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The book even recommended using ice cubes to get the soap off. I did get more frequent ‘hurry up’ banging on the bathroom door than usual from my parents.
Though none of my friends noticed my new glow, my skin did feel a lot better after this thorough scrub twice a day, although I admittedly did not use a cleansing cream before the ritual, as recommended — I couldn’t find it anywhere. However, the book suggests something more polished — the illustrations show a fuller skirt with fitted sweater, so I relied on below-the-knee skirts, Peter Pan collars, sweaters and dresses — mostly in Betty’s suggested neutrals of navy blue, gray or green.
The model demonstrating it in the book is wearing an Audrey Hepburn-style black outfit with a neckerchief.
The moves consisted of extending and alternatively lifting your legs off the floor to tone them, rocking back and forth on your hips and circling your ankles to slim them. My fourth-grade gym class was more taxing than these. But if I had to rely on just these movements, I’d have to cut back on my snacking even more. Dinner, 1958-style, consists of a beef patty and a glass of tomato juice.
She also instructs teens to wear saddle shoes to school, but my interpretation — Oxfords and short heels in brown and black — were a little strange for a modern teenage girl to wear.
All of my outfits were accented with a strand of pearls because Betty says, “Fads come and go, but a simple string of small pearls is still a young girl’s best friend.” At first I got lots of strange looks from my friends.
“Beautiful hair is about the most important thing a girl has,” she writes.
Though I couldn’t help but wonder how anyone could become popular by wearing Peter Pan collars and long skirts to school.
Cornell’s book details all the essentials a girl needs to know to be popular in the 1950s — from diet to clothing to being a proper hostess. Would a guide to becoming a popular teenager in mid-century America still be relevant to someone like myself — a 14-year-old high school freshman living on the Upper East Side in 2013? However, the first challenge was finding an actual copy of the book, which hasn’t been in print for decades.
I finally tracked one down at the New York Public Library.
Betty warns, “The two big troublemakers in skin conditions are diet and dirt.
Too much chocolate and too little soap and water are the basic irritants.” Since I don’t eat too much junk food, I figured I’d have to concentrate on the washing.
The book suggests massaging a generous amount of cleansing cream into the skin, letting it sit for at least two minutes and then washing it with soap and water.