Wednesday, January 26, 2011

26 January 1957 “Sex Sells”

microsheenad57Well, here in 1957 Madison Avenue is well on its way to the axiom: “Sex Sells”. This ad for shoe polish, of all things, has many suggestions including the obvious pictorial one.
beechnutadIt is also interesting to note that a similar ‘sex advertising’ is also aimed at ladies. Though, this is often in a different guise, that of husband/boyfriend choosing. The idea of the woman wanting to settle down and the man wanting to wander seems to be pretty now set in stone. Certainly not a new idea, by any stretch of the imagination, but certainly more so now.
chubbyads  Another element we ladies are concerned with also is beginning to appear in advertising, our weight. Though the lady and girl of 1950 had much less emphasis on this as we do in the 21st century, we are also really beginning to see this phenomena arising, that of the ‘chubby kid’. Post war American has not only an abundance of food, but endless packaged and increasingly sugared products. As I always find, much of our modern world really has its seeds germinated in the 1950’s.
1940marieclaireThis 1940 Marie Claire cover illustrates the point of selling fashion and chic to women. There is concern here for what the woman is thinking of herself, her fashion sense. Her desire to emulate a well dressed woman. You will also notice the absence of ‘tag lines’. marieclaire Today’s version has a desperation to it. The longing to look ‘sexy’. The promise to ‘really lose those last 5 pounds!”. The endless words and messages we, as modern people, are used to. The clutter and constant noise, our lives and homes are cluttered as are our minds, something will stick, thinks the advertising and then we have them.
mothersonI love this image of the mother and son in the kitchen. I am not sure what the modern version of “Mother”  Marie Claire is suppose to be telling us. I am not sure I am ready to really dissect that one just yet.People Christina Aguilera
  vogue50I do know which of these Vogue covers I feel is the stronger woman and the one I would most like to emulate. Poise, structure and concern more for my personal strength. Even the model seems to be more into her own thoughts while the modern version, the model is begging the viewer, “Please, look at me, I am sexy and skinny! I am happy…right?”modervogue
And maybe I have just been here in the 1950’s too long, but I have to say, I prefer this idea of the homemaker and housework 1950homemagazine To this:desperatehousewives


  1. I couldn't agree more with the sad state of what modern media tries to make us ladies (and even more troubling, the younger girls) aspire to. Too thin! Sexy! Orange! Hot! Easy! Sad.
    I live in a vintage mindset myself along with my Retro Roadhusband, and when we get exposed to what is considered "normal" nowadays we gladly revert back to our comfortable little lives. Maybe we'll get in the wayback machine and visit you in 1957!

  2. I only wish magazine editors saw what we do in thes magazines. The 50s women are stronger, lovlier, and more self assured than their modern counter parts.

  3. Lovely post once again. And I agree with the above comments and your post that today's magazines force us to be something that is a commercially driven, unintelligent, orange, over-exposed, waste of time. Magazines of the past had articles about interesting intelligent subjects. Patterns for knitting, hints for cooking. Even House & Garden these days contains over-exposed women (girls really, I'm not even 30 and they would only be 18 if that) and everything for the house has to be 'bought'. There is no expectation that someone can do it themselves? I love reading my mothers 1960-1970's magazines. It's how I learnt to crochet, how I learnt to knit, and how I learnt to re-putty my windows. Thanks for the post.

  4. Wonderful post! I was especially shocked at the "modern mother" magazine cover I had to cover up the page. I was wondering where do you ladies get your vintage magazines? Thrift shops? Antique stores? Library? I know some articles are online but I have difficulty paying attention for a long time reading on a computer. I know I absorb more with the actual paper copy.

    Sarah: So true about the home and garden magazines! It's like they are one big advertisement. I remember one of those tag lines caught my interest a while back with a "how to..." but when I flipped to the page it just said to buy this and that. So disappointing for a DIY girl!

  5. I would much rather read the vintage magazines over the newer ones! Its so much more modest. I also think that the ladies should look at as role models, for modern ladies of 2011. Demure, Elegance, and poise.

  6. Remember we vote with our dollars. If we don't like what's in modern magazines don't buy them! The publishers will (hopefully) catch on. So many publications are failing they must pay attention.

    I have a subscription to Good Housekeeping and I like the content but the celebrity covers are just dumb. There was a time when the company would send me emails asking me to take surveys about future covers and articles. I'd always vote for people I see as interesting, not "celeb-u-tante" or reality show star. As for the articles I'd only vote for the less sensationslized topics. I stopped
    participating when I got too busy but I wish more publishers would ask rather than assume we're all media obsessed morons.

    Great post! I like the 50's mother and son in the kitchen too. The little boy's tennys are so cute!


  7. Oh I meant to comment on the "Chubbette" ad. To me the girl doesn't look that chubby. Maybe that's my modern eye. I guess I haven't noticed Vogue or Marie-Claire covers in a while because those were a little creepy to me. I stopped buying those magazines when they're articles were sensationalized and just weren't interesting.

