Historical Ads: The Wonderbra

Today, Wonderbra is a lingerie brand (http://www.wonderbra.co.uk/) but it used to be a brand of bra first trademarked in the mid-20th century as the Wonder-bra. I will be comparing ads for this bra model as it appeared in The New York Times.

  1. Ad from 1956 (“Advertisement: Wonder Bra (Wonder-Bra Co., Inc.).” Vogue, vol. 127, no. 6, 1956., pp. 144http://search.proquest.com/docview/879286115?accountid=14902. )

Advertisement: Wonder Bra (Wonder-Bra Co., Inc.) Page 1

This ad markets the bra as a marker of femininity and youth. It tells the female reader that she will feel more comfortable and happy while wearing this bra. This marketing scheme echoes modern ones, as Playtex and other comfort bra brands have promised their products to be comfortable.

2. Ad from 1957 (“Advertisement: Wonder Bra (Wonder-Bra Co., Inc.).” Vogue, vol. 130, no. 6, 1957., pp. 226http://search.proquest.com/docview/897873814?accountid=14902. )

Advertisement: Wonder Bra (Wonder-Bra Co., Inc.) Page 1

This ad, unlike its predecessor, does not emphasize the femininity of the bra, but rather the way a woman will feel when wearing it. This ad is saying that this bra will make a woman look and feel beautiful. Not that the woman is beautiful on her own, but that the bra is where the beauty comes from and makes her beautiful. I found it strange that the ad boasted of the ability of the bra to lift the breasts to unimaginable heights, yet also of the bra’s supposed comfort… How can both of these be achieved? It seems paradoxical to me.

Bra marketing today depends on the brand of bra. For Hanes, the brand is focused on comfort. For Victoria’s Secret, the brand is focused on maximizing the sex appeal of its products. Since the Wonder-bra of this era was a sexy push-up bra, let’s compare its advertising with the likes of contemporary sexy bras like those found in VS. If you’ve ever had to suffer through an awkward, eye-averting silence when a VS commercial comes on during family TV time, you know just how sexual the ads are. Sexy bra ads were far more chaste in the 1950s than they are today, perhaps to appeal to a male audience. VS’ bras exemplify a standard of beauty that can only be achieved with a certain body shape and with the right lighting, in other words, a standard that can only be achieved in an artificial world by a select few. To women, seeing these commercials is rarely a confidence-booster. The 50s Wonder-bra ads were far more encouraging of women.

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