The Evolution of Sex Appeal in Advertising

January 5, 2009

Likely the most time-tested of methods, the use of sex appeal in advertising has sold everything from hosiery to power tools over the years. By continuing to push the limits of what was socially acceptable at the time, these advertisements provide a visual timeline of our societal evolution with regard to sexuality. Though the graphic nature of these vintage illustrations may not be as shocking as it once was, their timeless charm surely remains.

1942 Barbasol Advertisement

source: Flickr

Jake’s got a busy day, a spin in clouds with the b-52, graduation ceremony, then off to his wedding ceremony in the evening. This might be stressful for your average Joe, but not for a Jake. Between Nellie’s great legs and his own Barbasol Face, he has all the inspiration he needs. Heck, he might even build a house and write her a romance novel yet tonight.

1942 Hickory Girdles Camouflage Campaign

source: Flickr

I don’t know if using terms like “unruly curves,” “hearty hips,” and “pronounced midriff” to describe and beckon your client base would be as effective today, but you have to respect the forthright approach of the 40’s.

1943 Serta Mattress Advertisement

source: Americanartarchives

Surprisingly risqué for 1943, this Serta Mattress ad was done by famous pin-up artist Gillette Elvgren. It is interesting to see how war-time advertisements reflected the mood of the time, including lines like “Win with war bonds“, “War-time efficiency demands it” and “Available again immediately after victory.”
1944 and 1954 MOJUD Stockings Advertisements

source: Flickr

MOJUD’s advertising department decided to stick with what works, as these ads from 1944 (left) and 1954 (right) remained strikingly similar. You really can’t go wrong with sexy pin-up girls showing a bit of “Magic-Motion” stocking-covered leg.

1952 Ridgid Tools Calendar

source: Animationarchive

If men in 1952 knew nothing else about a Ridgid No. 65R Jam-Proof Self-Contained 1’ to 2’ Threader, after this calendar came out, they knew they needed one. The full series is available here, along with the follow up from 1953.

1955 Smoothie Girdle Ad

source: Flickr

Undoubtedly a very sexy and functional piece, this beautiful advertisement shows us that at the intersection of fashion and function lies Smoothie. Wait…Smoothie? Now this just reminds me of a delicious ice-blended beverage that Harry Houdini would have trouble getting out of.

1958 Phantom Stockings Advertisement

source: Flickr

This vintage ad from 1958 makes one wish more advertisements were still illustrated today. The drawing is fun, the type is stylish, and the elf-toes are only slightly creepy.

1958 Stardust Bra Advertisement

source: Flickr

Glamour and thrift? What more could a woman want? Apparently this pitch had a bit of staying power, as this style was still going strong 30 years later when Madonna adopted it.

1966 Northern Electric Extension Phone Advertisement

source: Flickr

Oh the luxury, to be able to talk on the telephone in one’s own room. It does make me wish that electric companies were still producing ads this sultry today.

1966 Enkalon Stockings Advertisement

source: Flickr

Fit, feel, and eye appeal? I guess that about covers it. Also, six stars is truly an impressive rating for any nylon hosiery, even today.  However, the model’s positioning, combined with the location of the stars, makes me think she has suffered a horrific ankle sprain.

1968 Exquisite Form Girdle Advertisement

This woman definitely looks like she wants to be comforted. For those “deer in the headlights” days, Exquisite Form will hold you tight…very tight. I wonder if any woman could still feel sexy combining Lance Armstrong shorts with Joe Namath coats these days.

1968 Silhouette Contraband Girdle Advertisement

source: Flickr

I promise not to tell anyone that you will be smuggling your own hips throughout the day. However, you might want to put on a dress over your Silhouette Girdle if you want to keep the news from spreading.

1970’s Nipple Bra Advertisement

source: Flickr

Achieve that sensual cold weather look, without the miserable cold weather feel. The “natural” appeal of the 70’s brought women creative inventions such as these in order to fool the male population. Today, the creepy product name and embarrassing possibility that you may be caught with fake protruding nubs on your undergarment would most likely kill product sales completely.

1975 She-an-me Advertisements

source: Flickr

For the progressive 70’s woman, looking to add a bit of spice to her relationship, these “KinkyFun Fashions” were the ticket. The scandalous black and white ads were undoubtedly tucked back in the final few pages of a magazine with morally questionable content.

