Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I Dreamed . . .

I remember the famous Maidenform “I Dreamed“ ad campaign from when I was a very little girl. If I am not mistaken, it is the longest running series of ads in print ad history. For those of you unfamiliar with it, the ads depict an attractive model, clad in a costume that allows the Maidenform bra to be revealed. She is doing something fun or daring in the ads. The implication is a cross between if you dream it, you can do it, and this is so outrageous it can only happen in your dreams.

The campaign began in 1949 and ran through 1969 in its original format, “I Dreamed I... [did such and such] in my Maidenform bra” but then continued with variations on this theme which have continued into the new millennium. The dreams started out rather tamely, with “I dreamed I went shopping in my Maidenform bra” and “I dreamed I went strolling in my Maidenform bra” in its early stages; then got more imaginative throughout the 50s; just a few examples—”I dreamed I broke the bank in Monte Carlo...” “I dreamed I was a toreador...” "I dreamed I played Cleopatra..."

By the early 60s many of the ads in the series (and there were a ton of them) took on a real action-adventure flair— “I dreamed I walked a tightrope...“ “I dreamed I was a knockout...“ (referring to boxing in a double-entendre) “I dreamed I took the bull by the horns...”

In the late 60s and early 70s, as more women were opting for serious careers, Maidenform dropped the fantasy element of the ads. By the 80s, the ads depicted women in their skivvies, performing their high-powered jobs (doctor, attorney, businesswoman) in a campaign with the slogan “The Maidenform Woman: You never know where she’ll show up.” Women everywhere disdained these ads and they were pulled. Here’s an example on the left, below.

Fast forward to 2005, smack in the middle of the previous He Who Shall Not be Named administration’s era. Here is that year’s ad. We’re back to dreams. Yikes! this one scarcely needs comment (despite this particular "dream" coming true, this is definitely not a nursing bra. Or the breasts of a real mother of a 4- or 5-month old). What’s next for Maidenform? A campaign titled “This feels right.” I haven’t been able to find images.

The endurance of the “I dreamed” ads (they are now quite collectable) speaks to how little it takes to fire the imagination of a nation of unfulfilled women. That ads for basic lingerie could spark the yearning for expression, adventure, daring and sometimes a bit of outrageousness speaks volumes. No wonder these fantasy-filled ads were so popular in an era when women lives were defined by domesticity.

Wait . . . hasn’t the average, contemporary woman’s life gone back to being defined largely by all things domestic? I wonder if Maidenform shouldn’t go back to that “I dreamed” campaign.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Sluts and Studs

I've done several versions of this limited edition artist's book titled Sluts and Studs (and its companion, Tomcats and Trollops, which shows vintage photos of couples). I'm not the first artist/writer to explore the dichotomy between male/female sexual language, but it continues to fascinate. The images are from the 40s and 50s, and most of the language harks from an even earlier era. A sexually prolific man is a Stud, Romeo, Ladies' Man, or at worst, a Tomcat, Rake, and Womanizer. He is to be admired, or just a bit naughty.

Sexually active ladies are called, on the other hand, Slut, Tramp, Nymphomaniac, or variations on prostitute: Tart, Floozy, Strumpet. The dictionary definitions, which I've designed as part of the endpapers, only emphasize the contrast in language even more.

There still seems no term for a woman who is sexually active in a healthy sort of way, the female version of stud, perhaps. A recent movie (I Love You, Man) used the more recent word, Cougar, which I understand refers to a sexy older woman, but I'm not sure it has a positive connotation to it; there is a tinge of the predatory about it. If anyone knows of some recent sexual terminology along these lines, please let me know. It's a subject I'd like to continue to explore through my artwork.