Maidenform Ads: Inside the Madness

Dear CF,

I’m speechless at your news of this Hail to the V handpuppet campaign. Handpuppets! It got me thinking about the marketing campaigns of yore; specifically, the Maidenform ads of the 50s and 60s, which are a strange, wonderful amalgam of glamorous surrealism and post-brainstorm despair.

Here are a few to start us off:

“I, suh. Gar?”

(was approximately my reaction).


Knockout! Ha!



So far, wild awesome dreams that double as euphemism. Knockers that box! Charioteers that arouse! Pink elephants that… well.

Then there’s this:

We can be Tarzan and swingers. Yes. Yes indeed.

Then there is this, which is what happens when a euphemism goes into overdrive and makes the leap from fantasy to vaguely suicidal.

Okay, but maybe it’s about risk-taking in general! Like this!

YES! goes this ad campaign. SEXY MATADOR BRIDAL BULL-WRANGLER! Hints of bestiality! Bra-armor! GO!

That might seem hard to top. Don’t worry:

But then the Don Drapers behind this whole thing start to slow down. The ads get a little more … prosaic:



If you’re getting depressed, don’t! You could, um, dream of being creative!

Or of playing Cleopatra! (We’ve downgraded from actually “being” her as we barge down the Nile.):

How about … no. We already used up our elephant. But maybe another circus reference. I know!

Height! Height is exciting. Where else can we use it? A bridge? No, that takes us back to suicide… How about … no. Or? Um … a construction site?

A lift! Get it? Travel. Travel is good. Let’s run with that. Instead of adventure, let’s go with scary but glamorous travel!

Or just, you know, travel!

Exhausted, bankrupt of ideas concerning what one might do with a bra that will thrill and inspire, the ad execs hit on an amazingly appealing concept:



(Images via the Smithsonian)

30 Responses to Maidenform Ads: Inside the Madness

  1. sandy says:

    You two might be my favorite thing about the entire internets.

  2. Kit Frazier says:

    hahahaha! Victoria Secret–top these twins 🙂

  3. Bastet says:

    Love the retro ads! and the bras were so…. pointy! Thanks for digging up those awesome ads!

  4. I never dreamed that maidenform bras could be so educational… :o)

  5. bethtrissel says:

    I loved these old adds! Thanks for putting this post together. The sharp points on those bras never made sense to me. Not very soft and alluring. Maybe this accounts for the heights the advertisers strove to ascend in their efforts to convince us that in these we would achieve our wildest dreams, or at least have tea.

  6. That is just brilliant! I thought ads today were cheesy. This also gives new light to those dreams in your underwear.

  7. franzecad says:

    Fabulous photos. thanks for sharing.
    Actually, the bras were the only ugly thing in the photos.

    Remember all the old Kotex ads that never actually mentioned, much less showed, their products?

  8. JoannaOC says:

    Now that I have marathoned all the seasons of Mad Men, I can only see these ads as an episode of the show.

    • Carla Fran says:

      Especially the “I dreamed I went to work” one, where she answers the blue phone. You know Peggy would have been fighting for just one phone on the desk.

  9. Amna says:

    I’m so glad bras aren’t pointy anymore! Notice how they soften up towards the last of the photos.

  10. Amna says:

    And I can’t believe Tres Sugar completely ripped this post off your blog. No shame!

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  14. Devo says:

    The lady in the work one looks like Katy Perry….weird!!

  15. Fierce Missy says:

    Seeing these ads in the 50s/60s, I just knew adulthood was gonna be a mindfuck, and this was BEFORE acid.

  16. Im an ad nut and the first 4 which are totally outrageous work on a level of splendidness that is zapped from the later ‘dreams’ as they become more grounded in reality. I don’t know what the ad folks were thinking, but the more dream like the dream, the more I love these ads 🙂

  17. RachelB says:

    *waves hello*

    So, I kind of want one with a lady on a submarine saying, “I dreamed I launched torpedoes in my Maidenform bra.” Because that would be plausible, no? Good grief, those things look like weapons!

  18. Ella says:

    TWO DOLLARS??? FOR A BRA???? Wow….

  19. vian says:

    I dreamed I poked someone’s eye out … in my Maidenform bra. Cripes, those things are pointy!

  20. anderlie says:

    Were they so pointy to keep those shameless man hands off your virginal lady bits? Just a thought.

  21. Rikibeth says:

    I’m not sure “played Cleopatra” is a downgrade from being her if you get to be Liz Taylor, which they’re clearly suggesting!

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  24. Aunt Ruth says:

    Any idea what the context is on this Maidenform-like Stanley Kubrick image of the era?

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  27. Bluejay Young says:

    MAD Magazine had a set of “slogans or ad campaigns that didn’t quite work” and there was one showing the lady winning a race, captioned “I dreamed I was way out front in my Maidenform bra.” Wish I could find it.
    Pointy bras seem to make a comeback in the 24th century, at least among the Borg… their outfits ranged from retro-40s Flash Gordon to bordering on steampunk, and Seven of Nine looked incredibly pointy when she first stalked onto the screen.

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