15 WTF Maidenform Bra Ads And What They Mean

Culture | October 7, 2019

Source: Pinterest

The conical jut of Maidenform bras may no longer be in style, but the Maidenform bra ad will always be iconic. "I dreamed I _____ in my Maidenform bra" was the template of the advertisements; fill in the blank with something empowering, or exciting, or just plain bizarre. (Not that women pursuing career ambitions sans blouse isn't bizarre too.) The message, at its best, was an empowering one, although empowerment in the '50s and '60s was a relative term. Sometimes the Maidenform inspired its wearers to have adventures, other times the "dream" was frivolous, if not silly.

The ads are surreal, and they range from fanciful to offensive, but their messaging is all on target. They want women to know how great life can be in one of their very pointy and semi-cushioned bras. None of these promotions have aged well, but they’re fascinating to look at, and even more interesting to try and understand. 

Who Needs A Safety Helmet When You've Got Maidenform?

source: envisioningtheamericandream

What it looks like: Compared to the rest of the Maidenform ads this dream of working construction is confusing to say the least. Are the advertisers trying to tell women that getting a job in construction is as fanciful as being the Queen of the Nile or becoming a pool shark? And what does the subtext of the ball and chain suggest? Is a cigar just a cigar? Does anyone else have a headache?

What they probably meant: It’s more than likely that the ad men behind this ad were just trying to say that a gal could slap on her Maidenform and do a job that’s as physically demanding as construction work. 

When You Wear A Maidenform You're Always A Three Alarm Fire

source: pinterest

What it looks like: To be completely honest, this ad looks filthy. Just look at what’s happening. Our Maidenform model is riding a pole… out of a fire? She’s not just leaving the fire, but she’s sliding down a pole while her co-workers and male counterparts look up her dress. And if the copy at the bottom is to be believed she’s also the fire chief. Women can absolutely work as the head of a fire unit, but this woman is clearly unfit for duty.

What they probably meant: The ad folks behind this were just drawing a correlation between how hot a woman is supposed to feel in their bras and the heat of a fire while trying to make the product woke and feminist. They just happened to create an ad that looks like it was created by someone who just woke up from a dream. 

Who Wears A Shirt When They're Window Washing Anyway?

source: pinterest

What it looks like: Yes ladies, you too can ascend to the heights of those vaulted titans of industry, window washers, if you just purchase a Maidenform cone bra. This ad looks like it’s saying that you can do anything you want, as long as it’s slightly effeminate and you look good doing it.

What they probably meant: Advertisers are in the business of moving product, and they’d really like it if the general population just bought their stuff. Sometimes an ad is just a showcase for a specific item and there’s no well thought out subtext, In this case, unless the subtext is just so well hidden it might not be there. What do you see?e

Remember When People Used To Dress Up To Get On An Airplane?

source: pinterest

What it looks like: The phrase “international figure” is telling. It’s obvious that the advertisers are talking about the model’s body, but they’re also trying to make a statement about how much this kind of bra will help someone get noticed. Unlike many of the other Maidenform ads, this offers less of an idea that someone can do whatever they want and more of the concept that a person can be famous for simply looking good. Prescient.

What it probably meant: The copy at the bottom of the ad suggests that with this bra a woman can turn heads no matter where she goes. While that might sound good to a bunch of guys in an ad copy room in actuality it’s a nightmare. 

Who Hasn't Whipped Off Their Blouse At The Sight Of Big Ben?

source: pinterest

What it looks like: As legitimately cool as this photo looks, it does seem like this woman got completely dressed and either forgot her shirt or lost it in the pub on a night out in foggy ol’ London.

What it probably meant: Even when you’re wet and gross from getting stuck out in the fog, you’ll feel comfortable wearing your Maidenform bra. That’s what this ad is trying to say, right? Out of all the ads collected here this is really a showcase for the bra. The photo is the perfect blend of artsy and commercial, and for once the bra actually works with the outfit. Frankly, this ad could lose the copy and just act as a showcase for the bra and it would work. 

Maidenform, For When You Just Want To Relax In The Park

source: pinterest

What it looks like: To have the world on a string, what a wonderful idea. Does a woman need a specific bra to have everything she wants? The folks at Maidenform say yes. The ad is a little infantilizing; this woman isn’t even trying to get a job, she just wants to play all day, which is something you can do in a bra like this.

What it probably meant: It’s highly unlikely that the people behind this ad thought they were making grown women look like children, they just wanted to express the idea that their bras were light as air, and that they weren’t a hindrance to someone trying to have fun. 

This Is The Bra That Begs To Be Held In Contempt

source: pinterest

What it looks like: Do women dream of being ogled while they perform their civic duty? It looks like that’s what we’re meant to take from this ad. It presents the idea that women want to be watched while they perform various tasks, and to do that a woman must own a specific bra. More than the others, this ad tells women that they can have what they want but they need Maidenform to get it. 

What it probably meant: Men, women, non-gender conforming people, i.e. everyone will think you’re so hot while you’re wearing a Maidenform that they won’t be able to focus on the task at hand, be it serving on a jury or making coffee.

