelor says: "They dress to worry other women."