Paris Beauty Tips: The Fresh Air Edition

Never underestimate the power of a good old-fashioned Air Bath, Aristide Maillol's l’Air, Tuileries (Photograph by T. Brack)

Never underestimate the power of an Air Bath, Aristide Maillol’s l’Air, Tuileries (Photograph by T. Brack)

I’m not the only believer in the benefits of a bain d'air (Elle, 1951, T. Brack's archives)

I’m not the only believer in the benefits of a bain d’air (Elle, 1951, T. Brack’s archives)

By Theadora Brack

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: Never, ever underestimate the power of a good old-fashioned “air bath”— whether it’s in the middle of the day or all alone in the moonlight.

As my fit-as-a-fiddle grandmother Emmae used to sing, “After an air bath, this little Brack birdie is back on track. Hear me soar!”

I couldn’t agree more. And I’m not the only big time believer in the benefits of a bain d’air.

Because bathers are gonna bathe

Apparently, francophile Benjamin Franklin also possessed a mad penchant for launching each day all au natural. Nestled naked in a chair by an open window sat the bigwig polymath—winter, spring, summer, and fall.

“You know the cold bath has long been in vogue here as a tonic; but the shock of the cold water has always appeared to me, generally speaking, as too violent: and I have found it much more agreeable to my constitution, to bathe in another element, I mean cold air,” Franklin wrote to a Parisian friend in 1768.

“With this view I rise early almost every morning, and sit in my chamber, without any clothes whatever, half an hour or an hour, according to the season, either reading or writing. This practice is not in the least painful, but on the contrary, agreeable!”

A royal treatment

Royal S. Copeland, M.D. would have certainly put his stamp of approval on Franklin’s daily pet ritual. In fact, he did.

In 1933, the Commissioner of Health of New York City shared a few D.I.Y. tips in his column: “Include air baths in the health campaign! Keep it up year ’round! Air baths improve the texture and tone of the skin . . . The baths should be taken in a moderately cool, well-ventilated room. For the first bath, only half the body should be exposed. As the body becomes accustomed to the cool air, more clothes can be discarded!”

Soprano Mary Garden was notorious for sharing beauty secrets (Rigaud Creme: T. Brack's collection)

Soprano Mary Garden was notorious for sharing beauty secrets (Rigaud Creme: T. Brack’s collection)

Mary Garden

Now on the flipside—but equally off the bathtub chain was Soprano Mary Garden’s fontaine de jouvence remedy. The “Sarah Bernhardt of the Opéra” was notorious for sharing beauty secrets. For instance, she often touted her favorite “youth-giving tonic,” which included swimming in the buff, capped by a midnight seawater massage.

“God never intended that we should wear clothes! That is civilization’s mark!” Mlle. Garden told awed reporters in 1924. “I went to my villa at Beaulieu overlooking the blue waters of the Mediterranean. As usual, I took long swims with my two police dogs, away from the shore where bathing costumes are not necessary!”

Soon women everywhere began taking the plunge all au natural (Image: T. Brack's archives)

Soon women everywhere began taking the plunge all au natural (Image: T. Brack’s archives)

Word quickly spread

A publicity slam-dunk for Mary, for sure. Soon women everywhere began taking the plunge all au natural. And how could they not, after reading the zippy newspaper headlines: “Mary Garden Back! Slimmer! Younger! More debonair than ever!”

But that’s not all, my Opéra and Olympic Games fanatics. In preparation for her “Salomé” role in 1908, our Mary took her appetite for healthy living to new heights, or more specifically, Mont Blanc. That’s right. Not losing her head, she scaled the highest mountain in the Alps. Garbed in knickerbockers and a sweater, the divine diva miraculously made ascension in two days. At the top, she apparently bared it all in her birthday suit, according to legend. A real peak experience, you might say.

“My lungs seem twice as strong now! You need a good head and a strong heart, but then one needs the same things in everything—to climb anywhere!”

Words to live by swimmingly, I’d say.

Let’s be like more like Mary, and let it all hang out on the terrace at the Musée d’Art Moderne (Image: T. Brack's archives, 1937)

Let’s chill-ax on the terrace at the Musée d’Art Moderne (Image: T. Brack’s archives, 1937)

There is something about Mary

So this week, let’s be more like Mary, and let it all hang out on the terrace at the Musée d’Art Moderne, located on the eastern arm of the Palais de Tokyo. Built for the 1937 Exposition Internationale, here is one of my all-time favorite paradises in Paris. The wine is affordable, while the view of the Eiffel Tower never fails to thrill.

