This section is from "Every Woman's Encyclopaedia". Also available from Amazon: Every Woman's Encyclopaedia.
Fashion and Figure - The Ideal Figure - How to Acquire Height - Excessive Stoutness - Excessive Thinness - How to Cure Round Shoulders - How to Develop the Bust
The popular idea of beauty changes as the general standard of education changes, and in that cycle which we call "woman's progress" we . find women endeavouring to be beautiful according to the "fashion" of the moment.
But never does beauty of face gain serious precedence over beauty of figure, and, on the whole, beauty of figure is an ideal only to be attained by devotees of health. Anaemia, brought about by sedentary habits, is also the result of a period of tight-waists, when women, still having a sense of proportion, endeavour by compressing the waist to give shape to a figure which would otherwise be, to quote a ready phrase, "all up and down alike."
The purpose of this article is not to consider the ways of obtaining any distortion of the figure which is at the moment fashionable, but to deal with ways and means of obtaining a good figure - that is to say, a figure which tells of health and feminine charm.
The first essential is symmetry, wherein no part obtains an undue importance. In the perfectly proportioned figure, the bust, waist, and hips are all so proportioned as to produce a harmonious whole. The carriage is then good, and the woman with a good carriage has her name upon the list of beauty.
The average height of an Englishman is 5 feet 6 inches, and an Englishwoman's average height is one twenty-second part smaller. A woman's face should be shorter, and therefore rounder, than a man's, her shoulders should be smaller, and the ribs much smaller. But no woman's waist should be less than 24 inches. It may, if she is " nobly planned," be as wide as that of the Venus de Medici, whose waist measures 27 inches, although her height is below that of the average Englishwoman, being only 5 feet 2 inches.
We give here the mathematical details of a perfectly proportioned figure, so that comparisons may be made for practical purposes. The entire body should be six times the length of the foot, and the distance from the tip of the third finger of the right hand to the tip of the third finger of the left, when the arms are fully extended, should be the same as the height. A woman of 5 feet 5 inches in height should weigh no less than 138 pounds, and no more than 148 pounds. A measurement of the bust taken over the arms should be 43 inches, and waist 24 inches. The upper part of the arm should be 14 inches, and the calf of the leg the same measurement. The thigh should be 20 inches.
Any person under the age of twenty-five can acquire height, a fact not generally taken advantage of by people who belong to a family generally short of stature, and who dislike the idea of their children being short of inches when reaching maturity.
Tea and tobacco are notorious for their effect upon the physique, whilst, on the other hand, the frequent use of oatmeal in the diet of Scotch people is one cause of their tall figures. Open-air people acquire inches. The use of horizontal bars forms a good part in the drill of a recruit who has to be pulled out," and sleep aids in the acquisition of inches. In this connection may be mentioned the bad habit of curling the body in bed, since bed is a good place in which to grow tall. Always sleep in a full-sized bed, and stretch out to full length. The morning yawn and stretch is a good exercise to help to increase height. It must be remembered that none of these devices are of use after the age of twenty-five.
An authority on this matter writes : "The exciting cause of obesity is the ingestion of more food than the system requires, which results in the failure of the system to adequately throw off its waste matter." At the same time, obesity is often hereditary, and then manifests itself at about the age of thirty-five. Temperament has a great deal of influence upon the health of the body, and we find women of a lymphatic temperament fond of ease and inactivity, and a prey, therefore, to obesity. The treatment of general obesity is fully given on pages 865 and 980 in the medical Section. With regard to drug-taking, it need only be pointed out that the woman with a perfect digestion will, in all probability, have a perfect figure, and that drugs impair the digestion. Lemonade to which has been added a small pinch of bicarbonate of soda is recommended as a drink; indeed, several authorities on beauty have also praise for bicarbonate of soda in small doses for the" complexion. Monin says : "How many stubborn cases of eczema has not the author of these lines cured by regular use of bicarbonate of soda ! "
Trousseau advised corpulent patients to take at each meal two grammes of bicarbonate of soda, and the writer knows an actress whose dread of growing stout has caused her to try all sorts of methods, whether they be uncomfortable diets and exercises or possibly harmful drugs. Take every morning a wineglassful, fasting, of the following mixture : A pint of strong lemonade slightly sweetened, added to an ounce of Epsom salts dissolved in half a pint of water; two teaspoonfuls of bicarbonate of soda. The woman who has taken this heroically every morning for nearly two years declares it to be the simplest and best treatment for obesity she knows. The "cure " is given here upon its own merits.
