I will be the first to admit that I tend to romanticize the past.
However, one aspect of life 100 years ago that even I don’t wish for is living through the summer heat.
Living without air conditioning and perhaps even fans, not being able to wear shorts and a tank top, and missing many of the conveniences we take for granted today must have made the hot summer days absolutely miserable. And indeed, the author of this magazine begins by explaining:
“August is a month which can make itself very unpleasant to the human race. None of us like to exhibit a moist and dripping countenance to the public; to look in our mirror only to be confronted with a complexion the color of a beet; and to be increasingly conscious of heated clothes with a tendency to cling.”
But of course there were little tips and tricks people could follow to mitigate the heat a bit. The August 1915 issue of McCall’s magazine contained an article called “Looking Cool in August”, which contains some of these hints which I will share here. These hints include ways to feel cooler as well as ways to look cooler, which the author deems just as important.
1) The bath-tub and the powder-puff are our best friends in summer.
There should be a tub-bath, night and morning, followed by a cold shower or splashing with cool water, and the skin should be patted dry with a soft towel instead of rubbed briskly as in colder weather.
2) Invest in a tin shaker with a handle, such as cooks use for sugar, salt, or flour; and fill with powder.
Then, after the bath, stand on your bath-rug and shake powder over the entire body, wiping it very gently, afterward, with a large pad of absorbent cotton. Especially powder armpits and feet and the back between the shoulders.
3) Don’t forget that a quick sponge-bath in the afternoon will repair the ravages of the day and leave one fresh and cool for the evening.
4) Shampoo the hair once a week.
The scalp perspires as freely as the rest of the body, and you cannot feel or look cool if the hair is moist and stringy.
5) Don’t wear too many clothes!
Unless you are very fat indeed, you can easily discard your corset during the summer months… Don’t wear anything which binds or fits snugly; let your sleeves be short and flimsy, the neck of your gowns V-shaped, your hose thin, your shoes low.
6) Put on fresh hose and a fresh garment next your skin – shirt or chemise or whatever you wear – every morning and again when dressing for the evening.
You may exclaim at the amount of laundry, but truly, shirts and hose which can be squeezed into one hand are no tremendous task to wash.
7) Avoid bright or somber colors.
A red dress is so warm in appearance as to cause the beholder instinctively to reach for a fan, and black, dark brown, and all opaque colors look stuffy and uncomfortable on a hot day in August.
8) If you want to create the effect of a cool breeze, wear always white in summer.
Whatever your age, seven or seventy, you will never look so pretty, so cool, so fragrant, so altogether pleasing as in all white on a blistering August day…. White hose, white shoes, white gowns: let these constitute your August slogan. And be sure that they are really white – not slightly soiled or rumpled, for then their charm is lost.
9) Don’t wear a bandeau around your forehead in warm weather – it looks stifling and uncomfortable.
If you want to wear it elsewhere in your hair, very well! But choose a cool color, though not white. White is really not pretty for the hair.
10) Cultivate an air of leisurely repose, these hot days.
The girl who leans lazily back in her chair, with hands and feet at rest, and talks slowly and not loudly, makes the little space about her seem like the one cool and blissful spot in a sweltering world.