No Girdle Can Do it All and Other Grooming Tips for Secretaries

Today’s post is the third in a series marking Administrative Professionals Week and written by Ketina Taylor (Archivist) and Jenny Sweeney (Education Specialist) of the National Archives at Fort Worth. Don’t miss their posts from day one and day two.

The back cover of the November 25, 1960 issue of the publication PS for Private Secretaries (online catalog identifier 7280715).

Pill box hats, shorter hem lines, black liquid eyeliner, and a flush of color on the lips were all the rage during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Secretaries at the time were quite concerned with their appearances and felt it was part of the job to be well-dressed, coiffed, manicured, and refined. Evidence of the importance of secretarial fashion, personality, and good grooming can be found among the records of Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training (RG 300).

The popular newsletter P.S. for Private Secretaries, distributed by publisher Prentice-Hall, addressed how an overall pleasing personality was a requirement for the job. According to P.S., graciousness was the number one attribute for a secretary to possess. It was up to her to set the tone of the office and to treat everyone from the “president to messenger” with respect (online catalog identifier 7280712). Several articles were dedicated to the topic of office gossip. One article warned that although gossip provides a bit of spice to everyday conversation, it is important to know that it can easily turn to a malicious nature and this type of gossip must be avoided at all times (online catalog identifier 7280708).

May 10, 1961 issue of the publication P.S. for Private Secretaries from the secretarial and clerical training program in Region X — Dallas (online catalog identifier 7280712).

“Fashion Wise,” a column in P.S., covers the topic of how to buy a girdle with input from the Corset and Brassiere Council. It provided advice on how to assure a proper fit and how best to put on a girdle. The article concludes with a cautionary note, “When you’re properly fitted with the right girdle for you, you still can’t relax completely, however! No girdle can do all the work” (online catalog identifier 7280715). Another topic addressed sleeveless dresses and warned “anybody who has an upper arm problem had better start correcting it now.” The column provided necessary exercises to perform “which if you do faithfully—ought to do a lot for oversized arms” (online catalog identifier 7280712). “Fashion Wise” also gave pointers on what to do when you have a cold because “you don’t have to look as bad as you feel” (online catalog identifier 7280715).

The minutes of the Secretarial and Clerical Staff Training Program Committee meeting from May 8, 1958 in New Orleans tell the story of a training program titled “Good Grooming” that it offered to its members. Mrs. Joei Jahnsen, National Director of Teacher Training for the Nancy Taylor Schools (which, according to the minutes, was “the largest chain of modeling schools in the world”), presented the program. Mrs. Jahnsen provided valuable information on such things as: good posture, appropriate dress, choosing the right color and application of makeup, and the importance of highlighting one’s good points and correcting one’s faulty points (online catalog identifier 7280658). Each member received a “Nancy Taylor Personality Analysis Test.” The answers and explanations for the test are below. Would you have gotten these answers right? If not, you might want to consider your flaws and work on them to better yourself just as the members of the meeting were instructed to do (online catalog identifier 7280664)!

This document is from the secretarial and clerical training program in New Orleans, Louisiana and is from a May 8, 1958 training session on good grooming tips (online catalog identifier 7280664).