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.


Heidi said...

It's hard to know what to say about the "Dreams Do Come True" ad - but then, these were never my dreams. And - as an aging, sagging, menopausal, 34G I don't find this model credible as a "nurse." Perhaps her dream is to have enough body fat so that she can make milk?

My experience, in all seriousness, is that the only change to the definition of 'woman' is that we are now expected to be both intelligent careerist and uber-wife and mother. It amazes me how many women think I don't have a good life because I never had children. I agree with them - children are wonderful things to have, but I still get to be me, regardless. That's not such a bad deal (most days, anyway.)

Anonymous said...

There seems to be an idea here that women love these ridiculous ads and run out and buy bras because of them. Granted I live out in the country and don't get out much, but hopefully most women are similar to me and buy bras when they need them and because they fit well not because of an ad depicting the fantasy of a sexually suppressed and developmentally arrested ad manager. May I be so forward as to suggest a book to read, The Terror Dream by Susan Faludi.

Eileen Williams said...

I'm certain those ads were created by men on Madison Avenue who had dreams of their own. These, of course, had little to do with their customers: money and nearly naked women--what a combo!
On a positive note, it looks like the mommy Maidenform model has natural breasts!

Amy W said...

No ad makes someone drop everything they are doing and purchase an item...the hope is that when they do need to purchase that item they remember the brand name and find it familiar enough to purchase that brand over an unknown. No company runs the same ads for that long and continues to see success the way that Maidenform has. The ads are iconic because they were controversial and forward-thinking at the time they first went into print. And who doesn't have dreams that they want to come true? Tying a brand into that is a very powerful thing. What makes them continually successful is that they have a great product to back it up. I am a wearer of Maidenform bras as well as their shapewear brands, Flexees and Control It. I think the price is reasonable and the quality of the garments are impeccable and they do shape, slim, and enhance. 88 yrs and the company is still growing strong whether you like the ads or not.

Tracy said...

This advertising and marketing people should really think twice about women's intelligence, nobody is really fooled with this tasteless schemes.

Guest said...

The 1979-1983 campaign, which included the doctor ad, was said to boost sales of Maidenform products by 200 percent.

So, it appears that the ads did entice women to spend their money on Maidenform.