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( Originally Published Mid 1800s )
We must be neat; not neat but cleanly. -Winter's Tale.
When one wishes to briefly epitomize a woman as exquisitely neat, perfectly dressed, and correct in all the appointments of a thoroughbred daughter of the nineteenth century, one says of her: "She is a well-groomed woman."
Practically, it means that the lady in question is most delicately fastidious in everything pertaining to her toilet and personality. The well-groomed woman would much sooner relinquish her breakfast than her morning plunge, and about as willingly submit to an attack upon her moral character as to a suspicion that her linen was ever other than absolutely immaculate.
Good grooming has nothing whatever to do with make-up in any form.
Indeed, it is opposed radically to paints, powders, and artifice generally. The well-groomed woman is she who takes her two baths daily, and whose bath at night is known as and called the hot scrub.
The friction of the various bath brushes used for this function gives the skin a satin-like bloom which no subterfuge will impart.
The well-groomed woman's hair is lustrous, soft, and, above all, with never a suggestion of dandruff. Her scalp is as clean and shining as her brow.
She is as careful about the cleanliness of her head as of her face, and, if necessary, the hair will be washed twice or thrice a week, for cleanliness and furfura, as she knows, are incompatible.
Her hands are proachable ; her boots as well-fitting and tasteful as knowledged best-dressed lumbia.
Her skirts and jackets appear each time she wears them, until they are cast aside, without a frazzled edge or spot. Her gloves fit to a nicety, never pinch, and are always whole and carefully buttoned.
It requires so much time, I hear a reader say. Yes, it does; but it is time well spent. It pays particularly for middle-aged women to be thoroughly well groomed.
Not long since I met an old friend of mine who is certainly fifty, possibly older.
She was positively a radiant, handsome creature; so sweet, so wholesome looking, so deliciously nice to the eye, that I said to her:
"You are better looking, handsomer, more attractive than you have ever been. You were stout ten years ago -too stout. You didn't look at all as you do now. What do you mean by playing such a trick, and you a grandmother ? "
And my friend laughed, and showed two rows of glistening teeth, and, looking at me with the merry bright eyes of her youngest daughter, said:
"Why, I am younger than I was fifteen years ago, for then I weighed over two hundred pounds and had three chins.
"Then I had an idea that I must settle down and wear middle-aged clothes -'costumes' the dressmakers call them-and bonnets with strings under the chin, such as are worn with costumes and wraps-large, voluminous wraps," continued my friend.
"Oh, I was playing my middle-aged role to the very limit, when suddenly I awakened to the fact that my husband was constantly referring to this or that woman's beautiful figure, charming appearance, and well-groomed look.
"Sometimes the women he spoke of were younger, sometimes about my own age.
"Gradually I awakened to the knowledge that my husband, at five and forty, was just as much of a man and just as susceptible to beauty and grace as when he first found me pretty and charming twenty years before.
"All in a moment I realized that I had grown fat and dumpy and indolent, and that I was losing my husband's love.
"Now, it may be unfashionable, but I am just as much in love with him as I was the day we were married. "When I actually understood the danger I was in, I can tell you I made up my mind to defend my most priceless possession.
"I got a book on physical culture. I learned how to reduce my flesh systematically and how to keep at a certain desirable weight. I learned the ritual of perfect cleanliness and practiced it religiously, getting back my old-time freshness.
"I stopped wearing `costumes' and became tailor-made for the street. I ordered the prettiest gowns and negligees for home and the most elegant little wraps and waists for the theatre, and you never saw any one so astonished and delighted as my husband.
"When the first grandchild came, I wore such a perfectly stunning gown to the christening, and I looked so well, that my husband and my son-in-law kissed me and called me a `regular peach."
"It wasn't an elegant expression, but it made me happy and it made me doubly appreciate the merit of being a perfectly groomed, well-dressed, and attractive woman, especially after I had passed the golden prime of life and was descending the shady side of the hill.
"Some may say,"Oh, it's all very easy for such a woman with ample means and time at her disposal, to keep herself in the `pink of perfection,' to parade in tailor-made gowns and ape the juvenile appearance and manners of the young women of the so-called `400."
There is no force in such a protest. If you had seen this well-groomed friend of mine you would have been struck, not so much by her apparel as by her neat, fresh, and wholesome appearance, and you would have said and known that she would, on that account, look attractive in even the plainest and simplest garb.
I am confident you will believe me when I say that when it comes to downright attractiveness, one cannot always say "Fine feathers make fine birds." My own ex perience in life amply bears this out. It has been more varied than falls to the lot of most of my sisters. I have been what one might style "a gilded child of luxury," I have been a business woman at the head of an important enterprise, and I have been a toiler working more hours in the twenty-four and harder than most men work, yet at no time have I seen the day when I felt that my apparel alone made, lost, or kept my friends, while almost from my girlhood I have been deeply sensible of the benefit I have received and the satisfaction I have enjoyed from the general observance of the hygienic hints herein given-hints which help to make the well=groomed woman in the best and truest sense of the term.