Sarong

and the vanishing garters!

 

Re: “Where did the garters go?”

The related matter of “Where did the stockings go?” was discussed on the old (defunct) “Girdles And More” forum several years ago. (The question arose because, after 1955 in the US, attached stockings virtually never appeared in girdle ads, except occasionally in catalogs. Even before 1955, attached stockings were not usually shown. Probably magazine editors didn’t want items in their pages that reminded readers of the can-can. It would only have taken one magazine with a no-stockings-with-girdles policy to have had a chilling effect on all advertising agencies, which wouldn’t have wanted to minimize their ads’ potential market-reach.)

People on that forum wondered how the garters in ads could lie flat and taut all on their own. In response, it was claimed that ad photos were actually shot either with the garters glued down the skin, or with stockings attached that were later airbrushed out. In support of this, some commenters posted blow-ups of the garter and stocking-top area in several ads where one could see where the airbrushing hadn’t been done well enough or completely enough.

As for “Where did the garters go?” in the Sarong ad, they might have been airbrushed out too, along with stockings, rather than being cut off beforehand. I suspect that because, without attached stockings to apply vertical tension, the girdle would not have been as smooth as it was.

As far as I know, this was the only series of girdle ads (in the US) that employed the partially-disrobed-in-public theme that Maidenform had been successfully using since 1949 with its “I dreamed I <e.g., stopped traffic> in my Maidenform bra” ads. (It continued the series until 1969. Mad magazine spoofed them with this variation: “I dreamed I was arrested for indecent exposure in my Maidenform bra.”) Maidenform’s success with this theme was possibly one reason Sarong employed it too.

(A large collection of Maidenform’s “I Dreamed” ads can be found at: http://paranoiastrikesdeep.blogspot.com/2014/07/i-dreamed-i-read-blog-in-my-maidenform.html )

A second likely reason was the influence on Madison Avenue of the Ernest Dichter’s Freudian-based Institute for Motivational Research. According to Vance Packard’s 1957 best-seller, The Hidden Persuaders, which focused heavily on the theories and influence of Motivational Research, “The ad men . . . became convinced after checking with their psychologists that the [first Maidenform] ad was sound because the wish to appear naked or scantily clad in a crowd is "present in most of us" and "represents a beautiful example of wish fulfillment." (Page 96 in paperback, 72-73 in hardback.) Advertising Age, a trade journal, later claimed that the company had conducted research “that indicated deep-down every woman is a born exhibitionist.”

On the same page, Packard implied that the Sarong series was similarly influenced. He wrote: “Another [Sarong] girdle ad showed a girl and her boyfriend at a Coney Island type of wind tunnel with the wind blowing her skirt above her head and exposing her entire midsection, which, of course, was encased in the girdle being offered for sale.” (Incidentally, "The Hidden Persuaders" would have been good brand name for an undie set.)

Another bit of evidence that the ads appealed to exhibitionistic tendencies is that, according to one participant on the G&M forum, Sarong had sometimes used this caption: “Until the wind blows no one will know your are wearing a Sarong crisscross girdle.”

A third likely influence was Marilyn Monroe’s famous blown-upward skirt scene. This view is argued in “Body Image: Fashioning the Postwar American” (a 2009 dissertation) by Jill Francesca Dione:

“Monroe’s failure to wear a girdle, for example, represented a violation of postwar norms, as demonstrated in . . . her panty-revealing, subway-grating moment in The Seven Year Itch (Billy Wilder, 1955) vis-à-vis the model in the girdle-revealing, Coney Island Fun House advertisement for Sarong undergarments. Yet the latter, although correctly encased within a girdle, nevertheless enjoys more freedom of expression than her predecessors in three [actually four—the fourth was outside a paddock at the Kentucky Derby] earlier Sarong advertisements. For in each of these advertisements, a well-dressed female—handsomely conveyanced by plane, cruise ship, and horse-drawn carriage, respectively—exhibits open-mouthed dismay at the sight of her upblown, girdle-revealing skirt, even though others within viewing range do not look in her direction and thus do not witness her discomfiture. The Coney Island model, on the other hand, expresses open-mouthed delight at her dishabille, and she even shares this enjoyment with her male escort and a Fun House clown. Appearing in March 1956, a little less than a year after the premiere of The Seven Year Itch, this advertisement was the last to appear of all four [five] Sarong ads under discussion, and since it shares the updraft action and the lighthearted mood of Monroe’s subway grating pose in that film, one might reasonably conclude that the latter gave rise to the former.”