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June 24, 2022

40 Amazing Vintage Ads for Modess Sanitary Napkins From the 1950s and 1960s

Modess sanitary napkins conducted a famous advertising campaign from the late 1940s to the 1970s in the United States. Usually the only words were “Modess ... because.” Advertising journals of the time occasionally made fun of the series; sometimes they praised it. In a sense, the unfinished phrase summed up the American public’s feelings about menstruation: It’s something it couldn’t talk about!

Nevertheless, these are probably the most elegant ads ever made for menstrual products.

Then-CEO General Robert Wood Johnson came up with the idea while brainstorming ways to boost sales for Modess. His thinking: pair striking photographs of models wearing gorgeous gowns in ornate settings, with a tagline that was as innovative as it was evocative—“Modess … because.”

And unlike other campaigns of the era, the Modess ads let consumers supply their own unique reasons for buying the product, such as “because ... I don’t want anything to stop me from going out to a party” or “because ... I want to look and feel glamorous.”

“These two words helped spare the reader of any self-consciousness around the topic of feminine hygiene, providing dignity around what was not an easily discussed subject in society at that time,” says Margaret Gurowitz, Johnson & Johnson’s in-house historian. “In this way, the ads were as aspirational as they were chic. They spoke to women’s strength, confidence and self-expression.”

To bring the campaign to life, Johnson & Johnson commissioned the likes of Leigh and Parker to don one-of-a-kind dresses by Dior, James and other designers. The company then tapped top cameramen of the day—including Beaton, Green and Sarra—to photograph the models in striking locations, from Park Avenue mansions in New York City to palaces and museums across Europe.

The result? Sales soared, and the campaign ran well into the 1970s.


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