“Beauty is Duty”

by | Jan 22, 2022 | History

As I research Canadian women’s lives on the homefront during WWII, I am conscious of the words that were used to inspire, encourage, and sell to them.  These three ads from Chatelaine magazine in 1942 are great examples.

“I pledge myself to guard every bit of Beauty that he cherishes in me.” How interesting that the images imply that she has more than one fellow to ‘guard her beauty’ for.  Or, is she guarding it for every man in the service, whether ‘Land’ or ‘Sea’ or ‘Air’? “Today, these moments with him are fleeting, rare, and …infinitely precious.  For his sake, and yours, be at your lovely best, whenever you’re together.”

Dubarry Beauty Preparations reminds women that “Beauty is Duty”: 

“Duty’s call finds Miss Canada ready to do her part. She must be at her best always – instill confidence – maintaining morale – although her time for personal care is limited”.

Elizabeth Arden names a lipstick colour “Victory Red” to reflect that language of war in “Four Shades till Victory”. By 1942, it was considered ‘patriotic’ to re-use your lipstick tube by buying a refill, rather than a new metal case. “Save metal and money essential to victory”.

Ruth and Nancy Boyd, Long’s Creek, New Brunswick c.1940

Another makeup company, House of Westmore of Canada, headlines “Our Lipstick Cases Have Gone to War”, reminding the women that while the metals are on their way to the battle front, women “know you can tint your lips without stinting munitions!”.

And so, according to these advertisements, the Canadian woman of the 1940’s, if she is going to do her duty, must be at her ‘lovely best’, but must not spend too much time or money on her ‘personal care’, must reuse her metal lipstick case so new metals could go the battle front, all while doing her part to guard her beauty, instill confidence and maintain morale.  And all in the name of ‘Victory’!