Friday V.P.L. Blogging

Ok, so sometimes vintage sexist advertising is totally hilarious. Take for example this ad, which features a flying pantyhose package that acts like a magical VPL eraser, gently touching women’s bums to remove unsightly lines. And then the kicker: “Why spoil the view? Wear Underalls, pantyhose and panties all in one!” (I wonder if they throw in the Monistat for free? ‘Cause you’re probably gonna need it.)

I guess I never realized the VPL was such a major late-’70s/early-’80s cultural phenomenon. I mean, I knew it from Annie Hall:

ROB: Oh, no, no, that’s bullshit, Max. He goes with that girl over there.
ALVY: Where?
Rob nods his head toward a tall woman dressed all in white conversing with a group of people close-by.
ROB: The one with the V.P.L.
ALVY: V.P.L.?
ROB: Visible panty line. Max, she is gorgeous.

According to the all-knowing Wikipedia (yes, there’s an entry for “panty line”), Annie Hall popularized it, but David Halberstam first used the phrase in his 1967 novel about the Vietnam War, One Very Hot Day:

They all wore white dresses, that was the prescribed legal uniform, but they wore hem so short and tight, that was almost obscene. (So tight that the panty lines could always be seen, and the helicopter pilots, who were insane for miliary abbreviations, had invented the phrase VPL, for Visible Panty Line).”

Some dudes’ VPL-love notwithstanding, I can understand the popularity of Underalls, seeing as how the thong had yet to become an acceptable undergarment choice for non-strippers. And I’m guessing the decline of the Underalls had something to do with its unpleasant yeasty side effects, but also with the increasing popularity of the thong. In fact, fear of the VPL was cited by Abercrombie and Fitch as a reason they created the kiddie thong:

n 2002, Abercrombie & Fitch launched its infamous kiddie thong collection, arguing that girls as young as 10 “are style-conscious and want underwear that doesn’t produce a Visible Panty Line.”

Who knew that all this time Underalls were the answer? Ok, one more ad, for those of you who (like me) cannot get enough of vintage VPL action:

Don’t look now… they appear to be making a comeback.
Thanks to Jess for the link — I’m gonna send you a pair of these things when they hit the market, and you can test them out for me.

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32 Comments

  1. lilbittercup
    Posted March 21, 2008 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    i’m kind of confused here. what makes this ad funny and clever vs. the kotex ad that was sexist and oh so wrong? checking out women’s butts for vpl? women as objects? no vpl for what–to get a man’s attention? vs. kotex that pretty much helped women to lead a ‘normal’ daily life without having to worry about their periods interfering? i just don’t get your humor, i guess.

  2. Posted March 21, 2008 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    I remember that ad! I don’t think I ever noticed the woman camping, though — how crazy would you have to be to wear pantyhose while camping?!

  3. Ann
    Posted March 21, 2008 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    I guess I find a flying package of pantyhose pretty funny, despite the sexist nature of the ad (which I acknowledged). Can’t help it.

  4. Posted March 21, 2008 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    I think my favorite part of the Underalls commercial is that we’re expected to wear panty hose during all those activities. Parasailing??? REALLY??

  5. Posted March 21, 2008 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    lilbittercup, the phrase “sometimes vintage sexist advertising is totally hilarious” suggests to me that Ann is laughing AT, not WITH, this ad – in the same way as she laughed at the Kotex ad.

  6. T-Monster
    Posted March 21, 2008 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    Sometimes we laugh because the alternative is flipping out.
    And I don’t know what you’re all so shocked about. The best part of my morning is when my underalls fly out of the drawer and shapen up my booty!

  7. everybodyever
    Posted March 21, 2008 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    I have never ever understood why there is even such a phrase as ‘visible panty lines,’ much less a stigma surrounding it. God forbid anybody know that I’m wearing underpants!

  8. Posted March 21, 2008 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    This makes wearing my bike shorts seem a whole lot more politically correct.
    Funny though, we seem to be over the VPL terror but now there’s the living dread of having your nipples show. Because they’re obscene.

  9. Posted March 21, 2008 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    Hee hee! I remember those ads, and at the time they really didn’t seem that weird, well, except for the idea of wearing pantyhose to camp or hang-glide.
    “Why spoil the view?” though. Wow… Just, wow… Way to acknowledge that our asses are only there for guys to stare at. Ick.

  10. lilbittercup
    Posted March 21, 2008 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    right, bubblewrapgenie, but she called the kotex ad ‘sexist and classist’, no where mentioning humor or laughing at the ad, as you have suggested. i’m not going to argue with you about what ann meant by her posts. i’m merely wondering why vpl, in an ad with some white people walking around, isn’t sexist or classist. and in fact, received an entire blog of vpl thought, while the kotex ad just sits on the page. with no explanation. just seems kind of inconsistent to me.

  11. jane
    Posted March 21, 2008 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    It is sometimes necessary to have a VPL. Anyone who knows me knows I would not pay good money to LOOK like I’m not wearing panties.

  12. Posted March 21, 2008 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    It could be because a person can have different reactions to things which are similar, but different in their contexts and meanings. Or it could be because she was laughing at the other ad but didn’t frame the post that way.
    Those answers probably aren’t as fun as trying to find inconsistencies.

  13. Halfmad
    Posted March 21, 2008 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Ah, yes. The space-age perms of the ’90s! I remember them well.
    Where I work we have a network that is called the virtual private network or VPN for short. I always call it the VPL.