It has elsewhere been observed that the reduction of adipose tissue is more easily brought about than plumpness, the main reason being that the nervous temperament will not allow the body it controls to put on flesh. The nervous temperament in good health is active, clever, resourceful, and fond of investigating fresh woods and pastures both actual and mental. It is lean of body, but need not become too thin. In bad health, however, the activity of the brain degenerates into "worrying " and consequent depression, and nervous force misdirected often becomes a helpless grumbling or scolding. "Nagging " is a state of nerves which ought to be brought to the notice of the doctor. Granting, then, that the state of the digestion is being attended to, beauty culture can do little beyond noticing the splendid effects of olive oil, to be taken or rubbed into the flesh. Trousseau, the eminent authority already quoted, advised, amongst other things, sandwiches spread with Trousseau's Butter. This was made of Fresh butter .. 125 grammes Chloride of sodium 3 grammes Bromide of potash 20 centigrammes Iodine .. .. 5 centigrammes
Generally speaking, treatment of obesity and leanness are the two sides of the same medal.
Whether a woman be stout or thin, her figure will not be hopeless if her shoulders are well-placed and her back flat. She will be able to stand gracefully - no mean accomplishment. The thin woman is more apt to slouch the figure than her stout sister, and, also, stout people are seldom seen with round shoulders unless their occupation calls for an abnormal amount of stooping. To straighten the back and acquire an erect, graceful walk, nothing is better than the old device of walking with a book on the head. Drill, swimming, dancing, and rowing all improve the carriage, and a detail often overlooked is the comfort of the feet. Better have shoes made for comfort than appearance since, in the sum total of a good appearance, an erect and graceful carriage is of more telling effect than a. pretty foot.
Dumb-bell exercise is almost a necessity. To hold the hands behind the back is a helpful device. Sleep on a hard mattress with one pillow or none. A shoulder brace can be made at home. One simple but efficient pattern consists of braces made barely long enough to reach the band of the skirt after passing over the shoulders. To these is added a horizontal broad strap of some stout, unyielding material such as jean, not more than two inches in length. The second pattern is of stout jean, boned or piped in places marked on diagram. This brace is tightened and kept in place by means of a buckle and strap.
Right arm brace of a pair of shoulder braces that can be made at home from a pair of cheap braces and stout ticking. They will be found most beneficial by all sedentary workers, and those whose work necess-sitates a stooping position.
The diagram shows brace for right arm, and is drawn from a home-made affair, in which ticking is used for the main part. A pair of small boy's cheap braces costing four-pence-halfpenny were cut up, the straps on the shoulder-brace being made of them, and one of the buckles, with a bit of brace as a strap, forming the new fastening. In the longer lines marked as running across the shoulder-blade when the brace is in place, pieces of whalebone were inserted, the narrow lines being formed by stitching. The ticking was used double, and made neat at the edge by binding with tape.
To wear, place one brace as diagram on the right arm, and the duplicate - cut by reversing the diagram and pattern - on the left arm. Cross over at the back, and fasten as tightly as can be borne without discomfort. This brace is most effective, and should be worn by all women who follow any occupation necessitating much stooping, as, after the first discomfort, it will be found a support as well as a cure.
There is a droop of the figure in weak health that points to need for tonics, plenty of fresh air and open-air exercise, with an abundance of sleep and nourishing food. This droop is characteristic of consumption and anaemia, and is more marked when the sufferer is sitting down, as the body is then drawn away from the back of the chair at the base of the spine, and rested on the back of the chair at the shoulders. This position gives a curve to the spine which is very ugly.
There are means of expanding as well as reducing the bust, and Englishwomen require the former more generally than the latter. To acquire a full chest, treatment ought to be begun in childhood, and is then composed of breathing exercises, exercise with skipping-ropes, swinging on a bar, and dumb-bell exercise. The effect of deep-breathing exercise is surprising in youth, when the ribs are cartilaginous and elastic, and it is of great value in later years. Deep-breathing, when the lungs are fully expanded, straightens the back, puts the shoulder-blades in place, and makes the neck round and shapely. The person who habitually breathes correctly is full-chested. To be continued.
The following are good firms for supplying materials, etc., mentioned in this Section: Messrs. T. J. Clark (Glycola); A. & F. Pears, Ltd. (Pears' Soap); Katheryn B. Firmin (Removal of Superfluous Hairs).