Maidenform, The Only Bra That Resembles The Ancient Pyramids

source: pinterest

What it looks like: Whether they’re the queen of the household or the queen of Egypt, this ad plays into the idea that women rule their private domiciles. That may sound cool and feminist but it also makes it seem like women don’t want anything more than to sit on a throne and be fawned over.

What it probably meant: The ad folks behind this really do look like they’re playing on the concept of a woman as queen, and that’s fine but it does feel like a backhanded compliment. Maybe it’s only modern sensibilities that see this ad as being snide in a vaguely sly way. It’s entirely possible that the person who dreamt up this specific ad just wanted to do something fanciful for all the women in their life. 

Oh Come On, She's Not Even Looking At The Ball

source: pinterest

What it looks like: Would you like to be the coolest gal in the smoke filled pool hall? If so, all you need to do is whip off your blouse and play nine-ball without a top. This is another one of the Maidenform ads that stretch the concept of empowerment into a cool visual with a tagline that doesn’t really mean anything.

What it probably meant: By taking “the cue” it sounds like the advertisers were telling women to get out from behind the eight ball and take control of their own lives. More so than any of the other ads it’s a call for the women of the era to stop being so passive and to get out there and be their own person. 

Personal Identity Sold Separately

source: pinterest

What it looks like: What are women really but two-dimensional dolls that can be moved around and dressed at the behest of some anonymous person? What else does a woman have to worry about other than what she’s going to wear on any given day? And why even think about that when she has four Maidenform bras?

What it probably meant: This may the be ur-text for “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” The creators of this specific ad seem to think that gals are happy as long as they have a few fancy bras to choose between and nothing else. You don’t want to call out a creative for being completely shallow, but this ad really isn’t living up to the feminist ideal that many of the Maidenform ads at least pretend to capture.

Who Needs An Apple When You've Got Maidenform?

source: envisioningtheamericandream

What it looks like: It looks like this ad thinks that it’s ridiculous that anyone would want to further their education, especially women. She must be well into her 20s, can you imagine returning to school at such an advanced age? Banish the thought! Unless of course it’s in your dreams. Maidenform had a lot of mixed up messaging but this one takes the cake.

What it probably meant: With the Maidenform bra women can feel like they’re school girls again. This ad gives off the impression that other bras make women feel stuffy and uptight, like a teacher, but that this bra can act as a fountain of youth and turn back the clock. 

Welcome To The Jungle

source: envisioningtheamericandream

What it looks like: You know women, always going out into the veldt to catch all those tiny tigers -- with a butterfly net? -- that are floating through the air. This ad just looks like a dream that someone had and jotted down before going into the office. Sometimes that's just what happens in this biz. 

What it probably meant: Once again, this is Maidenform putting forth its confusing “women can do anything” messaging. It’s laudable that they’re telling women that they can go hunting, travel, or do whatever they want, but it’s definitely weird to say that they need to own a specific restrictive undergarment to do it.  

Where's The Fire?

source: envisioningtheamericandream

What it looks like: A re-imagining of the earlier fire woman ad, this version relies less on dream logic and more on the woman using her body to sell the bra. At this point the ads aren’t even trying to pretend that they’re about female empowerment, but rather the act of looking good no matter the occasion or destination - be it “blazes” or the firehouse.

What it probably meant: More so than any other ad, this is telling women “wear our bras and you’ll be hot.” The ad could be sold as something that shows a woman working in a man’s world, but why put her in hot pants? Admittedly the silver gloves are a nice touch. 

Hopefully Whoever's On The Other End Of That Call Is Telling Her To Put On A Shirt

source: pinterest

What it looks like: Unless they’re a sumo wrestler or a professional body builder no one wants to be topless at work. While this presents the idea that women are in the workplace and making their own bread, it’s also saying that they’re objects that are meant to be sexualized by their co-workers.

What it probably meant: In the current workplace climate it's hard to interpret this as anything other than veiled harassment, but maybe when this ad was dreamt up its creators really wanted women to feel like they could wear something comfortable to work. This ad really tries to have its cake and eat it too by showing this woman having a great time at work, but no one has ever been this happy to be in an office, especially if they’re shirtless. 

This Bra Is For The People, By The People

source: pinterest

What it looks like: When imagining a world where a woman can win “the election” is it better to think she won on policy, or by never putting on a blouse throughout her campaign? It feels like this ad is telling women that they have to use their sexuality to get ahead in life, which is a drag, even if it’s placing us in a world where a woman can be the leader of the free world.

What it probably meant: It’s hard to believe that the folks behind this ad were thinking too hard about what it meant. They probably thought that they were being forward thinking by showing a woman come out on top in “the election.” Kudos to those brave ad men who help this model win an imaginary election with nothing but a bra and a dream.

Tags: Advertising | Feminism | Maidenform Bras | Remember This?... | Bra

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Jacob Shelton


Jacob Shelton is a Los Angeles based writer. For some reason this was the most difficult thing he’s written all day, and here’s the kicker – his girlfriend wrote the funny part of that last sentence. As for the rest of the bio? That’s pure Jacob, baby. He’s obsessed with the ways in which singular, transgressive acts have shaped the broader strokes of history, and he believes in alternate dimensions, which means that he’s great at a dinner party. When he’s not writing about culture, pop or otherwise, he’s adding to his found photograph collection and eavesdropping on strangers in public.