1976 Lili St. Cyr Lingerie Advertisement

source: Flickr

This ad is for the lingerie line of famous stripper Lili St. Cyr, who began producing the collection upon her retirement. These pieces were marketed as “perfect for street wear, stage or photography.” How versatile.

1979 Arnel Advertisement

source: Flickr

These two ladies appear to have just stepped outside to enjoy a view of the city but seem to have forgotten what they were wearing. It is uncertain whether “freedom” is describing the garments’ lack of constriction or the fact that when you walk around the downtown area in nothing but shiny gold short-shorts, you can pretty much do whatever you want. Thank goodness Dov Charney was there to capture the moment.


How To Spot a Tourist in New York City

September 15, 2008

So you are headed to New York to get a piece of the action, a taste of the hustle and bustle of city life. You want to see all the sights that have made the City so popular, but you also want to tramp around town and get an authentic feel for the day to day experience of a real New Yorker. Wondering how to make the transition from Midwestern suburb to downtown Manhattan? Take this quiz to see if you are going to be hopping from borough to borough like a local or stuck with your over-sized suitcase in the Subway doors.

New York Directions


1. You have landed safely at JFK, taken a cab into the City, and arrived at your hotel. You climb out of the cab wearing:

a) A nice outfit, you always like to travel in style.

b) A sweatshirt bearing the name of a university in your home state.

c) Your trusty fanny pack and an “I heart NY” shirt which you purchased at the airport.

2. Once you have your bags out of the trunk of the cab, the first thing you do is:

a) Pull some cash out of your wallet to tip the cabbie.

b) Make a comment about how dirty the streets are.

c) Look up and gawk at the skyscrapers.

3. You friend asks where you are planning to go to dinner tonight:

a) You respond, “Eey! Fuggeddaboudit!”

b) You opt for a proper reference to “Manhattan” so there is no confusion about which “City” you are talking about.

c) You reply, “I heard that Houston (said ‘heeewson’) Street is hip!”

Houston Street Sign, New York


4. And what time to meet up for dinner?

a) 10pm

b) 8pm

c) 6pm

5. Someone asks you for directions. You:

a) You give them directions to their destination confidently, whether you actually know or not.

b) You try to help based on the 5 places you have already been in the city.

c) They are only asking you because you have a huge unfolded map in front of your face.

6. Your mobile phone rings when you are walking down the stairs to the subway. What do you do?

a) Decline the call without looking at who was calling.

b) Answer while continuing underground shouting “Hello? Hello? I am in the Subway…in New York! I think I am losing service!”

c) You stop on the stairs to get your phone out and are subsequently plowed over by the mob behind you.

7. You are about to enter a crosswalk and the signal tells you to stop.

a) You run across anyway, hurdling a taxi, and making hand gestures that let people know that they live in your world.

b) You wait until there is a break in traffic and move quickly across the street.

c) You stop immediately and wait intently for the “WALK” sign to change again.


8. Someone stops you on the street and asks if you have a cigarette:

a) You walk around them without even looking up.

b) You tell them that you don’t have any.

c) You give them one for now and another one for later, just in case.

9. One of the streets is blocked off because they are filming an episode of popular a T.V. show. You:

a) Become annoyed and take the quickest alternate route to your destination.

b) Stop for long enough to hear someone say which show it is, then move on.

c) Cancel your plans for the day and get out your camera because you heard Orlando Bloom was inside.

10. You are in the mood for pizza, so you:

a) Walk to the closest corner and order yourself a big slice of pie.

b) Ask the concierge for a place with lots of fresh veggies.

c) Look in the phone book for the closest Domino’s.

11. You are in Times Square and you see the Naked Cowboy playing his guitar. You:

a) Are not in Times Square.

b) Laugh and point him out to your friend.

c) Stop to take photos with him.

Naked Cowboy, Times Square, New York


All “a” answers are worth 3 points, “b” answers are worth 2 points and “c” answers are worth 1 point. Add up your total, and see how you scored.

If you scored 26-33, you are as good as a native, ready to run around town and throw elbows with the best of ’em.

If you scored 18-25, you may not fit right in, but you will be able to handle yourself about the city.

If you scored 11-17, embrace your touristic tendencies and enjoy your trip.