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April 20, 2022

“I Dreamed...” Maidenform Bra Ad Campaign From the Mid-20th Century

As Harry Trenner told the story, he and his wife Florence were just sitting around the kitchen table after dinner when they hit upon the idea. Harry took it to Weintrob Advertising, where he worked in New York. They showed it to Maidenform and the “I dreamed…” advertising campaign was born.

It would run from World War II thru to the early 1960s, featuring images of women engaged in fantasies—some of them frivolous, some of them less so—of all the things they could do whilst wearing a Maidenform bra.

In retrospect, the advertisements provide a peek into the changing role of women in mid-century America, encompassing the full spectrum of available possibilities with everything from the fanciful “I dreamed I played Cleopatra” and the renegade “I dreamed I was wanted” to the more ambitious “I dreamed I won the election” and “I dreamed I went to work.”

The campaign was a screaming success. Maidenform’s sales increased from 14 million to over 43 million between 1949 and 1963. One reason for the campaign’s popularity was that the ads, while titillating, were not salacious. The models were sexy but wholesome, and the copy employed gentle puns and double-entendres (“I dreamed I was a real dish”). A 1962 ad in which a model gently grasps the horn of a very large bovine (“I took the bull by the horns”) may have been the raciest of the lot. It helped, too, that Maidenform’s dream world was populated exclusively by women.

The ads were finally retired in 1969. On the cusp of the women’s liberation movement, women wanted to pursue not dreams of power, but the real thing.


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