Hilariously Outdated Advice From Seventeen Magazine


1967's The Seventeen Book of Fashion and Beauty might just be the best worst book ever. This pre-Women's Lib guide to girls' style has it all: anorexia tips, unsolicited eyewear criticism, shoe shaming, vocal chord shaming. Ready to feel really, really lucky that the world (and the advice in Seventeen) has changed so much in the last five decades? By all means then, read on:

Tips For Not Being Such a Skank
-"Cross your ankles if you like, but never your knees. Why? Try it in front of a mirror and see."

-"Too much skin, too much leg, too much perfume, too much makeup labels you a girl to be whistled at rather than loved."

-"Nothing is more disenchanting than the sight of a girl frantically yanking at her hem in a futile effort to hide her garters from the public while she sits."

-"Why do you suppose most road signs are printed on shiny white or yellow backgrounds? The better to see the curves. The same thing happens on girls."

-"Swimsuits belong at waterside, not in the street. There’s no excuse for placing oneself on display."

-"Some girls can use nothing but eyeliner, blusher and lipstick and still end up looking like a lady clown."

You're Fat; Stop Being So Fat
-"Meal at a friend’s house? Take a little of everything, but imagine you are a frail 19th century beauty and eat like a bird."

-"What happens when you return from your summer holiday ten pounds heavier? Let us hope the condition is temporary. Meanwhile, you have to dress to minimize."

-"Chinese restaurants are kind to dieters. Have only a half-cup of rice... Dessert? Make it one fortune cookie."

-"These are the basic foods you should eat every day:
1 egg
6 ounces of meat, poultry, fish, or cheese
2 servings of fruit
3 servings of vegetables, one of them a deep yellow or dark leafy green, one a small potato
3 glasses of milk
3 slices of bread
3 small pats of butter"

-"A pretty figure can do a great deal for a girl, even more than a pretty face."

-"Never underestimate the importance of your girdle."

Your Vocal Chords Should Be Ashamed
-"How pretty do you sound? You can’t expect to charm a royal ball or end up with Rex Harrison with sloppy speech habits."

-"Hold a matchstick in your teeth the next time you phone your best friend. Can she tell it’s there? If so, you need practice."

-"To find the best pitch for your voice, sing do-re-mi-fa-so up the scale, starting on the lowest note you can comfortably sing. The fifth note above this is the place where your voice should sound best—pleasant and rich in tone. At this level, you can raise your voice without sounding harsh or shrill."

-"Good speech is more important than the actual words you say... The sound. The smile. The gentleness, warmth, and vitality. The voice that says, ‘I like people. I like you.'"

-"If your friends can understand you perfectly, but strangers and teachers frequently have difficulty, chances are you don’t really want them to hear you."

Lessons On What's Probably Wrong With Your Terrible Hair
-"Should you ever cut your own hair? No."

-"When should you shampoo your hair? The day before it looks like it needs it."

-"If your hair is so limp it just clings affectionately to the back of your neck, face up to it bravely: you’ll be better off with a short hairdo."

-"Flowers in your hair can create a pretty effect, but beware of overdoing. Keep your touch light or you may remind people of Ophelia [Ed. Note: From Hamlet. Obviously. Because suicide is funny...ha...ha]."

-"It is in poor taste to be seen in town or anywhere else in curlers."

-"If bangs are good on you, hat brims will be, too."

How (And How Not) To Be Pretty
-"Do you get into cars head first? You’ll look prettier if you slide in sideways."

-"Your hands tell a lot about you. Are they pretty to look at, soft to hold? They should be."

-"Are you nearsighted? If so, your glasses’ lenses are making your eyes look smaller."

-"Fresh as a daisy, neat as a pin, pretty as a picture—you could sum it all up in one word: Girl."

-"To keep teeth pretty, never open curler clips or bobby pins with them; don’t chew on pencils, don’t break sewing thread, and don’t grind your teeth."

