Women & the Home: Vintage Ads Probably Worth Forgetting

Society and advertising have not always been kind to women; they still aren’t. From the subtle to the outrageous, vintage ads are a great window into the past that entertain, shock, and surprise. Here are nearly 40 advertising examples culled from the golden age of magazine and newspaper advertising:

(Images via bradruggles, oddee, oddee, bmpr)

Some ads have crossed the line beyond what society considers acceptable, and depending on your outlook, these examples are entertaining or disgusting. I for one tend to laugh at how ridiculous these conceptions are in light of today’s political correctness. I definitely think we’re heading in a better direction as a society, but we still have a ways to go.

(Images via foundinmomsbasement, blogsofrecord, theblogofrecord)

A quick glance at any magazine rack will identify one huge difference between the conception of female beauty; skinny is currently considered the ultimate body type (according to magazines), whereas curves once held a much higher appeal. One thing we still have in common with the past is quack techniques to achieve whatever body type is in the norm at the time.

(Images via flickriver, feministing, pzrservices, cosmeticservices, momgrind, womansday)

If there’s one thing your wife wants on Christmas morning, it’s a vacuum! Everyone loves a new appliance, or an upgraded look for the kitchen, but these magazine ads show a link between a woman and her appliances that is quite a bit exaggerated.

(Images via vintage123, vintageadbrowser, pzrservices, momgrind, christianmontone)

It’s interesting how some car advertisements clearly depict women as a major purchasing force in the household, while others appeal to men with deprecating messages. Some of the worse ads are more recent, oddly enough.

(Images via pzrservices, debutanteclothing, foundinmomsbasement, vintagefashionguild, picsdigger)

Early fashion ads used illustration to depict larger than life beauties, much as we currently use photoshop and airbrushing. It’s interesting to see the different views of glamour and fashion over time, and how a bullet bra can be the height of seductive lingerie in one decade, and a ridiculous affectation in another.

(Images via straightdope, hilarysheperd, graphicsdesignforum, momgrind)

Women love chores! At least, they used to, clearly, if magazine ads are any indication. There’s no denying that women used to be the main caretakers of the household, but some of these ads are ridiculous in their depiction of rapturous delight at receiving a new vacuum, or purchasing a fresh box of detergent. The misogynist message in some of these ads is just the obvious tip of a much larger iceberg.

(Images via pzrservices, lulusvintage, katiescanlan, foundinmomsbasement)

Makeup ads used to be quite classy in the day. Even the text seemed hand drawn, and it was clear a lot of time was spent designing and formatting. Illustrating every ad must have been a huge enterprise, and I imagine advertising agencies contained giant art departments well beyond what we have today.

(Images via sadanduseless, designgonewild)

Sexual education and hygiene is not a topic I would expect was broached often, but it was actually sprinkled liberally through magazines in the past. The text was subtle, except for the case of war time venereal disease public service warnings, which had to be clear in order to get their message across.

(trendfunnel, smashingmagazine, retrorenovation, atticpaper)

American culture has always imagined the future faster than we could produce it, so we celebrate technology as if we expect a utopian future to pop up just around the corner. This optimism makes viewing advances from the past that much more enjoyable to study.