  14. G
    Posted March 21, 2008 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    “I have never ever understood why there is even such a phrase as ‘visible panty lines,’ much less a stigma surrounding it. God forbid anybody know that I’m wearing underpants!”
    everybodyever, I’ve always had the same question – why exactly are Visible Panty Lines considered a “problem” anyway? That never made sense to me.

  15. G
    Posted March 21, 2008 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    “I have never ever understood why there is even such a phrase as ‘visible panty lines,’ much less a stigma surrounding it. God forbid anybody know that I’m wearing underpants!”
    everybodyever, I’ve always had the same question – why exactly are Visible Panty Lines considered a “problem” anyway? That never made sense to me.

  16. quebeaum
    Posted March 21, 2008 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    If folks are so concerned about visible panty lines, why not save our Monistat money and go commando?
    …I mean, you know, *especially* when parasailing…

  17. Ann
    Posted March 21, 2008 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    quebaum, I thought *I* was the only commando parasailing enthusiast! We should start a club or something.

  18. battiecakes
    Posted March 21, 2008 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    oh my god. i’m actually old enough to remember that ad. i never understood why vpl was considered offensive either. i mean, really, i think the whole ‘camel toe’ thing is way more obnoxious than panty lines. i’d like to see how underalls would handle *that* one!

  19. Posted March 21, 2008 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    Oh my God, this is totally sexist against men. Why so much time being concerned about women’s pantylines?? Why can’t we focus on solving a far more prevalent and embarrassing problem: Visible White Undershirt!!

  20. geeky_girl
    Posted March 21, 2008 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    No love for the g-string?

  21. Pengo
    Posted March 21, 2008 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

    When I see a thong waistband or VPL on a woman I find attractive, I immediately begin to conjecture what this person looks like in their underwear. Perhaps women who’ve become cognizant of this are uncomfortable with men leering at their drawers. When most of the folks in the fashion industry think about a woman in her underwear, they aren’t focusing on the same issues I am; they’re focusing on VPL messing up their clothing.

  22. Jess
    Posted March 21, 2008 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

    I’m still freaked out by the whole kiddie thong thing. “Kiddie thong” kind of sounds like “kiddie porn.” How about some nice boy shorts? Depending on what you’re wearing they work better than a thong and are a thousand times more comfortable. These and these are my favorite.

  23. Posted March 21, 2008 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

    OK, so I knew there were tights and stockings that had that pantie bit, but I’ve never ever gone pantie-less in them. Has anyone ever done this?
    I second the boy shorts, though. If you’re concerned by that VPL thing.

  24. Melody
    Posted March 22, 2008 at 4:56 am | Permalink

    I have bigger things to worry about than VPL.
    I remember these commercials and thought they were so weird when I was a kid. The camper and glider especially being worried about their panties was too mind-boggling for me.
    Pantyhose = yuck.

  25. Ellid
    Posted March 22, 2008 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    The reason Underalls went bye-bye is very simple: they are horribly uncomfortable.

  26. sgzax
    Posted March 22, 2008 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    I think fear of VPL is why my mother always wore underwear that went right up to her waistline. I’d rather show a slight strategic line than have to wear underwear that covers that much territory, and for that matter I prefer a little VPL to underwear that sits in my butt crack. I just don’t want to suffer that much for fashion.
    When it really matters? I go commando. Move over, Britney.

  27. Posted March 22, 2008 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    I completely remember those commercials from when I was a kid. I am not so horrified by panty lines. That’s why I never bought into the thongs-are-practical argument.
    First of all, when I am wearing underwear, why should I try to convince people that I am not? Whose ass is it anyway? The dude behind me at the grocery store? A classmates? No.
    And when I don’t want to wear underwear, I don’t.

  28. FrumiousB
    Posted March 22, 2008 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    The best part is the use of the Toreador song from Carmen.
    Personally, I never saw the point of wearing underwear under pantyhose. You know, PANTYhose. How many layers of tight clothing does one person need on her body?
    I’m not sure I buy the rash of yeast infections resulting from Underall wear. Do they cut off airflow that much more than regular tights and pantyhose?

  29. a.b.
    Posted March 22, 2008 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    Jess – I have gone “pantiless” in Spanx, but they’re made to be worn instead of regular underwear. I’m generally not too concerned about VPLs, but I’m a singer…and when I’m on stage, I don’t want people to be staring at my underwear lines through my dress. (The bright stage lights bring out all of the little lumps and bumps under your clothes.)
    So – for anyone that is actually concerned about VPLs – I’d recommend Spanx. They’re actually pretty damn comfortable, and they hook onto your bra so that they don’t roll down! :)

  30. a.b.
    Posted March 22, 2008 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

    Jess – I have gone “pantiless” in Spanx, but they’re made to be worn instead of regular underwear. I’m generally not too concerned about VPLs, but I’m a singer…and when I’m on stage, I don’t want people to be staring at my underwear lines through my dress. (The bright stage lights bring out all of the little lumps and bumps under your clothes.)
    So – for anyone that is actually concerned about VPLs – I’d recommend Spanx. They’re actually pretty damn comfortable, and they hook onto your bra so that they don’t roll down! :)

  31. GrimaWormtongue
    Posted March 23, 2008 at 1:48 am | Permalink

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LXglN–SR0g
    then theres this australian one that has girls skirts ripped off and all they do is stand their and giggle as an intire crowd of men whissle and hoot at her….
    yeah… sure… commercials make so much sence..

  32. Momo
    Posted March 23, 2008 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    I’m surprised some business types hasn’t tried to sell women on the ol VPL idea. According to a poster above, Woody Allen, and every male i’ve ever talked to on the matter, vpl = attractive. Who knew.

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