-"There is only one reliable gauge of what your best colors are: any color that does something for you when you have little or no makeup on is bound to be right."

-"You may be tempted by boldly colored glasses frames… think about it overnight."

Ugh, Stand Up Straighter
-"If a girl slumps her shoulders, it’s a safe bet she hopes nobody will notice anything about her. Probably nobody will."

-"The way you stand and walk shows who you think you are. People who droop and just sort of drift around look like nonentities."

-"Stand with your back against a wall. If your posture is close to perfect, your head, shoulders, and buttocks will be touching the wall."

-"When you walk, point your foot directly ahead and come down on your heel, then shift weight to the ball of your foot."

-"Stand as the models do, one foot turned out a little, the other foot a bit ahead."

You Have No Sense of Style
-"Date bags should always be small and dainty; you wouldn’t want the boy you’re with to think there’s something in the depths that bites if disturbed."

-"The element in fashion which is hardest to define and analyze is good taste. You are most acutely aware of it when it is absent."

-"If hot pink on you makes people want to say: 'Pink, where are you going with that girl?' use it for a scarf or shirt rather than a whole dress."

-"You would be right to wear Bermuda shorts shopping in Bermuda, and wrong, wrong, wrong to wear them shopping in New York."

-"Serious elegance is for the elderly; a strong element of fun enters into young chic."

-"Belts can and should have character."

-"Be wary of blue shoes, unless they’re navy."

-"It is the nature of good taste to be pleasantly unobtrusive."

-"What’s the matter with rich furs? Anything that advertises its astronomical price tag is ostentatious. A raccoon coat—no matter how high its quality—does not flaunt its high price."

-"As in painting, architecture, and theater, you need a single focal point."

-"Don’t bypass the dress with nothing on it; it may need a figure inside to come to life."

"While a trim length of leg has universal masculine approval, many boys confess to intense embarrassment on being confronted with intimate apparel."

Photos by Mathea Millman.

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  • kelceyholda .

    This is hilarious. Thank goodness our culture has progressed enough where we can laugh at this sort of thing,

    • Bianca

      In 30 years we're going to be laughing at the same thing but instead of a 1/2 cup of rice and a fortune cookie at the Chinese restaurant, it's a juice "cleanse."
      Same silly advice from Seventeen, Vogue, Glamour just with different words.

  • Julia

    Two years after , Woodstock 1969.... enough said :)

  • Em

    I don't get it. What's so wrong or offensive about "Don’t bypass the dress with nothing on it; it may need a figure inside to come to life", for example? How is that insanely bad advice? Some of the tips are old-fashioned and offensive but plenty were totally fine. Not a very discerning article.

    • mlle p

      I agree! There's nothing bad about good posture or not wearing curlers in public. Some of these are not terrible advice.

      • hyacinthgirl

        I think the point of the curlers in public is that it's fairly non-sensical because nobody would do that (under the impression that it's not weird, at least). The posture thing I just took as ignoring the fact that not every girl's body type will be so slender that she'll have her shoulder blades, ass, and head touching a wall at the same time.

        • Roessie

          Believe it or not, before blowdryers, women wore curlers for hours, and if they had to run errands before it was time for the curlers to come out, they'd wrap their heads in a scarf, so yes, a girl might need to be told that no matter how important it was to have big hair on Saturday night, she needed to ditch the curlers if she was going. This was before Facebook; there were three television channels in 1967 and plenty of homes without TV. A lot of us rural and small town girls dreamed about going to the big city, where--we all knew--fashion and sophistication were a million miles ahead of the hicksville where we lived.

    • Christine

      For millennials, there's no difference between old-fashioned and offensive. Looks like ITG is slowly morphing into Jezebel. Too bad!

  • beeswaxnoneofyour

    Ah. That eat like a frail beauty thing cracked me up - just remembering that scene in Gone With the Wind (movie version) where Scarlett eats a full meal prior to getting dressed and going to the barbecue so she can 'look like a lady' picking at her plate in public. Something about men don't like women who are hearty eaters. All the men I've met (clearly I didn't date modelizers) like women who actually eat well and not pick!

