Fashion Ads of the 20th Century - 365 provocative ads that defined the world of fashion
Fashion Ads of the 20th Century
by Jim Heimann and Alison A. Nieder
2012, 736 pages, 7.1 x 8.9 x 2.2
$21 Buy a copy on Amazon
What you call love was invented by guys like me to sell nylons. – Don Draper, Mad Men. This is just one of 365 fashion quotes that are paired with 365 fashion ads dating from the 1900s to the 1990s (the above quote went with a 1966 ad for Eye-catchers Panty Hose that was targeted towards teens). Because ads are created with wads of money, meticulous planning, and highly creative talent, the ads that color these pages make for a gorgeous, provocative book, and the accompanied quotes are clever, humorous, and revealing.
But beyond the surface of beauty and frivolity, this collection of ads also gives us a glimpse of our changing cultural norms throughout the last century. For instance, up until the 1970s, the term girl was used frequently for woman, especially when referring to women as amusement for men, such as, “From morn, ‘til night, at work, at play, be a dream girl too, the Formfit way” (from a Formfit bra ad of 1942). And although not nearly as often, boys was used in place of men when referring to a gang of mischievous young lads out for a good time. In the 1930s, the Depression was reflected in ads such as the do-it-yourself Simplicity Patterns ad above, while by the 1980s we started seeing independent-looking women in business suits, or a suit-like dress with very wide padded shoulders. (Of course these more feminist-minded ads were overshadowed by sensual, nearly naked women in other ads). One of the biggest changes between pre-and post- 1970s were the incredible number of ads that included both women and men who were sexually charged, wearing very little, if any clothes at all.
Of course the differences in ads between the decades pale in comparison to the big similarity: sex, sex, sex. As the old saying goes, “Sex sells,” and that is pronounced over and over again as you flip through Fashion. Even though this isn’t new news, it’s fascinating when you witness the craft behind ads in such a visual compilation as this book. And I have to say, it did get me thinking about my own deficient wardrobe and all the essential accouterments I’ve so carelessly overlooked! – Carla Sinclair
After writing this review, I read on Amazon that Fashion is considered a datebook (that works for any year). Ha! Yes, I neglected to mention that on the top of each right-side page there is a calendar day (thus 365 ads), with the name of a fashion-related celebrity whose birthday falls on that date. I just thought it was a quirky component to the book, a book that seems too nice with its glossy pages and very heavy weight to be a datebook. But there you have it. Datebook or coffee table book – the choice is yours.