The secret of beautiful necks: Tips from 1918, plus see a dozen examples

The secret of a beautiful neck - Tips from the 1900s

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100 years ago, famous actress and soprano Lina Cavalieri — called “The Most Famous Living Beauty” — said she thought women would rather have beautiful necks than almost any other physical feature, and offered her tips on how to improve the curve and beauty of the neckline.

The secret of beautiful necks, from a silent era actress

By Lina Cavalieri in the Washington Times (DC) December 8, 1918

In her heart of hearts, any woman would rather have a beautiful neck than anything else in the world except, perhaps, a beautiful face.

Before she has passed the age of sixteen, a girl learns that it is a most decided advantage to be born with a beautiful neck. Or, if she has not been so fortunate, she must learn how to acquire one.

The author, soprano and actress Lina Cavalieri
The author, soprano and actress Lina Cavalieri
Definition of a lovely neck

The neck, to be beautiful, must be neither too long nor too short, too fat nor too lean. It must be shapely; that is, evenly developed. The skin must be soft and white.

It is one of the compensations of being overplump that the woman of too ample lines has a beautiful throat and arms. While the thin woman, whose features are well defined, not being blanketed by superfluous layers of flesh, and whose figure is the more elegant and fashionable one just now, has, as a rule, a scrawny neck, bony shoulders and awkward, skinny arms.

Using massage for a beautiful neck

To correct too much or too little flesh upon the neck we must summon the aid of that lieutenant to beauty: massage.

On the beautiful neck, the flesh is evenly distributed. The neck should be, save for the two parallel lines about an inch apart, which encircle the neck, and are seen on the necks even of babes, perfectly smooth. If the flesh be uneven, persistent, skillful and gentle massage should redistribute the disproportionate bulk of flesh.

Old-fashioned hairstyle (1918)

There is always the possibility that the neck will be flat in front and display thick layers of fat at the sides and the back. This, too, can be corrected by patient and careful massage. The front of the neck can be made more plump in a very short time by massage.

Olive oil or a pure cold cream should be freely rubbed into the skin by the first three fingers of each hand, massaging first on the right side of the neck with the right hand, then on the left with the left hand, then with both hands together.

Do not forget that the motion must always be a rotary one. This is the best movement for rebuilding tissue because it induces circulation, which feeds the starved, atrophied portions.

Actress Jetta Goudal

To reduce the bulk of the back and the side of the neck, a reducing lotion should be applied with long, sweeping, downward strokes into the larger masses of flesh on the shoulders.

A lotion I have known to be used with success for the melting away of too ponderous flesh about the neck is this: Tincture of iodine, 30 minims; iodide of potassium, 60 grains; hyposulphite of soda, 20 grains; distilled water, 7 ounces; aniseed water, 170 minims. [Editor’s note: This is historical information only — always check with a medical professional before trying anything that could impact your health.]

MORE: See how vintage drugstores 100 years ago sold lots of things you can’t (legally) buy anymore

A single caution I must give you: Be careful not to tamper with and so enlarge the large glands in the neck. Enlarging them may permanently disfigure a beautiful neck. They are the danger points of manipulation.

1928 Greta Garbo

How to elongate or minimize the neck

The length of the neck is one of the fixed quantities in nature. One cannot change it, but we can learn the lesson of illusion from the stage, and try to make it seem longer or shorter than it is.

Also the manner of trimming a high neck gown and the line at which a low-cut gown is finished determine whether the neck looks longer than it is or shorter.

If the neck is short, the collar should be of solid colors or be trimmed with perpendicular lines.

The low-necked gown should be cut lower than that of the woman with the long neck, for here is the real secret of a beautiful neck: It is more, dependent upon its immediate surroundings for its effect than any other part of the body.

1925 Billie Dove

ALSO SEE: Bold 1920s makeup: How to get that expressive & dramatic flapper makeup style

Should there be a wide sweep of the shoulders, the long line from the point of the chin to the shoulder will lend itself to the neck and make the neck seem longer than it would if the gown were merely one of the collarless sort with a line of cloth defining where the neck actually begins.

If the neck is long, the problem is an easier one. There are fur collars that can hide it; collars and ties of contrasting colors, which would cut its apparent length; lace ruffs, and velvet neck ribbons galore.

The extremely low-cut gown is not so becoming to the woman with a long neck, and she should avoid wearing it. If she must adopt it, or thinks she must, she should wear her jewels or a narrow band of black velvet ribbon about her neck to make it seem shorter.

Silent era actress Lily Damita and actor Don Alvardo - 1920s
The drooping Madonna poise of the neck may be affected by the woman with the long neck, but she should not carry this to such an extreme that it becomes an affectation.

The woman who would have a beautiful neck must not be content with dressing it becomingly. She must consider it even in repose. She should never use a high pillow, and she should have preferably no pillow at all.

Otherwise, the muscles of the neck are contracted, wrinkles are formed, and the neck becomes flabby. Lying on the back is the best posture for sleeping. The muscles of the neck are thus given full play and yet they can rest and relax most easily.

ALSO SEE: The most stylish vintage hats from the 1900s: What fashionable women were wearing at the turn of the century

More vintage celebrities with beautiful necks

Celebrity actress Gloria Swanson

1927 Gloria Swanson

ALSO SEE: Popular vintage 1920s hairstyles for women, including the classic bob haircut

Silent movie actress Leila Hyams

Silent movie actress Leila Hyams - Beautiful necks

Silent star Evelyn Brent

Silent movie star Evelyn Brent

1920s actress Lilyan Tashman

Vintage 1920s actress Lilyan Tashman

Vintage Theatre Magazine cover from 1919

Vintage Theatre Magazine cover from 1919

Actress Lucy Cotton

1920s actress Lucy Cotton

Anna Q Nilsson

1920s celebrity actress Anna Q Nilsson

Actress Alice Calhoun

1920s actress Alice Calhoun showing her neck in a mirror

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