Vintage Shopper

Lingerie Advertising Through The Ages


From the retro hourglass era of the Fifties to the waif like bodies of Kate Moss, the underwear market has always been the place that women have got their body aspirations from. If a woman is so beautiful to be photographed or drawn in her smalls, then surely she must be the ideal body type? This could be the case as thoughts of the perfect body have been changing for years and will probably continue to change. The Victoria’s Secret models of today may one day be described as boyish and not voluptuous enough, or they may become too curvy and not skinny enough for a Heroin chic revival that I hope never happens.


A history of Lingerie Advertising

by Nesster on

1920s: Lingerie Advertising From The Beginning

The history of lingerie advertising is so vast; we’ll only dip a toe in the water today. One of the most iconic brands that have been around for years in the lingerie and underwear market is Marks & Spencer. The earliest bra from Marks & Spencer dates back to 1926 and was designed to fit the time’s Flapper fashion of the straight silhouette. These adverts were amazingly brightly colored with red being a particularly prominent hue. Before the Flapper fashion, the curvier silhouette was a huge trend and a Marks & Spencer advert from the 1910s claimed ‘to reduce the figure you must contract the figure….permanently reduces the figure, and affords binding support’. These ladies were serious about getting that teeny-weeny waist!

1950s: The Hourglass Era

The 1950s are famous for their hourglass figure and the Marilyn Monroe styling, where women were becoming curvier and shapelier. Lingerie advertising up to and including the 1950s still stuck to using illustrations as their models but this gave some leeway for artistic license, with a lot of the women being over-sexualised and over-posed. But this all added to the glamour of the era, with their faces being full of expression. Some of Marks & Spencer’s 1950s lingerie advertisements actually showed how a bra is made with the slogan ‘Behind the glamour – there is a factory’, which I think is great. That was a really refreshing take on advertising, much more open that the advertising of today, I don’t think we’d see Calvin Klein doing that, do you?

1970s: Here Come The Boys

It’s not just women that are all over the adverts of the underwear market! The Seventies brought us advertisements full of blokes clad in brightly colored pants, with their permanently tanned bodies proudly on display; this was the time when male underwear advertising really came into its own. The incredible dark shades and patterned socks combinations are enough to get anyone hot under their 70s collar.

1990s: Heroin Chic vs Cleavage City

The nineties hit us hard with the child-like body of Kate Moss and the bulging muscles of Mark Wahlberg in those famous Calvin Klein advertisements. The healthier side of the 1990s brought us the Wonderbra, probably one of the most iconic lingerie inventions of all time. Cleavage was on and it was all about the high-waisted brief.

The 21st Century

More into the 2000s and beyond, we’re seeing a lot more celebrity endorsements and bodies that seem more toned and lithe than skinny and bony. If they aren’t a size 8 model, the models are plus-sized and there’s even more gorgeous to go around. Nowadays there are all sorts of body shapes in lingerie advertising, which is amazing as it now means that the fashion industry, in some ways are accepting real women’s bodies for what they are. Brands such as Freya and Figleaves are celebrating the bigger busted woman and destroying the ‘perfect body’ stereotype. In terms of the set-ups of the advertising, the photo shoots are more glamorous, the hair glossier and the make-up more perfect, not to mention the locations being more exotic. (Because you’d always be caught in your best knicks in a forest wonderland of greenery). Some 21st century advertisements have even been criticized for becoming too sexy, what are your thoughts on modern lingerie advertising? Is it sexiness pushing the boundaries of what is appropriate, or is this the modern woman?

Fashion & Fantasy

Whatever it is, it’s fashion and its marketing and above all its fantasy, and fantasy and the dream body sells. That’s what advertising has been about for eternity but I don’t honestly think that there was a specific golden age of lingerie advertising, as they have all been amazing and inspirational. It’s so interesting to see how women’s bodies have been seen throughout the decades and how it’s almost coming full circle with a lot of models nowadays having bodies that wouldn’t be far off the 1920s straight up and down flapper girls. But for me, there is only one man that has taken the underwear advertising world by storm in my opinion. Two words; David Beckham.

Which era was your favorite for lingerie advertising? Let us know in the comments below.

Be sure to browse the Vintage Lingerie businesses in our directory.

Allie-May Redmond
Cupcake eating, nail varnish hoarding, glasses wearing cutie with a passion for writing, vintage clothes and trainers.
Allie-May Redmond
Allie-May Redmond
Allie-May Redmond

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October 8, 2013 |

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