HARPER’S BAZAAR: HOW TO REDUCE FLESH
GIBSON GIRL WORKOUT: A peek inside a 1903 Harper’s Bazar issue…
I’m a 50 year old at heart and if you know me, you wouldn’t be surprised to know that I LOVE antiquing. Something about rummaging through a stranger’s junk just get’s me going! But this time I struck FASHION gold: I found the February issue of a 1903 Harper’s Bazar (was spelled this way until 1929). Frank Luther Mott’s book, A History of American Magazines: 1865-1885, writes that Fletcher Harper had the idea to create America’s first fashion magazine right after the Civil War. He called it Harper’s Bazar after a lady’s fashion magazine in Berlin called Der Bazar. The Editor-In-Chief of this particular 1903 issue was Elizabeth G. Jordan—inside she has her own article which I’ll have to share with you sometime. Why keep it to myself?!
As soon as I opened the magazine, one article stole my attention right away, “How To Reduce Flesh” by Louise Richardson. Sound familiar? This title is reminiscent of this year’s Harper’s Bazaar May cover story, “5 Day Body Makeover: The Cellulite Treatment That Works.” I’m sure cellulite wasn’t a topic of discussion a hundred years ago, but it seems that the ladies of 1903 were just as vain as we are when it comes to our bodies. They may not have been shedding pounds to fit in the latest Rag & Bone Neon Yellow skinny jeans—I’m obsessed—but they did have the same urge to look as flattering as possible in constricting corsets—which I guess were the skinny jeans of their time. I ‘love’ (I’m being sarcastic here) how the first paragraph opens up:
“There is no reason why so many women should have a large accumulation of fat on the body, especially about the waist and hips; there is every reason for removing it, for both health and appearance. Woman’s influence lies to a great extent in her physical attractiveness. Though her mind be cultured and her soul pure and sweet, if she have an ungainly, unpoised figure, her power over those with whom she comes in contact is greatly lessened.”
You might think that quote is pretty harsh, but wait, there’s more. “As a rule, fat people are very fond of a comfortable chair, and exceedingly loath to leave it.” I’m pretty sure if we read this inside Harper’s today there would be a lot of women seeing RED, and not from the soles of their Louboutins either. Jeez Louise! I’ll leave the commenting to you readers…
When it comes to diets, Louise Richardson does suggest one, “For the first month avoid rich desserts, sweets, and fattening vegetables; eat lean meats, fish, eggs, dry toast, and fruits, except bananas. Do not drink over a quart of water a day. Exercise until perspiration is profuse, and do not drink.” I think her diet suggestions are somewhat normal, even to this day, but the exercises are definitely not. “To increase chest expansion, place a pipestem in the mouth; breath out through it until the lungs are completely empty; then inhale through the nostrils until lungs are packed. If dizzy, do not be alarmed; the lungs are surprised at so much air. They will get used to it.” I’ve never heard of this. Where would you get a pipestem anyway? She goes on to list six more exercises, really they’re more like stretches which would be considered easy for our current time. The stretches mostly involve slight movements with the arms and bending the waist while standing or laying on your back. Richardson suggests practicing, “all of these movements at least fifteen minutes night and morning in loose clothing. Practise every day!”
Breathing exercises seem to be the main focus of this article. The goal is to be able to count to 200 in one breath! Her reasoning is that, “One can live for days without food or water; without air, one will die in a moment. This shows the great necessity of oxygen to the system. Remember also that oxygen burns away fat.” Today there’s actually a name for those breathing techniques, Oxycise. If you google it you’ll sees tons of testimonials from people getting better muscle definition just from breathing. One site in particular, oxycise.com, writes about founder Jill Johnson. “Jill experimented with different ways of fueling her body with the three essentials of human life – oxygen, food and water. She tried different ways of breathing… at different times. Result? She lost over 50 pounds in 6 months.” Pretty impressive for just breathing! I’m skeptical.
When you turn the page, Richardson writes about more ‘advanced’ workouts, which she says are “easy, and fleshy people usually like easy work.” One of the exercises involves hopping on one leg, which I guess would be 1903′s version of a cardio workout. To this she warns that it “may cause rapid breathing and induce perspiration. Remember you must not drink if you are thirsty.” I’m pretty sure you are supposed to drink if you’re thirsty, especially when doing cardio. And those breathing techniques? Oxycise is that real? When I asked my friend who is a trainer here in NYC she told me, “You are supposed to drink 8oz water every 20 minutes to rehydrate [during cardio] and oxygen does burn fat (oxygen is the ‘o’ in H2O) which is why we always say stay hydrated. Oxycise isn’t a physiological term. If you need me to break it down in further scientific terms for you I can. But the above are factual in Layman’s terms”. I’m really bad with Science so I trust her judgement.
Not all the exercises mentioned are bogus, if you’re looking for a good ab workout, try this one. “Lie on the back, arms folded on the chest. Count one, slowly raise the right leg until it is at a right angle with the floor. Count two, return slowly. Repeat with the left leg. At first it will be best to take this movement but once with each leg. As the muscles become stronger, increase the counts, and raise both legs at once. This movement is excellent to reduce the abdomen.” This move reminds me of Pilates, maybe Richardson was on to something. She does say that “One woman lost thirty-five pounds in eight months by following the rules and exercises;” there’s no before and after picture though.
Her last sentence gives the best advice: “When taking these exercises you will find the work easier and very enjoyable if taken to music. Let some one play marches and waltzes to suit the movement; the rhythm will make the work into play.” I personally prefer Deadmau5 when I’m pounding away the miles on the treadmill but to each their own.