Flaunt your good parts

What did beauty mean to you when you were in your 20’s?

I was never a girlie-girl who played with dolls. I liked to read a lot and do things outdoors like riding my bicycle and swimming. As a teenager I had a lot of male friends and I was an enthusiastic basketball player. I never understood girls who spend all their money on make up and expensive hairdressers. I saved my pocket money and the money I earned at my weekend job to be able to travel in the summer. As a student I never had money for extra’s so no expensive clothes. I remember Benetton was very popular but it was simply out of my reach, I did not miss it not be able to buy it.  I liked to make my own clothes to give it a personal “touch”; I remember knitting a lot of sweaters. And you can buy good clothes at the market.

What does beauty mean to you know?

Now in my forties I still don’t spend a lot of money on make-up, hairdressers or clothes. The only thing I use is a day and night creme. I still have no gray hairs and almost no wrinkles. I think that’s also because I have a very optimistic character. I’m very critical about what I eat.  I’ve been a vegetarian all my life and I eat a lot of vegetables and fruits. I don’t smoke but I do like a good glass of wine (hey it’s made of grapes……). I still love to cycle and swim, and I feel great in my body. Although I could lose some pounds I love my curves. I truly believe that beauty comes from within. You first need to be happy with yourself and not try to please others.

If different, why have your ideas changed over the years?

I don’t think my thoughts have changed a lot. In my eyes everyone is beautiful. We all have something to be proud of. You just need to flaunt your good parts. Of course it helps if you have a supportive partner (mine tells me I’m beautiful all the time) and friends who are honest with you. I think women should be more supportive of each other and not be so judgmental.

Simone, 41

The Netherlands

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A glass of sherry in the evening

What did beauty mean to you when you were in your 20s?

Ria, age 23

I lived with my family in a village in the countryside until 23. It was a few years after WW II in the 1950’s. I worked in a grocery shop and gave my wages to my dad to support the family. We had no luxury or beauty products. It was not available and was considered a waste to spend money on luxury.The first few years my clothes were hand-me-downs from my four older sisters, which my eldest sister altered.

I left the family home at 23 and moved to the city. I first lived with an aunt and uncle and later rented a room in a big house. At the beginning of the 60’s I had a bit more money to spend and sometimes bought lipstick, eyebrow-pencil and nail polish.

I stopped putting on lipstick after I married because my husband didn’t like it.

I liked shoes with heels (pumps), and I remember wearing a beautiful pair of red heels in  the 60’s.

When my daughter was born in 1970, I stopped working full-time. I worked part-time after a few years at home because I wanted to have my own money to feel independent

I visited a beautician for the first time  when I was 45. This was  a gift of a colleague (who was also beautician). She gave me a great beauty-tip: “Start the day with drinking a glass of lukewarm (boiled) water. It’s very good for your skin”. I started immediately and have never stopped.

I never used a lot of make-up…some face cream and always nail polish.  I colored my hair until my mid 60’s. It’s white now.  With clothes, I wear nothing special or fancy.

What does beauty mean to you now?

My aim is to get old in a healthy way…no plastic surgery or Botox for me.  I use the same make-up  products: face cream and nail polish.

The clothes I wear are casual during the week and on Sundays, more ladylike.

To keep fit, I swim, folk dance, cycle and walk. I eat healthy, vegetarian, fresh food. I enjoy my glass of sherry in the evening.

Why have your ideas about beauty changed over the years?

In my 20’s we had no money. Make-up was not available or seen as waste of money.   Now I think “Why?”    Nowadays we are bombarded with products and images in glossies, on TV, in the streets. It is totally different.  I am content and enjoy my life.

Ria, 78 – Holland

Anna Elisabeth, 86 – Holland

Top Left to Right: Marry, Ria; Bottom Left to Right: Hillie, Anna Elisabeth, Leuntje,Gré

What did beauty mean to you when you were in your 20s?

My 20s were during World War II and the aftermath. My mother died a year before; the older children of the family, including me,  all worked to contribute to feed and clothe the family.  My eldest sister tried to make “new” clothes from old ones for the family.

There was no luxury/beauty, but we had enough to eat. My dad worked at a farm so we had free milk every day and got flour to bake bread from the farmer.

At the end of the war we got “foodpackets.” One of the articles was Sunlight soap which was our only luxury.

Marriage was something to aspire to. I married when I was 25, and we lived in my dad’s home the first four years. There were no houses available because of the war. I worked as a housekeeper until my first child was born when I was 28.

