The Bra Advertising Gallery

by Lanajean Vecchione

McCall's February 1954 contained a total of seven bra ads. The illustration at left is taken from a 1954 advertisement from Jantzen, best known for swim and athletic wear. Back then, they also sold bras and girdles. The product associated with this image was called a "Pellon Interlined Bra" and retailed for $2.50 in America. The ad claimed it was "light as air and a joy to wear." The matching girdle as called "the figure maker" and claimed to do "a complete smoothing job while it makes your waistline inches smaller."

This 1954 ad from the same magazine has live bra models, which is unique for a time when the majority of bra ads used illustrations or just a picture of the product. The first model is set against a dark background, placing the emphasis on the product. You really have to look hard to see her face. This ad describes an underwire bra called the "whirlpool" with halter style straps and the "continuous stitch cups. This was done by stitching the bra cups in concentric circles.

Below an ad for the "Nu-Vu" bra describes "the new underwires." This gal is in a position where you would typically wear a bra, in front of your mirror, brushing your hair. Very conservative. In the fine print there is an offer to write for a free copy of "The Full Dimension Story from manufacturer, the Hollywood-Maxell Company, located in Hollywood, CA.

These two bras were available in a wide range of sizes, two colors (black and white) and two fabrics (cotton and eyelet) with prices that ranged from $2.50 to $12 depending on style and size chosen.

This is another partial 1954 magazine illustration. While a bra is shown, the ad is actually for "Spun-Lo Panties" made of rayon fabric from the Industrial Rayon Corporation. According to the ad these panties were "never clingy, never cold or clammy" as well as "being easy on your pocket book." But the clincher is that they have "the knit with the fit where you sit." Panties like these were a new product at the time, women were requiring them to wear under shorts, Capri pants, and other casual and vacation wear becoming popular during the fifties. While ads for foundation wear (especially girdles) are plentiful in vintage magazines during the 1950s, panty ads are rare. They were an alternative among the younger set, as shown by the youthful gal who is painting her toenails in her "Spun-lo" panties.
This mid 1960s fashion illustration was taken from a foundation wear ad and still, no live models, although they were becoming more common. This was targeted towards the teenage market, and sold a combination of products that included frilly long line panties, figure slimming foundations, control top underwear, garters, and matching bras.
The Maidenform "I Dreamed" Bra Campaign
The ad at left is from 1967, and it illustrates a later example of the the Maidenform "I Dreamed" Bra Campaign. Maidenform began the historic "I Dreamed" campaign in 1949 and it lasted for 20 years until 1969. Created by Kitty D'Alessio, each "dream" ad showed a bra-clad female enjoying fantasy activities. Even television ads were coordinated with the "dream" theme. Several of these were on the cutting edge for the time, such as "I Dreamed I Won the Election, which is illustrated on page 129 of Uplift, a bra history book that is reviewed on this web site.
We are now moving into 1972, where this ad for the Sears "Ah-h Bra" claims to "improve the shape of anyone from 32 B to 44DD". Of course, this is with the help of underwires and perma-prest Dacron polyester fabric. But this underwire claims to be different, "flat, not round" and encased in "a soft channel of double layered fabric, so its guaranteed not to poke thorough." Now if they could only guarantee that somebody wearing those 42DD bras could get through a metal detector wearing one, then we would be getting somewhere! Interesting as well, this ad mentions that "you'll find trained saleswomen in Sears Figure Shop trained to measure and fit you correctly."
This mid 1970s Bra ad was designed to be worn under the bare halter tops and backless dress designs that were becoming popular at the time. There was also an increasing trend towards going bra-less, so bra manufacturers responded by going out of their way to emphasis how "natural" you would look wearing one. In this case, Warner claims you can wear this "under T-shirts, body hugging dresses, and clingy knits" and still look as if there is "not-a-stitch-on". Everything, that it, except the nipples. Most women with small to moderate breast easily went without bras anyway.
Again, by late seventies nearly every bra manufacture was claiming that wearing a bra would be like not wearing a bra. In this case, Bali claims their bra will make "you feel like a natural woman". Notice this retro advertising slant: The native women in this photo without bras seem to be hiding themselves while the anglo woman wearing BALI looks natural and proud. The truth is, the women who run bare breasted in native countries smile proudly for the camera, and that ugly white bra looks out of place in such an exotic setting. Next!

Now here is a girl running free, demonstrating with action poses how this bra can look natural, move with you, and disappear under tight knits. It shows as well as it tells, and the 1977 flip hairstyle dates it as a disco era bra, making the raised arm dance pose of the center figure more relevant. "It's one outrageous bra" this "Free Spirit," because it criss crosses, converts, plunges and comes in a choice of white or nude. Now dancing the night away is a good reason to consider wearing a bra under a halter dress. This is therefore an effective ad that demonstrated how fashion and action intersect.


Thanks for checking out the BRA AD GALLERY.

All content copyright 2004 by Lanajean Vecchione. Text cannot be reproduced without permission. All advertisment copyrights are held by the individual manufacters. Thanks for letting us use your historic advertising in our gallery for educational purposes.