Consuming Beauty: The Impact of Prescriptive Beauty Literature on College Women, 1940-1950

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Virginia Tech

My thesis looks at prescriptive beauty messages generated during 1940-1950 by using a case study of Margaret Morrison Carnegie College. I look at formal prescriptive beauty messages (advertisements, beauty manuals) and informal beauty messages (college yearbooks, newspapers, and beauty queen campaigns) to see what types of messages were created and why. I situate changes in these messages in a timeline of national culture, as it existed before, during, and after World War II. I then compare these messages by looking at which prescriptions were adapted by MMCC women as a group. I argue that these young women adopted an adapted version of the two prescriptions by following the advice given on a national level but also shaping their appearances based on what was occurring on campus. I infer that one set of prescriptions cannot exist in a vacuum; there will be a set of overarching goals to strive for, as well as a set based on standards within her immediate environment.

The digital component to this project is available at

Beauty Culture, Consumer Culture, Education, Higher, College Women, Gender, Campus Culture, Beauty Queens