Modess, Because…The Blood and Ballgowns Edition

Dear M.,

The glory of your recent post on Maidenform bra ads (does the name “Maidenform” mean “we will make your breasts look maidenly and not matronly? Forget your sagging dugs of today…”) made me think of the glory of the famous Modess ads, where all menstruation was alluded to by pounds of taffeta and the vaguest motto ever, “Because…”.

How to explain biology away in one word…because. The italics are important. The italics mean something special, something relaxed and leaning.  They are the verbal form of gownery and diamonds. In the world of Modess, menstruation is the stuff of soap operas and royalty. Even the brand name simultaneously brings forth ideas of modesty, models, and being de mode. It was a genius aspirational brand.

I have a stack of old magazines I scored from Goodwill, and every time I come across a Modess ad, I gasp. They are just lovely. And insane. They also make me want to be a sanitary napkin model for a day. How could you not? Take a look:

Ah, the glamour of menstruation! I didn’t know it meant you could have pink satin streaming from your behind like a great beacon of fertility.

But let’s get more pensive.

 Hydrangeas! Taffeta! Cursive!

My period always makes me feel like a starlet who ran away from a movie premier to feel the morning dew on my skin. I particularly love the knowing look on her face. As she sweeps her wrap towards us, you know she’s thinking “oh, if you only knew what my uterine lining was doing right now…that’s right. Bleeding all over the place.”

Or, sometimes, menstruation makes you want to sit down in your ball gown, and have a cup of coffee:

Again, do not, whatever you do, associate that red triangle of fabric with blood. And really, how can you chafe when you are so arranged? How can you chafe when you’re swaddled in a pad ballgown? Because, again, your period is pretty much like going to the fanciest dinner of your life, every month.

This next lady kind of looks like she needs our help. I think her elbow has been super-glued (accidentally) to the harpsichord!

Or, you can start shedding, just like your endometrium!

Modess went in a different direction here, where the news is pretty much sunshine and lollipops:

Doesn’t this look exactly like Helena Bonham Carter?

Here are a few more just…because…

Hail to the V!

With the Maidenform ads, I kept thinking what a strange statement it was to wish for a grand (semi-grand) life in your basic undergarment. Who cared what you dreamed in your bra, because you still have to mop the kitchen floor. The ads don’t promise deliverance from a shitty, bra-wearing reality. They just promise that you will dream about being other places when you wear their product, which doesn’t seem like a compelling reason to don their underwires. With Modess, it’s a similar paradox. If Modess means high fashion, high living, and extreme elegance, then how funny is it to aspire to those things with a disposable product that is the opposite of fashion. You want people to see your cutting edge fashion platery. You really really don’t want people to know you are doing that covert monthly activity of bleeding in your pants.

I guess menstruation is pretty damn feminine, as are these ads. And I can see the allure of insinuating that a pad is something like the ballgown of your dreams.  A dream instantly deferred upon use, but, well, I can see what the admen were thinking.

But really, it all really boils down to this Peep Show clip:



Images via Clotho98 on Flickr

6 Responses to Modess, Because…The Blood and Ballgowns Edition

  1. Best harpsichord ad ever! Has there ever been another harpsichord in a major American advertising campaign?

  2. I totally thought the same thing when I saw the woman in the pink wig — definitely an HBC look-alike!

    Great commentary here. Very hilarious. I especially like your noting that the goal here is to make menstruation seem uber-feminine, and I would never have noticed all the red triangles. I wonder if I can get away with using these as an example of implicit rhetoric in my composition classes, or if all my charming freshmen boys will just squeal “ewwwww!”

  3. Dean Booth says:

    My sense is that the motivator in these ads is not so much glamour as empathetic fear. OMG, can you imagine having an “accident” in this situation!? That’s the answer to “because.”

    • Carla Fran says:

      I love this! Thanks for your comment. The “because” takes on the horrified, knowing tones of a YM column. Empathetic fear seems so right, and seamless. The frozen aspect of the models supports this, like, whatever you do, do not turn around. An almost, “this is why we can’t have nice things…” approach.

  4. Pingback: Part 2: A girl’s guide to (not) painting the town red | Keeping up with Karissa

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