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'I Dreamed..': Vintage Maidenform Bra Ads from the 1940s and 1950s

In the early 1940s, Maidenform Undergarment company started a hilariously creative advertisement campaign to increase bra sales. The campaign ran from the early 1940s until the early 1960s and featured images of women engaged in fictional fantasies about all the things they could accomplish while wearing a Maidenform bra. The slogan ‘I dreamed…’ came from the company’s employee Harry Trenner. When he was sitting around the kitchen table after dinner with his, He took it to Weintrob Advertising in New York. As a result, Maidenform created the “I dreamed…” advertising campaign.

The campaign was a roaring success. The company’s sales increased from 14 million to over 43 million between 1949 and 1963. One reason for the campaign’s popularity was the fact that the ads, while titillating, were not salacious. The models were sexy but wholesome, and the copy employed double meanings (“I dreamed I was a real dish”). A 1962 advertisement in which a model gently grasps the horn of a large bovine (“I took the bull by the horns”) may have been the raciest of the lot. Additionally, Maidenform’s dream world was exclusively populated by women.

Retrospectively, the advertisements provide a glimpse into the changing role of women in mid-century America, encompassing everything from the fanciful “I dreamed I played Cleopatra” to the more ambitious “I dreamed I won the election” and “I dreamed I went to work.”

Eventually, the ads were retired in 1969. Women wanted not dreams of power but real power on the cusp of the women’s liberation movement.

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Written by Orla Morris

Full-time dress and costume designer, Half Persian half Italian. I still don’t know how to write, but i'm writing and you are reading :)

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