Vintage Sexism: “You can’t afford to be skinny” edition

Vintage ad that with headline: "If you want to be can't afford to be skinny!"
The vintage ad above was posted at Retronaut as part of a series of similar ads this week. It’s a good reminder that our current beauty standards, which promote weight loss and thinness, are actually pretty recent. It wasn’t so long ago that skinny was a considered a bad thing, and gaining weight to be curvier was what was being marketed to women.

Another ad after the jump.

Caption reads: "Men wouldn't look at me when I was skinny"

Join the Conversation

  • Max

    But it’s still all about convincing women that they need to be something they’re not and getting them to purchase a product to meet a narrow beauty standard.

    • Yael Chanoff

      Exactly. Vintage sexism, modern-day sexism…standards may change but it’s all sexism.

  • lilu

    i’d just like to point out that if you look at the ads on retronaut, they by no means advocate any kind of fatness. basically, these products were supposed to give you a bigger ass an breasts. the rest of you had to stay relatively thin though. (they werent making claims to help you gain weight in general- just in the special man-attracting areas) so no real change in beauty standards. the difference now is that the thin factor is more extreme, and you’re supposed to supplement anorexia with breast and butt implants, to look as emaciated but porn-star-ey as possible.

  • nazza

    I think the decade of the Twenties began to signal a change. Women were supposed to be boyish, flat-chested, and unrestrained by corsets or propriety. The basic simplicity of the flapper’s wardrobe was a reaction to the Victorian ideal that preceded it. In a prior era, women wore multiple layers of clothing for the sake of modesty. This was not the case after World War I.

    Another example of boyishness prevalent then is the bob hairstyle. The irony here, among many, is that the standard it professed was supposed to be liberating, not constraining. And yet, when this standard in dress became the norm, instead of being rebellious, the effect was just as confining.

  • Camilla

    veryy interesting! although, those women still look pretty darn skinny to me…

  • Claire Walsh

    I agree with Camilla, these women do look quite skinny!

    In the first advertisement, gaining weight without exercise is seen as beneficial. I think most of us can do that without trying. I wonder why that point was brought up in the ad.

    Max made an excellent comment about how the narrow view of beauty throughout time tells women how to look. Men are susceptible to social pressures and expectations as well regarding appearance, although seemingly never to the extent of women.

    It is interesting seeing advertisements that promote weight gain. The concept of beauty is clearly ever changing!

  • Mona

    This add still reflects the same norms we currently have — women are supposed to fulfill a male idea, a male fantasy. This is by no means a self-directed ideal put forth by women, but rather an industry exploiting the fact that women have to conform to male ideals of femininity, and to “succeed with men.” (As such, this ad also reflect hetero-normativity).

    I think it’s short-sighted to mistake this add for anything resembling liberation just because on its surface it does not promote the same ideal we currently have.

    I am still waiting for women to decide how we want to look (rather than how a heteronormative society wants us to look). Or, even better, to decide that “looking like something or some body” really is not worth thinking about.

  • Diana

    I agree with Max. These ads are trying to influence women to become something they are not. Which is not a surprise as the majority of products advertised now a days do exactly that. It is up to the woman to put up a front against such advertisements and neglect the true message that is being depicted. Women are beautiful regardless of their physical experience. Some however do not believe they are until they prove it to themselves by buying products or when they achieve their ideal image. I admit it, I am one of these women which i truly hate to be but I can’t help it at times. There are women that take it to an extreme and begin to practice eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia to reach that image.

  • toongrrl

    Wow… matter what….no one is “something-something” enough