  • randys_donuts

    I like the alternate reality where Chinese food is slimming.

    • beeswaxnoneofyour

      Yeah, me at a dim sum restaurant doesn't really equal 'slimming'

  • http://ninadhollander.blogspot.be/ Nina | Hermania

    Oh god, what a blessing those days are over! ...mostly

  • NingNing

    They're suppose to be "insanely bad advice"? I don't think so, most of them are "sane" and nothing crazy. The "don't slouch" bit for instance. Also the "don't bypass a dress with nothing on it etc etc...", why is it considered a bad advice?? Plain shift dresses comes to mind...

  • crossing your ankles is proper

    it's no "guide on how to be a crass imperfect skank," but i wouldn't call it "insanely bad" advice...

  • http://intothegloss.com/ ITG Annie

    I think it's saying that bright white and yellow will make you look fat. Although I'm choosing to interpret this as, "Only wear bright yellow and white bodycon dresses to show off your curves."

    • http://www.girlengineered.com/ Megan McClen

      Haha that was how I was thinking of it! I forgot that "curves" could have been considered a bad thing.

      • ITGLacey

        In the full paragraph, it's basically like "BRIGHT COLORS ARE SLUTTY; PEOPLE CAN SEE YOU IN THEM. FOR SHAAAAAAAME"

  • conni boykins

    "Take a little of everything, but imagine you are a frail 19th century beauty and eat like a bird."
    Fun Fact: a bird eats half of its body weight in food a day.

    • ITGLacey

      Wait! Then I really AM just like a frail 19th century beauty! Thank you Conni... the more you knoooooow!

  • Clever Girl Reviews

    Most of these are hilarious!

  • kt mo

    i like how some commenters are like, but you SHOULD stand up straight!!
    like, this is the point . :/

  • http://www.MrEssentialist.com/ Mr Essentialist

    "3 slices of bread" - love that esp. since I've yet to meet a girl who eats bread.

    • ITGLacey

      Hello! I eat bread! In fact, I am eating bread RIGHT NOW. I don't know if this counts as "meeting," but if so...

    • Alice

      Gad to put down my bread with chorizo to answer to you. And yes, I'm a girl.

  • http://lerablogs.blogspot.com/ Lera

    The advice they give is OK, it's the tone they use - patronizing much?

  • Lyndsay

    I kinda want to get a garter now....

  • Guest

    Meanwhile, Anais Nin had written the pieces that would become Delta of Venus ... this is offensive in parts and doesn't hint at anything revolutionary to come, but 2014 has its own ways of sorting and classifying women too. Like sororities, for example.

  • thebrightblush.com

    Hmmm. I sort of feel like perhaps the tone and diction of these statements are just extremely irritating and dated, but I have to say that their content isn't *always* ridiculous ("Belts can and should have character" ... um, am I the only one who doesn't see anything innately wrong with this?), but I will definitely assert that many of these messages haven't disappeared by ANY means. PLENTY of these phrases and "suggestions" have, without a doubt, been repackaged and redistributed for today's times, in today's magazines, in today's language. Instead of sounding like bitter Betty Drapers, the editors of today seem to send very similar messages like those above, just with a tone of "OMG you've GOT to do this because you're AWESOME and you DESERVE IT!" instead. I still feel that the culture pushes for a certain look, a certain body, and a certain set of expectations today, though it may just be delivered in a different manner than the patronizing way Seventeen apparently did it back in the sixties. We're still trying to tell girls what guys *really* like, we're still trying to tell each other about the most effective diets and ways to keep off the pounds, and we're still talking about what's in and what's out with each passing season. It may not have the venom and sting that it did back then, but sometimes I still hear the same old song and dance at the end of the day.

  • doctor_spaceman

    I don't get the matchstick thing at all. Are they saying you're not supposed to open your mouth when you talk? I think talking with my teeth closed with give me the effect of a 20s mob girlfriend, which is cool by me but I assume not what they're going for here.

