Susan, be smooth! by Nell Giles, 1940: Chapter IV – S-T-R-E-T-C-H

Chapter IV
S-T-R-E-T-C-H

Two things go under the well-groomed look. . . a firm body and a firm girdle. A firm body gets that way by exercise and a firm girdle is so because it is well-chosen.

Of the two, the firm body is by far the more important. In fact, the smoothest Susans pride themselves at being their best in a bathing suit.

And in a bathing suit is the best place to spot your figure faults. Beginning at the top, watch for: a head that juts forward like a turtle’s, a scrawny neck, collar bones too prominent for beauty. These three faults are mostly due to bad posture, but it could also be that you are dieting.

“Tires” at the waistline mean that you are not dieting. . . and thick thighs mean that you never walk when it’s possible to ride.

Each one of these “three-out-of-four have it” faults can be corrected with simple exercise if you stick to a regular program. We promise that you’ll be smoother, think faster, and consequently be more popular if you take exercises night and morning. But we promise nothing if you exercise today and sleep tomorrow. And of course the clinching argument for exercise is that it builds a firm character as well as a firm body. If you can make yourself take exercises, you can make yourself study. . . be nice to Gertrude. . . dry the dishes and save part of every week’s allowance.

But back to the material things in life. . . Here are the basic exercises for a good figure, which means, sketchily, a good chinline, flat shoulder blades, a normal bosom, a small waist, and hips not more than two inches larger than your bosom. Every exercise begins with a s-t-r-e-t-c-h. . . which stimulates all the important functions of your “little insides.”

  1. If your stomach sticks out–
    Lie flat on your back, arms at your sides, legs together, knees stiff. Without bending your knees, raise your legs as high off the floor as you can and lower them slowly. That’s all. Five times at first, and then increase gradually to twenty. In two weeks you should be much smaller around the middle.
  2. If your thighs are thick–
    Lie flat on your back. One at a time, draw up your knees so that the top of your thigh is lying on your stomach. Now kick your leg out, straight and hard. Do this rapidly ten times, night and morning. Or this one–Lie flat on the floor. Prop your hips up in the air by leaning on your elbows. Kick you legs in bicycle motion. This is all, and it’s old and simple. . . but it not only thins your thighs,. . . it gives your circulation and alimentary canal a good turn.
  3. If your waist isn’t thin–
    Stand up straight with feet apart. Without bending your knees, touch your left toes with your right hand. Stand straight again; touch your toes with your left hand. Feel what a stretch this gives you.
  4. If your bosom is too small–
    Lie on your stomach. Reach back and grab your ankles. Pull yourself as far off the floor as you can, from the shoulders. This is a good stretch. Or this–Stand up straight with feet wide apart. Hold your arms straight out with fingertips touching. Swing arms straight back from the shoulders, at shoulder level, as far as possible, and bring back to fintertips in front again.

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These are the four basic exercises. Perhaps you need them all. They do not pretend to cover the whole territory, but they will give you the foundation of a good figure.

These are the exercises to keep the body lithe and smooth. . . but as important as these is posture. Don’t try to remember “Chin in; chest out” . . . (which is wrong, anyway). But do keep in your mind a vision of how you look when you walk. Think about a Balinese woman with a basket of fruit on her head. She glides; her chin is up; her shoulders are relaxed but never drooping; her chest is high and she is not self-conscious about it. Or think about Katherine Hepburn. You see that we’re back to where we started. . . “The first step is to think how you’d rather look”. . .

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And since good feet are the basis of poise, as anyone over twenty will tell you, let’s do an exercise or two for healthy feet.

Here’s one to do on the subway or sitting out a dance: One foot at a time, make a circle in the air with your pointed toe. . . as large a circle as possible, so that you feel the pull in the arch of your foot and in your ankle. (You understand, of course, that you are to do this sitting and that only the most observant by-stander will know that you are improving each shining hour.)

This one must be done on your toes, and is recommended to while away the hours while you wait for the traffic light to change: it’s nothing more than rising up and down on your toes. You might try it first as a business tycoon; this will be slowly, and (figuratively speaking) with a cigar in your mouth. And now, as a ballet girl. You are lighter and faster.

Anything we say about feet must include the fit of your shoes and stockings. It is of utmost importance that you buy good shoes, from the very beginning, and most of all, you must buy shoes that are large enough. It is well to go back to the same salesman, once you have found a good one, and keep him interested in seeing that you don’t walk out with the wrong pair of shoes. Shoes must fit in length, width, and in the middle, or arch, of your foot, so that you have the proper support. (More about shoes and stockings, remember, in the chapter called “Keep it Simple with Subtraction.”)

The second part of this chapter on s-t-r-e-t-c-h is elastic. The girdle you choose should be bought from an expert. . . not from the street floor counter of a notion department and not in the dime store.

Otherwise, your purchase will snap back at you. Years from now you’ll regret what, at that time, you’ll call “incorrect corsetry.”

No matter how little you decide to spend on a girdle, go to a good corsetiere to buy it. She won’t put you in stiff whalebones. She’ll give you exactly the type of girdle to guide your figure in the right lines. And she’ll tell you, too, that you must have firm stomach muscles from exercise, not from girdles. It’s a sad stomach that can’t stay in without being squeezed with elastic.

We recommend an expert cosetiere also because she won’t let you buy a girdle too small. She’ll explain that it is not only injurious to your “organs” but that all that fat you think you are hiding will ooze right over the top and look worse.

Finally, we urge you to go to an expert because the best costs no more. There are inexpensive girdles in all good lines; and there are several types made especially for young figures. We urge you to buy two of these and wash one of them every week.

This is as good a time as any to say that you need a brassiere, too. Get it big enough and buy it from the salesperson who sold you the good girdle!

“Firm” is a word to add to smooth. . . it’s part of that look of “one-ness” Susan has when she’s well put together.

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
Chapter III: Soap-and-Water Clean

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