In the ’50s and ’60s, prepubescent rascals may have hidden contraband copies of Playboy, but the punishment if discovered could cost more than it was worth. So boys in that exploratory demographic found The New York Times Magazine and any number of women’s magazines much safer yet still arousing. The underwear ads in these magazines had visual limitations, but they served the purpose. And there were so many of them too. Next to lipstick, bra advertisements were the most common product promos for women.
Some of these offered a tad of prurient enjoyment for the lads, but most were void of any creativity with the notable and long-running exception of the Maidenform Bra “I dreamed I . . .” campaign (here’s an inspiring collection). Bra ads on TV during the ’50s and ’60s had to show what the product did but could not be doing it on live models. Bras could only be shown on a fully clothed woman (i.e. The Cross Your Heart bra showed a woman crossing her heart with suggestive hand signs).
The print campaign for Maidenform, launched in 1949, broke ground because it was a “live” model in a social context. They were also witty, beautiful and fanciful. Nothing could top “I dreamed I played Cleopatra in my Maidenform bra” for big idea advertising, and it still holds up.