My husband asked me which days I wanted to work and he would take care of our child, or if I wanted to stay at home as a mum, he would work full-time. I chose to be a stay-at-home-mum.

After four years of living in my dad’s house, we got our own home, two step-children included (15 and 12 years old). Their parents had died, and they needed care. The family asked us to take care of them in their house.

In my 30s, four more children were born. We had no luxury-life but we had enough.

Until the 1960s, I had long hair. Since then I’ve worn it short. It has a natural wave. I’ve never had  a perm or colouring, although sometimes I used rollers. It’s white now and thinning.

I never dieted. In the 50s and 60s I wore a corset to strengthen my back and tuck my tummy in.  I stopped wearing this in the mid sixties, and it feels better.

During the early ’50s, we had some ladies’ magazines with a lot of articles about the household tips to make something new from old, making children’s clothes, questions from readers about bringing up children (which a professor answered), and advertisements about sewing machines, vacuum cleaners and washing machines. There was nothing about fashion or make-up.

Only people with money wore make-up. I never felt the urge to wear make-up.

We didn’t have TV, Internet, or billboards, so there were not so many images about “Beauty”.

What does beauty mean to you now?

Now even being so old, you want to look well. I wear comfortable and decent clothes.   My luxury? The hairdresser and pedicurist comes to my house.

I enjoy my children and grand-children. I  enjoy life as it is. I eat well…fresh vegetables and fruit every day. I love to read books, embroider and do crossword-puzzles.

If different, why have your ideas about beauty changed over the years?

There is a big difference. Everything has changed during my lifetime. You are able to buy everything you want. There is abundance.

Anna Elisabeth, 86 – Holland

Taille fine

What did beauty mean to you when you were in your 20s?

Having lived in different countries, I have noticed how the sense of beauty varies in the different cultures. Some cultures emphasize different parts of the body (France: the size / weight (“taille fine”… thin waist); China: the nose and eyes, USA: teeth and hair, Holland and Nordic countries: the healthy/sporty look etc…)

Growing up in Europe, meant that the outward appearance wasn’t as important as it would be in the US for instance. So, the inner beauty has always been more important to me. I have never worn make-up, but I did watch my waist! (in my 20’s)

What does beauty mean to you now?

Now, in my 50’s, beauty is still what is in the inside of a person. (although I don’t think there isn’t one person in her 50’s who wouldn’t secretly wish to look 10 years younger!!!)

If different, why have your ideas about beauty  changed over the years?

no difference

Mireille, 53

“I play less with identity because I know myself better…”

What did beauty mean to you when you were in your 20s?

Playing around with my identity. At a certain point (when I was performing in theater) I realized that “looking beautiful” is an illusion, so I lost my fear of playing with beauty. Playing with make-up, hair, clothing. I changed my  hairstyle often, sometimes every day (with the help of a friendly hairdresser). And just had fun with it all. I dressed a lot in vintage clothes, put on manly looks, sexy looks, showy looks.

I never dieted in my 20s. though I did exercise using Rachel Welch videos tapes, to prepare for my theater programs (dancing). I loved costumes! When I was 25, I moved to Holland and became a secretary for a while and  used to “dress up” as a secretary to play the role.

The Dutch however had less of a sense of humor about clothing… unfortunately, that influenced me and I stopped dressing up in fun vintage party dresses for parties. No one else dressed up (‘normal’ was the standard) and they would make fun of me, and I lost my confidence and got rid of my dresses. I still mourn the passing of my party dresses!

What does beauty mean to you now?

Some people are simply beautiful. Others radiate beauty through their calm or peace of mind or personal energy. I feel beautiful when I feel strong and fully myself. Laughter and joy is beauty, too!

If different, why have your ideas about beauty  changed over the years?

I play less with identity because I know myself better. Fashion trends are less important now. And I care less what other people think about me now. And although in the past I thought I would use plastic surgery, now I think it is better to stay healthy and try to accept age creeping up…. so sad to see photos of Madonna without make-up, for example. We are the same age, and she has destroyed her natural beauty.

It is funny to see old photos of myself now, I was so beautiful in my 20′s but back then, I didn’t always feel beautiful. I felt fat or ugly or strange. Insecure at times. Sensitive to people making fun of my experimentations with identity – which happened when I moved from the US to Holland.

So now if I feel ugly, I think of those photos and know that I will always look beautiful in retrospect!

Claire, 51

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