Maidenform blushes

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Cover Up

It was one of history's best-known advertising campaigns and most recurrent dreams. For more than 20 years the Maidenform model said, "I dreamed I went shopping [or fought a bull, or barged down the Nile] in my Maidenform bra." The ads, featuring a winsome lady wearing nothing above the waist but a bra, appeared in more than 70 countries, starting in 1949, and helped propel the privately held company to the No. 2 spot in the intimate-apparel industry (1982 sales: $125 million).

In 1969, however, as more women opted to pursue careers, the fantasy theme was dropped. Explains President Beatrice Coleman: "We felt that the ads no longer appealed to younger women." In the late '70s, Maidenform began to depict women as doctors, lawyers, stockbrokers and even a basketball referee, with the slogan "The Maidenform woman. You never know where she'll turn up." But since the company wanted to show its products, the ads now featured scantily clad models hanging around a hospital room or a train station with fully clothed men.

Many women were outraged. "Extremely distasteful," wrote Dr. Anne L. Barlow, president of the American Medical Women's Association, in a letter protesting the ad about the woman doctor. In 1981 and 1982, the New York City-based Women Against Pornography gave the Maidenform ads a ZAP award for sexist advertising.

Maidenform has now replaced its ad agency, Creamer Inc., with Wyse Advertising. President Lois Wyse, who has written 30 volumes of love poetry, says her campaign will emphasize "romance rather than blatant sexuality." Maidenform, though, insists that it will continue to display its products in its ads. Says Edward Kantrowitz, vice president for advertising: "The only way you can show our merchandise properly is to put it on models."