Susan, be smooth! by Nell Giles, 1940: Chapter III – Soap-and-Water Clean

Chapter III

This is the Most Important Chapter. . . if it could, it would wear a whalebone neck-piece and let its corset stays show through, just to impress you with its firmness and dignity.

The fact is, Susan, that you cannot be smooth without first being clean. Someone will catch up with you. Someone you like very much will look behind your ears.

Soap-and-water clean is so important that it occupies parts of several chapters, but in this one we shall talk about just the sort of cleanliness which takes place in the bathroom, night and morning.

The big thing at night is a bath. . . a warm, soapy one. It’s nice to have your own soap: a simple, pure, five or ten cent kind. Have your own towel and wash cloth, of course; the rougher the better. Remember to scrub that hard-to-reach place between your shoulder blades. If you don’t, you’ll be embarrassed by pimples when you want your back to show. Remember elbows, too. No need to develop leather pads there when good scrubbing and a little cream will keep your skin soft.

A good scrub brush is important in the care of your hands, feet and elbows. Give every joint. . . every toe- and finger-nail a brisk going over before you get out of the tub.

Drying is as important as washing. . . be sure you get in all the crannies between your toes and fingers and behind your ears. Rough skin begins with the neglect of the we-dry-dry department.



Now that you’re dry, rub a few drops of hand lotion on hands, elbows and shoulders, and smooth over your face the thinnest film of light, pure cleansing cream. There is a kind made especially for young skins, in one of the nationally advertised lines. . . but any pure, light cleansing cream will do.

Over and over, we want to tell you: have your own things. We mean especially your own cosmetics and combs and brushes. It does matter tremendously that this jar of cleansing cream is your own. . . that you bought it with your cosmetic budget money and for this reason that you are careful not to waste it.

There is a good idea we forgot to tell you before you stepped into the bath-tub. When you let your bath water run, wash your underwear in a fluff of soap flakes. You’ll find it very easy to keep your “chores” down to the minimum if you follow this simple routine.

In fresh, soapy water, rinse out your stockings. . . then swish everything through several clear waters and there they are ready to be hung to dry on coat hangers on the shower rod. (This is what happens to Susans who live in city apartments, of course. Country Susans have whole back porches of cool, dark breezes.) In town or country, we still believe that Susan should wash her own underwear and should do it night by night rather than in a whole lump. In this way, you stay clean as you go along. . . you won’t spend a Saturday afternoon washing underwear, when you’d rather have a date.

It might be well here to give the proper soap-and-water care of gloves and stockings, whose good looks depend in great measure upon how they’re washed.

Most washable gloves need to be washed after every wearing, and it is pure economy to pay a little more and get a glove which will stand a good scrubbing.

The safest care for washable suede gloves is to wash them on your hands in warm suds. In this way, you won’t stretch the tender parts of the skins by squeezing water through them, or pull the hand-sewn threads. Don’t rinse suede gloves thoroughly; leave just a little soap in them. The oil from the soap keeps the skins soft. Never dry gloves in a hot place. First, get as much moisture as possible out of them by rolling and squeezing very gently in a Turkish towel. Then shape the gloves in their original creases, and let them dry slowly. It is best to turn and re-shape them several times while they dry. . . so of course it is best to wash them early in the evening, unless you’ll set the alarm.

Stockings must be washed after each wearing. How many times you’ve heard the soap flakes people say this! They are telling you for your own good. Let us add that your stockings must be washed as soon as you take them off. . . not the next day or the next week. The reason for washing them is to remove the perspiration acid in them. This cuts silk quickly and therefore must be washed away at once.

Stockings must not be washed in water that is too hot. A lukewarm suds is best. . . and of course soap flakes or grains are better than cake soap because they dissolve instantly.  Squeeze the suds through your stockings. . . rinse them several times and then roll them up in a towel to absorb some of the moisture; shake them out and hang them up to dry. All this takes time to tell, but little time to do. And the right way actually takes less time than rubbing in the cake soap and trying to rub it out again. You’ll find it much more economical, too, because it preserves the color and elasticity of your stockings.


It goes without saying that stockings and panties should be changed every day; that bras and slips shouldn’t be worn more than two days, yet we have seen many a girl’s charm snapped by a soiled shoulder strap.

Your bath in the morning is a shorter session (by request). Take a quick, cool shower, if you have a shower; if you haven’t, wake up with what your mother called a “sponge bath,” which means standing at the lavatory with not a stitch on, and quickly going over the most important parts. No soap this time.

We won’t go into the routine of dressing here, because we’ll put you through your paces in the chapter marked “Fifteen Minutes a Day.”

Now, as far as we’re concerned, you don’t have to listen to another word about being clean, if you’ll remember, as you fly into your clothes that they must be clean, too. . . SUSAN, you’re not wearing that white pique front again, are you??

To Be Continued. . . 

If this is the first time you’ve met Susan, be sure to check out:

Introduction and Table of Contents
Chapter I: Give it a Thought
Chapter II: Keep it Simple with Subtraction

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