Here you’ll also spot my favorite voluptuous nymphs, chilling by the poolside. Created by by sculptors Léon-Ernst Drivier and Auguste Guénot in 1937,  the bathing beauties were recently given a much-needed beauty cleansing treatment. The graffiti is gone. Like the wind, so are most of the pollution streaks. Wearing nothing but sheer confidence and stylish do’s, don’t hate them because they’re still beautiful.

And I’ve got a few before and after shots to prove it. To repeat: Never underestimate the power of a bath. Perhaps this explains the strength they exude?

In the words of my other grandmother, Helen J., “If you feel like a million bucks, you’ll look like a million bucks!”

I second that potion. Now, in celebration of La Rentrée, let’s study the before and after shots, whilst air bathing like nobody’s watching. Pass the Ambre Solaire!













This week, be more like Mary! (Mary Garden Portrait by Mishkin, Image: T. Brack's archives)

This week, be more like Mary! (Mary Garden Portrait by Mishkin, Image: T. Brack’s archives)

Mary Garden, newspaper clipping, 1930 (Photograph by Mishkin )

Mary Garden, newspaper clipping, 1930 (Photograph by Mishkin )

52 thoughts on “Paris Beauty Tips: The Fresh Air Edition

    • Ah, as always, thanks for your kind, kind words! It was a fun post to create. I’m now a Big Time fan of Soprano Mary Garden. She was quite a character!

      She got her start at the Comédie-Française at Place Colette—in a 42nd Street sort of way. Mademoiselle Garden was the understudy. But not for long!

      Enjoy the day! And keep on photo snapping!


  1. I think Ben Franklin enjoyed many hedonistic pleasures and I’m never surprised to learn one more. Air bathing makes much sense to me. I love baths period. As always your pics and storytelling bring me right there and I leave having learned something every single time. Great Theordora!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Brigitte! Great to hear from you! Yes, I’m with you. I love air baths. I love piping hot bubble baths, too. I haven’t had a shower in decades. It’s just not the same experience. At least not in my book!

      It’s great to read your witty banter again. Inspiring!!


    • Merci, Mélanie!!

      Here’s what Mary Garden had to say about her “Salome” performance: “Everything was glorious and nude and suggestive, but not course!” On the flipped, during the early 1930s, she tried to bring back the long skirt trend. They added a certain “lure” factor, Mary told the newspaper reporters.

      Fabulous and funny!


  2. She flung open the double french doors and stepped onto the balcony. “How fortunate my little house in Paris has such amenities”, she purred. She kicked her ruby slippers into a corner. Carefully slipped off her green silk stockings. Tossed her camisole and knickers into a heap and prepared to explore the pleasures of air bathing along with a glass of bubbly.
    “Miss T’s grandmother is correct. I feel like a million bucks!”

    Liked by 2 people

    • Gorgeous. Gorgeous passage, Virginia! Air Bath + Bubbly = Bliss.

      I completely agree. And green silk stockings. Perfect with red ruby slippers.

      Do you have a favorite marque?!



      • Marque as in “letters of” … or insignia”? Help Miss T. My mind took flight at the very idea of sword in hand, swashbuckling onto a merchant ship and seizing the treasure – legally of course! XX V.


      • I do become enamoured with things. White jugs of any size but a specific shape. Pitchers and plates in the shape of vegetables or fruit. I have had to stop collecting them – ran our of room. Eiffel towers – I have them from 3 ft high to 1/2 an inch.(the smallest one from The Tin Man). Anything French!!! From linen tea towels to music. I shall stop confessing now – my leitmotiff is definite France. XX Virginia

        Liked by 1 person

      • Fogals! A carry over from my days of wild indulgences Miss T. I’m down to my last pair so I wear cotton gloves to put them on! XX Virginia

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Well, they don’t teach that about old Ben in school! I want the treatment the nymphs got – they are beautiful! Another delightful post! Your grandmothers were wise and taught you well. Air baths…never heard it called that. Cheers, Theadora! I hope all is well with you and Paris these days. May you stay safe!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! I agree! They look absolutely fabulous. I hope the tagging stops . . .

      By the way, I think they were given the gommage façade treatment. (The Arc de Triomphe’s beauty secret!)

      It involves cleaning its stones by projecting very finely powdered glass particles at low-pressure with compressed air. No chemicals, water, or detergent are used. The process removes the dirt and pollution deposits from both the interior and exterior surfaces without damaging the stonework.