    Sarah H. again

  8. I can not imagine what my Grandfather's reaction would be to today's magazines. The theme seems to be "hey I don't have any confidence in being a women so here's a look at my breast."
    As Su says the 50s woman comes across as the stronger woman.

  9. A very interesting post, I totally agree with you:) The modern world is cluttering and filling our minds with messages that we're not good enough and how we should be.. I rarely read these magazines anymore nowadays. Sometimes I pick up a copy, just to realize it's nothing really interesting in them. I rather find the information I want, when I want on internet:)

  10. For me, it was amazing how much my world view and even political view changed once I removed myself from modern media.
    I had no intent upon this being the specific reason I was doing my project, it was to 'see what it was like back then'
    Yet, the offshoot was by disconnecting myself I realized how much I ACTUALLY WAS influenced by modern media. I felt myself a fairly intelligent modern person able to keep the 'advertisers' out of my head. It was only when I stepped back that I realized HOW MUCH it is in every part of modern life.
    What scares me even about the concept of 'voting with dollars' which I agree with, is that the immense amount of people who do not realize how influenced they are will always over 'vote' those who start to pay attention. Because with modern magazibes, such as Better Home and Gardens, for example.
    This magazine is owned my Meredith Corp which also now owns:Family Circle, Good Housekeeping, Ladies' Home Journal, Redbook and Woman's Day. McCall's(which stopped publication in 92). This company is also tied with Time Warner and with the Walmart Corporation.When it paired with these they began, as part of their 'viral marketing' (which that term to me sounds like advertising terrorism)and tie-ins enabled 'shoppers' to look at the images and articles in the magaiznes and go directly to Wal-mart and buy the products. In other words, magazines masqueriding as sales flyers. So, not an actual sales ad, as one expects it, but a more insinuating way into our subconscious. This is true of SO much media and companies.
    And as the companies merge and there are fewer companies and more tie-ins and more is owned by less, that is the reality of our modern consumer world.
    Anyone can shout 'free market' but when the majority of items and advertising and media is owned by a few and those same few also supply the government en masse with politicians and employees, that is a scary place to me.
    It scared me that I had to remove myself 60 years in the past to see where we are now.
    My sadness is that the majority, even when faced with it, don't want to believe it and it is easier to just find scapegoats, like whoever the president currently is, rather Democrat or Republican. When, in all honesty, the true control and running of our government is very little to do with that one individual. I just hate feeling so used and duped.
    Sorry, this is a long rant of a comment on my own blog!

  11. hear hear!! i think you should send this very post to every major magazine and newspaper in the country.....suppose anyone has guts enough to publish it as an editorial????

  12. I think we as people are free to choose the message the magazine is trying to sell. But i
    think noone is an angel, we are 50% guilty of what's being published and the media is also 50% guilty as well. If the magazine sells then it's because its massage is helpful to the one that buys it, so i think giving all the credit to the media is wrong. The truth is almost 50% of Americans are fat, so it's understandable that every magazine out there is talking about losing weight (cause people want to lose some weight!!). When it comes to sex
    used in advertisement, i think the body of a female is incredibly beautiful,i think there is
    nothing wrong with showing some skin, and i don't think those girls give the message of
    unhappiness and lack of self confidence, it's not better or worse,it's JUST different!!
    I do think though that is very dumb and easy to use sexy women to sell a product that's not related at all.If they want us to buy the product ,they better use a plausible statement.

  13. I think for me it isn't that I am a prude and don't want to see skin, but when a women's magazine is aimed at a woman, wouldn't you think the point of fashion or self-strength (which to me is not about being a nymphette, but maybe that is just me) is more relevant to other women than rather or not someone looks dead sexy naked and pregnant?
    Also, don't even get me started about food. I AGREE that we are all responsible for ourselves and our food choices, but there is a lot of deception IN the food we buy. It isn't that we are too stupid to see we are eating poor food, but that food is often not, well, telling the truth.
    Someone showed me a commercial the other day for a Kashi cereal that was in an egg talking about how a bowl has the same protein as an egg. It was, for all purposes, aimed to make us feel it is a HEALTHY choice. HOWEVER, an egg has as much protein as one egg, but it also has none of all the sugar and carbs in that bowl of cereal. The milk put on the cereal. That will make you gain weight more than an egg. I just feel that in many cases people aren't aware and that is THE JOB of advertising.
    Also, I didn't say one time was BETTER than the other. I was just showing two magazines one form then and one from now, saying how I FELT about it and then seeing how others responded.
    This post isn't about blame per se, it is about the responsibility of ourselves first but also to realize that the world we currently live in has many pitfalls. And, in my own experience, that which worked for me, was by unplugging myself from much of it, which really any of us can do, made a big difference in how I thought.
    We Don't HAVE to watch tv, go online all the time, or even buy the magazines. In fact, we are still in a very serious financial situation with many people heavily in debt, yet I see the shops full of people and carts full. So, to me, that says there is a powerful force that we are plugged into that might just lead us to not act completely wisely or in our own best interest.
    But, at this point, I have learned it matters little what I think over all. I wish I COULD make a difference, but honestly feel not sure I can. I know, though, that I have been on both sides of that media and now where I fell happier. I also feel there is good and bad in both times, but why can't we take the good from the past and try to get rid of the bad from today, then we could have good/good. I am, most likely, niave'.

