Susan, be smooth! by Nell Giles, 1940: Chapter X – Fifteen Minutes a Day

Chapter X

This is the final chapter. . . our last chance to “buttonhole” you and tell you, on the run, everything we’ve forgotten to tell you up to this time, “Oh, yes, . . . and don’t forget to write!”

We’ve named it “Fifteen Minutes a Day” because it is continued, forever and ever. Everyday, that is, if you really want to be smooth.


There are some points in good grooming that can be learned and then forgotten about. You can memorize the fact that too much chocolate makes pimples and a sallow skin; you don’t have to re-learn it every time you pass a drug store.

But there are other points in good grooming that go on and on forever, and must be thought about each time. . . and here they are.

In general, this gets us to the point we mentioned at the very beginning of this book. . . the point that girl birds get their men by being neat. But you need not be dull with it. We believe that neatness need take no more than fifteen minutes a day, if that quarter hour is well planned and jammed with energy.

It takes time to put yourself together every morning. . . so that you have an immaculate smoothness in clothes and make-up. In fact, “lack of time” is the excuse most Susans give for going to school or business looking sort of half cocked, and certainly anything but smooth.

Our point is made in this chapter: that neatness, which is an essential part of the smooth look, must be a routine matter, and that it takes no more than fifteen minutes a day.

The secret is to take care of your clothes as you go along. That saves both time and clothes.


As you take off your clothes, brush them, inside and out, with a small, stiff whisk broom which is Private Property and always at hand. Brushing inside, around necklines and across shoulders, removes dust and powder. After you’ve brushed your dress, hang it on a hanger (if you’re wearing a suit, hang the skirt on a skirt hanger) and instead of jamming it into your closet, let it hang out where the air will blow through it overnight. This minute of care saves cleaning and pressing bills, and it saves time tomorrow morning.

But you’re not through yet. . . When you take off your shoes, brush them. If they are suede, use a rubber sponge from the dime store. Use this on your suede bag and gloves, too, and do it every night. The rubber sponge is much better than a suede brush because it keeps the nap up and prevents a shiny look. Go over your gloves carefully, especially at the fingertips. This ounce of prevention will keep them looking new for actually months longer.

Just before you lay your bag away neatly in your drawer, open it, take out the handkerchief you’ve used for the day, the note from Mary and the gum wrapper from the piece you sentimentally divided with Tom. And now give the lining of your bag a good quick rub-down to remove powder and stray debris. Fold a clean handkerchief and put it in. Tomorrow is another day.

After your bath and your chores washing underwear, which we have graphically described in the stiff-necked chapter called “Soap-and-Water Clean,” your hands will probably have the smoothness of un-soaked prunes; so it is well to take precautions. The care of your hands is much more than a matter of the right color of nail enamel, just as make-up for your face is more than a matter of lipstick color.

“Hands to have and to hold must be smooth, soft, and white (in summer, substitute a nice, golden tan for white, if preferred). The smooth and soft part stands, the year round, even for Big Girl Athletes. No Smooth Susan has horny hands.

This does not mean less tennis; it means a little rich hand cream rubbed in at night. One of the smart nail enamel people encourages us by selling a kit composed of Hand Lotion, Massage Cream and a pair of white lisle mits. The mits are to be worn at night, to protect the bed linen from cream, and also to keep the cream on your hands until most of it has soaked in. It’s very funny to wake up in the morning and discover your hands in spanking white gloves. . . it gives you an impulse to direct traffic! You may have worn gloves to bed for years. . . in which case we don’t need to tell you the benefits of this formal attire.


Cotton gloves worn under your wool sports mittens, especially if you’ve first rubbed your hands with hand cream, will prevent red chapped hands, by the way . . . (just to pull you out of a nice warm bed into the snow!). Now that we’ve thoroughly covered the hands-with-cream subject, let’s get on with the care of the hands, which is part of this fifteen minutes of good grooming a day. Our fingernails, just as our hair does, reflect the condition of our health. This means that the right diet and a happy state of mind have much to do with correcting dry, brittle nails. Once or twice a week, rub a drop of oil around the cuticle at the base of your fingernails. Never cut the cuticle, but push it back gently with an orange stick dipped in oil. Be patient with this routine and your hands will respond to good treatment.

“Hangnails,” which are an extension of dead cuticle at the sides of the fingernail, must never be cut. You probably know this, but you usually continue to clip off your hangnails, which makes them grow back, thicker and hornier than ever. The cure is to let the fingernail grow up a little at the sizes, rather than keeping it filed down to the “quick,” and also to push the hangnail back with an oil-soaked orange stick.

If you bite your fingernails, you don’t need to be told that you shouldn’t do it. You know that. But here’s a suggestion on how to break the habit: just keep biting your fingernails, down to the very stubs. All but one fingernail. Keep this one carefully groomed; enamel it with a lovely color, and leave the white tip showing. That white tip is your will power. You won’t miss this fingernail because you have nine others to chew. But on some occasion,. . . say May Day. . . stop biting the same fingernail on the other hand. Treat it with kindness, too, and watch it grow and prosper. We don’t need to tell you the end of the story. One at a time you let your fingernails grow. You add color as you add will power, and before you know it you have learned discipline and added ten fingers to your smoothness.

