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January 2, 2021

Day of Beauty: A Whole Day at Helena Rubinstein’s Salon in New York, 1937

In 1936, Helena Rubinstein opened a new salon in a seven-storey building at 715 Fifth Avenue, New York. Described as ‘a new world of beauty’ the salon was designed to provide clients with all their beauty needs.

“Here is a world where you may find blessed release from the whirring world without, and complete realization of your beauty within. Here Helena Rubinstein offers you the fruits of her rich and almost legendary experience in bringing beauty to the women of every land. Here she has gathered the myriad talents and services of artists, scientists, technicians. Specialists in Skin Culture, Coiffure Stylists, Cosmetic Colorists, Dieticians and Physiotherapists.

Here is everything to contribute to the full and perfect expression of your loveliness—your complexion, your figure, your hair, your hands, your whole personality. Here is an inspired new conception of your beauty.”

(Rubinstein advertisement, 1937)

Along with the usual reception areas, purchasing counters and treatment cubicles the air-conditioned building was equipped with a gymnasium, movie theatre, restaurant, library, solarium and hairdressing salon.

Women coming to Rubinstein’s Fifth Avenue salon could book in for individual treatments or, for US$25.00 or more, sign up for a complete ‘Day of Beauty’. The full day of treatments would start with an assessment. The client’s basal metabolic rate (BMR) was calculated and her blood pressure, height, weight and other vital statistics were also taken down for future reference.

Dressed in a playsuit provided by the salon, the client could then engage in a series of exercises in the gymnasium equipped with a sprung floor, bars, gym mat, fitness bicycles, rowing machines and other sports equipment. If physical exercise was ruled out then she could take deportment or other classes.

By the end of the day the client had spent up to US$150 or more through elective treatments but most felt it was worth it. The success of the concept can be measured by the fact that when Rubinstein opened her revamped Faubourg Saint-Honoré salon in Paris in 1937 it was also fitted with San-O-Therm beds, BMR testing machines and the other equipment she had installed in New York.

The prelude to being made beautiful - first, realize your deficiencies. You put your head under this hood, press a switch held in the hand, and, in this device, your defects are magnified. An expert examines your skin at the same time.

Compressed air is forced into a milk preparation providing bubbles. The mask is a special device for restoring youthful contours.

Anything wrong with coiffure or scalp is treated. Under the steamer, you go to get balsam oil forced into the scalp and hair. It helps make a permanent wave soft and brilliant.

When a client presents herself at the Helena Rubinstein Salon for the Day of Beauty course, the first step is a polaroid skin analysis. Miss Mala Rubinstein (right) is studying a client's face here. Type of treatment suggested will be based on her findings.

Before the re-sculpturing process starts, the client is weighted and measured to determine strategic points of attack in the body beautifying campaign.

Mechanical aids are not enough, even beauticians agree and patrons are encouraged to exercise. The particular callisthenic shown slims the hips, contracts the abdominal and thigh muscles.

Carolyn Lang applies lotions to Billie Gloss' suntanned back, bleaching it down so that Miss Gloss will be the same pale shade all over.

Getting ready for a sun bath, the client sits on a sand table and sips refreshing fruit or vegetable juice.

Ultra-violet light is one of the healthful aids to beauty. The entire room is bathed in the light, which explains the dark glasses worn by beauty-seeker and operator. The girl is reclining on real sand.

Make up is so important in making that first favorable impression. The smart career girl uses subtle makeup, at the Helena Rubinstein School, under the guidance of an instructor, she learns to apply makeup deftly and attractively.

A consultation with Helene Rubinstein herself, world famous beauty authority, who consults with the clients as a climax to the Day of Beauty. She advises the clients on their home beauty care. She shows them movements which will keep their eyes young and fresh and unlined into an advanced age and a chin slapping movement which will guard their facial silhouettes against dropping.

The full line of Helena Rubinstein beauty products.

(Photos: Corbis)


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