  14. I am sick and tired of seing prenant bellies on the magazine covers!

  15. I meant it is the JOB of advertising to sort of trick us into their moment of reality to buy their product not that it is their job to tell the truth, not sure if that made sense or not.

  16. I agree 50s gal!! Please don't take my comment as a personal attack. Everyone is entitled to have an opinion even if it's different than our own . Isn't it nurturing to debate and talk with different statements and share different points of view?! I find it fascinating!!
    Please don't get defensive, i understand you are trying to probe a point, i am doing it as well. We just don't have to agree on everything after all!!

  17. Oh, no, please don't think I am getting defensive. I am sorry it came off that way.
    In fact I have always LOVED that we do have such debate. I don't want anyone to think I just want to say whatever I think and have everyone agree, that is not the case at all. One of the disadvantages to a 'write only' conversation, I suppose.
    I was merely countering with more of my opinion. PLEASE don't think I took offense.
    I do, though, honestly feel lately that I am not sure what difference I can make and wonder if I should just 'stop worrying about it' as they say and focus on the creating, making, growing side of homemaking. It is hard for me, though, to not feel sad or frustrated with the world at present.
    Please, anyone tell me your opinion. I mean if I didn't want to have others share I'd just not talk about it on my blog, right?
    So, no worries anon, I am not offended and I agree with some of what you said as well.

  18. I think what happens, is I will be researching something, say farming changes in the 1950's and then see how they have become what they are today. And I cannot be affected by it. So, it makes me want to go off on a rant about it, but sometimes I hold back on my rants.
    And, with the frustration and anger is also much good and enjoyment. The fun and joy of cooking and growing. The happiness in creating and maintaining a home. The creativity I feel by the images and style of the time in which I want to interpret into art and so on.
    Yet, as a whole person, I cannot help but feel the need to share the 'good with the bad' as I would were we all actually in the same room with one another and having conversations. Sharing the smiles and laughter over food and in the home and also wondering about the future and where all fit in.
    I hope that comes off and that I never seem overly opinionated.Well, I am overly opinionated, but I am also open-minded and don't mind others opposing views.

  19. I find it sad that in this day and age of emancipated womanhood that magazines must cater to the overly sexualized image of womanhood.

    I believe you are what you read, and I would rather my impressionable little boys see their mother read Jane Austen novels, as opposed to witnessing their mother pour over a magazine with anorexic women in suggestive poses.

    We have come a long way baby, but at what price, at what cost to the next generation. The modern magazine is nothing but smut designed to advertise as opposed to providing any useful information.

    I`d rather read a 50`s magazine with helpful hints on saving money or organizing a pantry, rather than a modern one where Desperate Housewives maybe on the front cover.

    It`s a very sad state our society is in.

    Mom in Canada

  20. 50`s gal, just to let you know you are making a difference, by counteracting the modern culture with retro ideas you are giving others an alternative to what is actually before them.

    After all even a little rock thrown into a large pond can make huge ripples. And that is what you are doing with each and very post.

    Hopefully one day these ripples will reach more people, I know my life is better because of this blog.

    Thank you,

    Mom in Canada

  21. First of all, that shoe polish ad is obscene! I thought that, being a woman of the 21st century, I would be desensitized to such an "innocent" ad. Nope! Speaking of "innocent," did anyone else notice the tagline for the Amy Adams cover? "Everyone thinks I'm so innocent, but I'm really not!" Is that indignation? Frustration? Does she want to be a better person, so she's putting out what she wants to change? Probably not the latter, eh? Also, that Christine Aguilera cover: disgusting! That is truly gross, to me.
    The vitage Vogue model is stunning. I just adore a full face shot with the lined eyes just closed enough to emphasize the cat look. Beautiful! The modern model, though, she's like a starving aley cat. While I can love and take in a stray cat, a skulking model who looks so skeletal is not so darling.

  22. I am disgusted by so many magazine covers... I can hardly wait in the checkout line without rolling my eyes and just being plain angry at the way women are portrayed and the fact that these "celebrities" put themselves on display, half naked, for all of North America to see while they buy bread and bananas.
    I remember the Aguilera one in particular because I thought it completely lacked class. Also, just as tasteless and eyeroll-inducing was the Britney Spears preggo cover, yep, again.. NAKED. NASTY!!!I don't care about being "PC", these women have no shame and in my opinion have flushed their dignity away lonnng ago.
    I have no idea who Amy Adams is but I did notice that magazine cover and the tag line about her not being innocent. I actually felt sad for her. She has to tell the world how "dirty" she is in order to be respected? What is wrong with our society??? And what's WRONG with being innocent??? With demonstrating some decency and dressing with class as opposed to crass?
    Ugh! This stuff gets me so upset.


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