Over the last week I’ve been on a diet, something I’ve not really done before however I felt like I needed to lose a couple of pounds. I’ve been pretty sensible and limited my calories and carbs. I’ve not gone for a crazy fad diet or limited myself too much, unlike some of the women featured in todays book review. The book in question is Vintage Secrets – Hollywood Diet and Fitness, a fantastic guide to the food and exercise regimes inflicted on the actresses of the silver screen from the 1920s to 60s.
The book works its way through the history of the 20th century diet looking at the ways some of Hollywood’s most famous actresses kept their figures in keeping with the weight limits in their contracts and the desired aesthetics of the time. The way women’s bodies are supposed to look has changed as readily as the shapes and fashions of clothing. From the boyish rake like figures of the 20s to the perfect hourglass of the fifties and this book talks us though the sometimes drastic methods that were used to achieve ‘perfection’.
I found this book so fascinating that I couldn’t put it down and read it in two sittings. The book tells the story of diet and fitness though descriptions, meal plans and expert opinions as well as through photographs and articles from the time. What struck me was how things really haven’t changed. Many women’s magazines today are still obsessed with celebrity bodies and the latest weight loss methods and it was exactly the same 80 years ago. We are still aspiring to look like famous women however it is clear from reading this book that they struggled to maintain their perfect figures too.
I’ve read a lot of books on fashion in the 20th Century, and reading this book really gave me a further insight into the social history of women. Having an understanding of the clothes women wore really put the book into context. The book is really well written and gives a frightening snapshot into the world of the Hollywood studios and the strict rules that actresses had to live by. If they went over the allowed weight, dietitians and fitness experts were brought in to help get them into shape. Crazy diets like the ‘Lamb Chop and Pineapple Diet’ and the ‘Cabbage Soup Diet’ are discussed as well as the first calorie controlled diets and early cosmetic surgery. The book discusses pioneering fitness gurus and actresses who embraced yoga before it became popular – all truly fascinating.
I loved the pretty colour scheme of the book and the fact that it was printed on thick glossy paper, making it really nice to leaf through. The pictures are fantastic and the snippings from contemporary magazines put the information into context and give a great insight into how the physiques of Hollywood starlets influenced normal women though the media.
The book is really well researched and I enjoyed reading about each actress and her various struggles with body image. The book uses quotes throughout which are also really interesting. One of the most insightful things was the differing opinions of modern and contemporary experts which are used throughout.
I’d recommend this book to women who love vintage fashion as well as those who have a deeper interest in the social history of women or just love old Hollywood. It would be a great gift for vintage loving ladies too.
Vintage Secrets – Hollywood Diet and Fitness is written by Laura Slater and Published by Plexus.
Buy Hollywood Diet and Fitness: Vintage Secrets on Amazon.