    • ITGLacey

      Ummmmm, please DO start talking like a 20s mob girlfriend. In fact, that goes for everyone, myself included—only good things can come of this.

  • freudianslippers

    Thank god for 3 pats of butter!

  • ITGLacey

    Elvis shows up, offers you a fried peanut butter sandwich that ruins your diet, and tries to convince you to wear a fur coat that both costs a lot of money & is not made of raccoons.

    • MoseyM

      He'd probably be a bad influence when it comes to shiny white outfits and pleasant unobtrusive taste too, I'd imagine. Though his belts do have character.

  • grumblemama

    I'm pretty sure these are ALL things my grandma has said to me at one time or another.

  • Julie

    It's a funny read, but to think that's how girls were expected to behave is just sad.


  • MoseyM

    Ha! Great summary of basically all fashion advice, ever.

  • anon

    The world really hasn't changed that much. Except now we shame people who don't juice or buy an inordinate amount of luxury beauty products or who do wash their hair every day.

    Also, where I live, the younger women have a more serious style and the older women the more frivolous a la Saffron and Edina, because of plastic surgery and baby boomer moms having a lot more money.

    I think that the editor has to add a note to explain a literary reference actually points out the detrimental side of modern life.

  • Roessie

    I remember this book, and I remember how confusing it sometimes felt to be a girl in the sixties and seventies, so I was prepared to be dismayed by these out-takes. Instead, I'm impressed. The writing is sharp and opinionated, which sounds great right about now. The diet advice (it used to be referred to as "eating in moderation") is spot on, make-up is in fact not every girl's friend, big bags do tend get in the way on date night, and a shrill voice, bad taste in clothes, poor grooming and bad posture still make a lousy first, second and third impression. So does constantly tugging at clothes that are too tight, too short or too low. Notice how "sexy" never shows up in this book? That's because a seventeen year old girl doesn't need to try in order to be sexy; young women simply are sexy, and they already get a lot of unwanted sexual attention. What girls on the brink of adulthood wanted to know back then--and still want to know now, actually--is how to dress, speak and move with confidence that will attract the attention and respect of the people who matter--a good partner, the parents of potential partners, smart, loyal and funny friends, and potential employers. The best transitions from adolescence to adulthood are made the help of adult coaches--hopefully, chic adults with good skincare regimines and social confidence--and since not all of us had someone like that, this book was a pretty good no-nonsense substitute.

  • Franquie

    As a kid, I was obsessed with my moms old book from the early 60s - Sears school for young charmers (a book that accompanied a course you took at Sears). I loved it & all it's outdated wisdom. It even had Vincent Price as expert on culture. VINCENT PRICE!

  • Celeste

    A good chunk of these sound not so bad to me, to be honest?

  • fashionerd

    I think the entire disparity in these tips comes from the amount of thought and effort that supposedly went into being pretty at that time, and that there was clearly only one kind of "pretty" that was acceptable. Obviously girls still care about their looks now - hello, this is a beauty site we're all on - but there is a much more welcoming and organic feel to achieving this. Girls are empowering and not shaming other girls for their differences, and beauty is now a tool of health and self-betterment rather than a necessity to get a man and be accepted into society - phew! I really enjoyed reading this because it made me extremely grateful for things about life today that I often take for granted. Thanks for sharing, ITG :)

  • CK

    "If bangs are good on you, hat brims will be, too." Actually on-point for me.

    "Do you get into cars head first? You’ll look prettier if you slide in sideways." LOL

  • 1Alouette

    Oh my goodness! And I wouldn't have even been a blip on the 1950-60s radar. That is an era I would not want to live in (for more than one reason!).

  • princessbitchface

    You get pregnant. Duh.

  • Joseph

    "While a trim length of leg has universal masculine approval, many boys
    confess to intense embarrassment on being confronted with intimate

    Nope. Not embarrassment. Arousal. Trust me.