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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.