Past Times

Slimnastics helped Raleigh women keep their figures

The goals of Slimnastics helped to fuel the fitness craze. These women were working out on exercise equipment at Elaine Powers Figure Salon in 1981.
The goals of Slimnastics helped to fuel the fitness craze. These women were working out on exercise equipment at Elaine Powers Figure Salon in 1981. N&O Photo

If attitudes toward women depicted in shows like “Mad Men” and other period pieces seem exaggerated, this 1965 article by writer Florence King illustrates just how much the media, and women themselves, perpetuated those images.

“The trouble with bras and girdles is that they do all the work for you and make you lazy,” says Annette McArtan, recreation supervisor at the Lion’s Park Community Center.

The pretty, 27-year-old native of Pine Level is the favorite mentor of the dozens of women of all ages currently enrolled in her “slimnastics” course. She’s well-beloved of their husbands, too – her course works wonders and the men appreciate it.

Slimnastics, which is one of the many recreational and hobby-craft courses at the center, is taught by Annette, who obviously follows her own advice on keeping a good figure. She’s 5’5”, and, as the song says, “where she’s narrow she’s as narrow as an arrow.”

She believes that a good figure works for you.

“Every slim, well-shaped woman is going to be looked at by men, and ALL women like to be looked at. Also, the other women will envy you, and that’s not an unpleasant sensation either,” she grinned.

However, she cautions that turnabout is fair play.

A woman must work for her figure as well.

This is where the bras and girdles come in – or off.

“Members of the slimnastics course wear nothing under their gymsuits. Bras and girdles do by force what women can do in a natural way for themselves.”

Annette recommends the usual nether garments for social occasions, but she claims that through proper exercise of the chest muscles, a woman can bring to attention that which is now at ease.

She cites an overjoyed wife who showered her with thanks.

“My husband just loves you,” the woman announced. “For the first time since we’ve been married my chest muscles are good and firm.”

What does Annette think of the current fad of training bras for sub-teens?

“You can’t work on something that’s not there yet. Girls should wear bras as soon as they really need them, though.”

She recommends that women go without bras occasionally, when they do their housework, for example.…

When a new slimnastics recruit enters the program, she is give a detailed consideration to discover exactly how much she should weigh.

“You can’t just look on a chart,” Annette declared. “It takes us 30 minutes to figure her proper weight.”

Such matters as bone structure, age, normal activities, occupation and many other factors are examined. Since there is a waiting list for the course, an enrollee must be serious in her intentions.

“Many women think they ‘can’t take it,’ and we ask them if they are willing to work hard and see it through.”

The slimnastics class has formed a club, with officers and dues, in order to buy extra exercising machines.

One of these is a trimocycle. It gives an all-over body workout and simulates – all at once – the motions of horseback riding, rowing, and bicycling.

“There isn’t one part of the body that doesn’t shake when you climb aboard,” Annette pointed out.…

“I lost four pounds in 20 minutes in our steam bath,” says director McArtan.

This device, which incloses (sic) the weight loser in a box with only her head in view, requires Annette’s presence at all times.

“I keep an icebag on the reducer’s head to keep her brain cool. I also feed ice to her while she’s steaming.

A versatile girl, Annette McArtan’s tastes run from water skiing to Shakespeare. She also writes poetry, mostly about nature.… As for her measurements, they’re exactly what they should be, an easily discernible fact.

She takes slimnastics, too. The N&O March 21, 1965

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Leonard: 919-829-4866 or tleonard@newsobserver.com

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