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We’ve all met them: men and women who insist on claiming, despite all evidence to the contrary, that the world was a better, simpler, more civilized place “back then.” Exactly when “back then” might have been is, of course, always left a little unclear. Ten years ago? Fifty? A nice, round century? You know, before that pesky 19th Amendment was ratified?
The fact is, not everything was better, simpler or more civilized for everyone back in the day. To take just one example of how things were hardly better or more civilized for a solid half of the adult population in America as recently as, say, 75 years ago, take a quick look at a feature from a 1937 issue of LIFE magazine. Now, we’re hardly prudes, and we always get a good laugh out of something as over-the-top as this series of pictures illustrating how a wife should (and should not!) undress for her husband. But even we find it rather awful to consider a school devised to teach women — specifically, wives—how to disrobe, especially in light of the implication (see below) that wives with a faulty “disrobing methodology” are largely responsible for America’s outrageously high divorce rate.
After all, isn’t it reasonable to assume that a key reason behind the ballooning divorce rate, then and now, might very well be the American male’s cluelessness about how to proceed after the disrobing is complete?
At this point, we should state that LIFE.com believes that the entire phenomenon of the Allen Gilbert School of Undressing is an elaborate and — from a marketing standpoint — quite brilliant joke.
As LIFE informed its readers in its Feb. 17, 1937, issue:
Joke or no joke, hoax or no hoax, one thing is as true today as it was three-quarters of a century ago: whether one wants to make a buck publishing magazines, staging burlesque shows or fostering adult education, sex sells.
— LIFE Staff