The best time to put on nail polish is just before you go to bed. Let it get almost dry before you put on your white mits and go to sleep. During the night, the polish will harden without the tiniest blemish. Polish applied in the daytime is subject to fingerprints, dust and smudges before it dries. Set aside one night a week. . . one night while you listen to your favorite radio program. . . for nail inspection, and you’ll avoid the “chipped polish look.” In the last minute you have set aside to give yourself the smooth look at night, pick out your few stray eyebrows. It’s better to do a few every night and keep them under perfect discipline than to torture yourself with periodic clean-ups.  Of course, it’s better grooming, it goes without saying. Good grooming is not periodic but continuous, if it is really good grooming.

These few minutes of brushing clothes, caring for hands and eyebrows, save time for the finer points when you dress in the morning.

An extra minute of care, for example, when you put on your girdle and stockings, will guarantee straight stocking seams all day.

Be sure that your girdle is on straight and the the supporters are fastened down in a straight line. When you put on your stockings, fold the leg down to the toe, so that the whole length of silk is between your forefinger and your thumb, which is flat against the inside of the stocking heel. Now put the stocking on your food and pull it up over your leg with both hands, keeping the right thumb over the inside of the stocking seam, and pulling this seam up straight at the back of your leg. Fasten your supporters to the  tops of your stockings while you stand. Again, here is a rule of good grooming which takes thought at first but soon becomes a habit.

If you’ll put on make-up (all except lipstick) before you slip on your dress, you’ll save the trouble of brushing away powder.

We’ll stop here to say a few pungent words on Perfume and the art of choosing as well as applying it.

First of all, perfume or cologne is to be rubbed on your skin, not on your clothes. It is to be applied subtly, so that one’s friends are gradually aware of it, rather than being introduced to Susan by a titanic wave of fragrance. In other words, this intangible sweetness is not to be “a thing apart.” Here’s a way to be sure you get the right effect. When you are perfectly clean, with a soap and water freshness, rub cologne on the inside of your elbows, your wrists and in the creases where your arms become your shoulders. During the day, these are the warm parts of your body. Cologne will keep your freshness and your body heat will warm a constant aura of fragrance around you. Rub a drop or two of cologne into your scalp after you brush your hair and before you comb it.

We suggest cologne rather than perfume because you are less apt to use too much, and because cologne is less expensive, and therefore can be used every day rather than on Occasions.

Again, we are saying, in another way, that taking pains is part of good grooming, and that every day you must look your best.

Perfume will spike an evening as only a corsage can. Choose your scent with you, your dress and your beau in mind. Be sure your hair smells of it and that a whiff lingers around your throat like a locket.

As for choosing your fragrance, we’d suggest a shy variety. We are a little bored with girls who tell us with a complacent smile that they’ve “always been faithful to So and So’s Pensees de la Perse,” or whatever. (We are tempted to ask, “And what did it get you” ???) We want to be identified as Susan. . . not as Someone’s Thoughts of Persia. But we want the thoughts to be part of the intangible charm of Susan.

It’s nice to have a general theme song in fragrance. . . a light, flower base cologne for every day for example. But don’t be too constant; every day is not the same. . . and goodness knows the nights are not.

On “smelling nice always,” we’d say in summary: choose with care for the mood, the moment and the dress; apply lightly in many places, and only after you are soap-and-water clean!

And now, as you finish dressing, think over these handbook pointers to good grooming. Smoothness is an attitude and an effort. It is worth working over. One extra minute of care will persuade you to part your hair exactly rather than almost straight. . . will send you out with sureness rather than a lukewarm feeling of confidence. Smoothness gives you time to forget how you look.

Smoothness is, roughly, a dewy, fresh scrubbed look, plus clothes that have only one thought in mind. .  .to bring out the best in YOU.


Chapter XI

Smoothness is an attitude and an effort–worth working over!
Mostly, it depends on taking pains.
Only soap and water will give you the dewy, fresh, scrubbed look.
Oral exam means teeth, breath, smile and voice–do you pass?
Think of the whole effect–smoothness means one-ness.
Hair must be brushed from the scalp UP, night and morning.

Subtract for simplicity.
Unless the shoe fits, don’t wear it.
Stretch for good posture and good digestion.
After cleanliness comes cologne–applied lightly in many places!
Neatness need not be dull–it just takes fifteen minutes a day.

The End


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
Chapter IV: S-T-R-E-T-C-H
Chapter V: A Hairsbreadth Escape
Chapter VI: Oral Exam
Chapter VII: Don’t Mention It
Chapter VIII: Eat to Be Pretty
Chapter IX: Make a Face 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s