In this beautiful little book titled La Culture Physique de la Femme Elegante, published in France in the 1920s,12 plates offer exercises that a woman could do at home in order to stay fit. The book illustrates the kinds of fitness routines French women might have pursued in a decade when fashion demanded more form-fitting, less supportive dress. It’s also gorgeously printed, with each frame allowing a peek into a colorfully decorated domestic scene.
April Calahan, of the Fashion Institute of Technology’s blog Material Mode, writes that the French preface to La Culture Physique recommended that readers seek out “the services of one Dr. Mortat” if they wished to “breathe better, have better deportment, and, above all, not gain weight.” The little volume was probably used to advertise the doctor’s practice to potential clients—possibly, given the sumptuousness of the book’s printing, wealthy ones.
Pochoir printing, the method used to create the plates for La Culture Physique, was a favorite technique of French artists illustrating publications in fashion, interior design, and architecture between 1900 and the 1930s. An artist working on a pochoir print achieves a saturated, super-colorful look through the use of multiple stencils and thick gouache paint. The process needs to be carried out manually; the results are both expensive and stunning.