June 08, 2011

How To Look Like A Model Circa 1955

This vintage article is an insider's look at the glamorous world of modeling, circa mid-1950s. It's an interesting glimpse back at the training and preparation models underwent at the time, written for the young lady aspiring to be a model - or just look like one. This article was reprinted verbatim from the original. -- A.A.

It's In The Bag

A young, attractive girl walks gracefully along Main Street, Small City, U.S.A. In New York a similar scene takes place along many of the famous streets and avenues. Hundreds of miles apart though these girls might be, they have something in common - a distinguishing trademark that links them together.

That trademark is the huge bag each carries, the symbol of the model, whether she's a professional in one of the fashion capitals of the country or an amateur, modeling in a school or department store fashion show. The bag can be either a hatbox or an oversized tote bag - it's what's inside that really counts. What a model carries in her bag is just as important to her as the contents of a doctor's satchel are to him. Because her work is so often unpredictable, she must be prepared to meet any emergency.

Models' photos displayed by
Lucile Clayton, 1946.

If modeling is new to you and you're going to appear in a style show for your school, 4-H group or local department store, perhaps this list of what to include in your model-bag will help. It was passed on by some of Powers' most successful girls.

Girls In The Windows
Ormond Gigli, 1960.


What to include in your

  • half slip
  • strapless bra
  • dress shields
  • extra hose (seamless)
  • black opera pumps
  • clean, short white
    gloves (fabric and string)
  • strand of pearls
  • pearl choker
  • two pairs of earrings
    (plain pearl and simple gold)
  • clean comb, spray
  • scarf to protect

Any Powers' model knows that having the right things with you is not all you need do. You must appear at the show so immaculately groomed that no time is lost while you make last minute repairs. Powers' girls use a "personal grooming
check list" to prepare themselves at home. The ten good grooming essentials are:

  • bath
  • deodorant
  • hair clean, set,
  • legs and underarms
  • nails freshly shaped,
  • fresh panties, bra,
  • neat girdle or pantie
  • clean dress shields,
    halter type
  • newly laundered
  • clean stockings - no

When there's a check mark after each item on this list and your model-bag is packed,
you're ready to leave for the show, confident that you're your most attractive self.

Models ca. 1958

It's Written All Over Your

Backstage at last and time to "Make-Down", Mr. Powers' way of saying "look natural". Heavy, obvious make-up is out of place and a sure sign of an amateur. Make-Down means keeping cosmetics to a minimum. You highlight your fresh complexion, making yourself more attractive but not detracting from the clothes you will show.

Learning the essentials at the Mayfair School in New York.

Rules for Applying "Make-Down"
  1. Dot forehead, nose,cheeks, chin and under chin with foundation that matches
    your skin coloring. Use light strokes, starting at the base of neck, and blend
    upward and outward with finger tips of both hands until it is an invisible film. Dot rouge lightly on high part of cheekbone. Blend until it looks like your own natural

  2. Apply powder liberally all over your face except eyelid area; then brush powder from brows and lashes.

  3. If you are going to be under spotlights, you'll want to accentuate your eyes. Eye shadow should be applied from the center of lower lids outward, as close to lashes as possible. Blend upwards and outwards twoard brows until the color is invisible and only a SHADOW remains.

  4. Apply cake mascara to lashes with a moist -never wet- brush. Too much water makes the
    eyelashes stick together and gives a beaded, artificial look. Use light strokes in applying mascara, then wait until lashes are completely dry and brush them gently to remove any excess mascara.

  5. Use light, feathery strokes of an eyebrow pencil in a color that matches your brow to trim arch line.

  6. Always apply lipstick with a brush. Follow the natural line all the way out to the corners.
    Most of these make-up applications are appropriate only when you're in a show. There is absolutely no need for more make-up than a light dusting of powder and well-applied lipstick off stage.

    Make-Down means a completely natural look, a look that every top-notch model has. The end result of what you do with cosmetics is no secret; it's written all over your face!

You're On... So:

First, check your posture. Chin up, head back, chest up, shoulders relaxed and down. If your spine is straight there's no need to hold your shoulders "up" or "back".
Keep your tummy up and in, your tail tucked under and your knees easy. Never lock them back; that throws your body out of line.

Then you make your entrance. Put your best foot forward, whether it's right or left, and assume the basic foot position. Your face and front foot are toward the audience. Place your back foot just behind the front foot, pointing
in a 45-degree angle. Keep your body at a 45-degree
angle too to give yourself that slim, tall look. Give your audience a big smile.

Jacques Fath models

Walk with confidence and ease - shoulders relaxed, head up, arms swing and hips still. All
motion in a graceful walk comes from the hip joint down. Keep your knees easy, relaxed and slightly bent. People want to see what you're modeling, so don't rush through your motions. Without dragging, walk slowly enough that everybody will get an opportunity to look at the clothes you're wearing. And always listen to the commentator; she's the one who'll give you your cues to enter and leave the stage.

To turn in graceful circles, start from a basic foot position or from a walk. Toe out in the direction you want to turn.
The rhythm is: toe out; step around; pull your front foot in. Always finish your turn in the basic foot position. You'll have less trouble standing, walking and turning if you imagine that there's a bowl of soup balanced on your head. You'll find yourself trying not to spill a single drop, and in the process you will develop the smooth, graceful, lovely carriage of a model.

Beautiful models and beautiful diamonds are not unlike. Both evolve by perfecting each and every facet so that the whole product or being will shine with brilliance. By giving all the phases of modeling the attention they deserve,
you'll polish every facet of the diamond - and the diamond is, of course, you!

At the Dior show in Paris.

Dior and his models.

Prepared in cooperation with John Robert Powers School, New York.
Distributed by McCall's Patterns' Educational Department, 230 Park Ave,
New York 17, New York.
Transcribed by April Ainsworth

Quick, Harriet (1997). Catwalking: A History of the Fashion Model.
London: Octopus Publishing Group Limited. Buy This Book


  1. Oh, April, this is marvelous! Thanks for taking the time to transcribe this. I LOVE it! Great work! I've been fascinated with Powers Girls for a long time. A million thanks!
    Love, Kay http://moviestarmakeover.blogspot.com/

  2. Hi Kay!

    Aren't they grand! I just love this aspect of fashion history too... I also have an interview from a Jacques Fath model I'll be posting shortly. Wonderful stuff!

  3. Hi April,
    I know this post was from a while ago, but I am doing some research and was wondering if you remember where the original article came from or if it was a pamphlet of sorts that was given to the models? I would love to find it! If you have any information I would greatly appreciate it, thanks so much!
    Best, Chelsea

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