HistoryWired About the Program Help Comments Smithsonian Institution
back

Excerpt:
The history of Maidenform, Inc. began at Enid Frocks, a small dress shop in New York City owned and operated by Enid Bissett. Ida Rosenthal was a Russian Jewish immigrant and seamstress at Enid's shop. In 1922 Ida and Enid decided that the fit and appearance of their custom-made dresses would be enhanced if improvements were made to the bandeaux style bras then in vogue. They gathered the bandeaux in the middle in a design modification that provided more support in a manner they believed enhanced, rather than downplayed, a woman's natural figure. Ida's husband, William, added straps and further refined the style. The called their bras "Maidenform", in counterpoint to the "Boyish Form" brand then in vogue. Initially, the bras were given away with each dress they sold. As the bras gained popularity they began selling them, and eventually the bras became so popular they stopped making dresses altogether and shifted to full-scale brassiere manufacturing. The first Maidenform plant opened in Bayonne, NJ in 1925. After World War II, the company began marketing heavily in Europe and Latin America. Eventually, Maidenform operated plants in West Virginia, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

Documentation for the development and manufacture of a "pigeon vest" is also included in the collection. The pigeon vest allowed troopers to carry homing pigeons with them as they parachuted behind enemy lines. During World War II, Maidenform manufactured these pigeon vests and silk parachutes for the war effort.

Maidenform advertising campaigns were enormously successful, and generated controversy as well as praise. The now famous "I Dreamed" campaign was launched in 1949; this campaign ran for 20 years making it one of the longest running campaigns in the history of advertising. The advertisements featured models in everyday or fantastic situations, elaborately costumed but wearing only a Maidenform bra above the waist. This campaign was followed by the "Maidenform Woman" campaign which was credited with boosting sales by 200 percent in some stores. The "Dares to Dream" campaign played off the "I Dreamed" tagline in 1984, and in 1987, the "Celebrity" campaign began. The "Celebrity" ads were notable for the absence of women in lingerie; instead, well-known male actors discussed their feelings about women and lingerie in print and commercial advertisements. The tone of the advertising shifted in 1992 with a series of ads called "The Women's Advocacy" campaign.

 

 



Start HistoryWired | About the Program | Help | Comments

Smithsonian Institution | Terms of Use | Privacy