      A guess! I’ll conduct some more digging . . .

      (And thanks for you sweet words!)




  4. Hey! You are back up again! Lovely.
    As mentioned before (though it is not surprising since we photograph the same city) you and I seem to look at the same things.
    Love that particular Maillol statue at Tuileries. (Had in mind of doing a special Maillol) 🙂
    Love the Palais de Tokyo sculptures. Re-discovered them last year. Glad they were restored. (Have posted a few).
    Be good in Paris. Enjoy September, it is generally pleasant over there.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Had lovely bath the other day without my clothes…in the bathroom with the door shut. 🙂 I love to bathe in fresh air as often as possible, but I do wear clothes. Hopefully I’m still getting some benefits.

    Always great to see a post from you, T.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Great to hear from you, Janet! And thanks for the giggle. Yes, I think fresh air baths with clothes also work! And speaking of doors, thanks to you, I’ve been enjoying your recent classic French door series. I’m now obsessed with doors and doorknobs. A handshake with the past!

      In fact, I’ve started photographing the doors near the Opera. No two are alike.

      Thanks for the inspiration!


  6. There is an old song “Up on the Roof”, makes me imagine a hot summer night bathing in the moonlight, cooling the skin from the heat of the summer day. All connection with nature should be embraced. Air bathing, sitting in the ocean, even as the Swedes do from hot tub to snow. I’ve heard stories of Tibetan monks who dry blankets dipped in icy lakes and wrapped around them, by mentally raising their body temp. Mind it seems knows nature best!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Drifters! And now, I am humming and singing “Up on the Roof.” With the cats, of course. Perfection. The song. Not the singing!

      When this old world starts getting me down
      And people are just too much for me to face (Up on the roof)
      I climb way up to the top of the stairs
      And all my cares just drift right into space (Up on the roof)

      (Thank you, G.F.S.!!)

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Theadora, every single post from you bring us to some new Paris place. Your pictures followed by the stories are awesome. I love these journeys.
    I love fresh air and cannot imagine how to live without it. Early morning when city is almost empty of people is the best time to enjoy walk and “swim” in the cool fresh air.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree, Alexander! I love my early morning Paris walks and jogs! The streets are usually empty, but nose is always able to detect the smell of freshly baked bread and coffee, too. Heaven, I tell you. I also love my “air baths” at the Porte de Vanves flea market, of course. Bathing and browsing go hand-in-hand.

      Ah, and thanks for your thoughtful words. Enjoy the weekend! (I love your recent shot of the Lido on the Champs!)


      Liked by 1 person

      • Unfortunately, I missed a lot early morning city life with moving to Canada. In my previous life the smell of fresh bread, coffee, pastry, cool air and emptiness made my day. Now I have only cool and fresh morning air left. And of course bright memories of the rest.
        Have a nice weekend! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you, Theadora! I have awesome week in Barcelona and enjoy my time very much. I’ll be back soon with my impressions.
        Have a nice week and lovely coming weekend.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Ten cheers for your lovely words, Patricia. Thank you! My grandmother Helen was always quick with a quip. Plus she had beaucoup traveling tips. I sorely miss her.

      Sending more positive writing vibes your way!!


  8. Amazing! I should remove my clothes and sit near a pool or fountain! Alas, I cannot think of one in Toronto.
    Now … you have me thinking more. Where is such a place here? Where lives such beauty?
    I think of nowhere!
    There is only an air bath. Trust I do not get arrested!
    A beautiful post, Theadora.
    Sincerely, Resa xo

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the big giggle, Resa!! Yes, please do not get arrested whilst air bathing. Very funny! Perhaps it’s high time to create “air” gown? A nod to fresh air? I’m still dreaming of your recent feathery, ballerina-worthy Mystic Lake gown. (And by the way, I have the talented Virginia to thank for introducing me to your work. I’m very thankful.)

      Enjoy the weekend!!


  9. Ben Franklin does often look dour in his paintings; it’s good to picture him with a smile (although not so good to picture him in the buff, as we say).

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Wearing nothing but confidence and stylish do’s”– Theadora, that’s why I love your blog– the way you write! (and of course all those photos of out of the way Paris!). I’ve never heard of an air bath– and doubt I’ll indulge, but it was great reading!! How do you come up with such wonderful topics??!! Another great post. hugs!


  11. It appears that many would agree about the fresh air baths where we have been traveling. Here’s to good health. 🙂


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