When a new decade begins, there’s usually a period when people have a sense that it will be different from the last one, but they don’t yet know how. (Okay, this decade is a bad example.) Having spent my Easter morning looking through ads from the Ladies’ Home Journal from January to April 1920, I’ve caught glimpses of the 1910s dying and the 1920s being born.
I imagine that this woman’s flowing locks will disappear soon,
to be replaced by something along these lines:*
Dance parties like this are so 1916;
this proto-Charleston is more like it.
Will a corset stand it?
No is the answer. More relaxing underwear is on the way.**
Ad styles are changing too. The fragrance industry hasn’t gotten the memo that Art Nouveau is over,***
while these companies are ahead of the pack with bold colors and clear lines:
There are some constants. Ads for dried and canned fruit
and, God help us, cannned meat
are as popular as ever. Maids are at the ready to help their mistresses get dressed,
and fix breakfast for the little master,
and change the baby,
and hold up cans of wax.
Husbands, though? Not so helpful.****
African-Americans are almost always shown as hardworking servants,*****
although this guy looks like he’s had it up to here and is about to heave the family’s breakfast at them.
I’ve done an excellent job of not mentioning you-know-what, but I can’t stop myself from ending with an ad that would never have caught my eye at any other time. A thousand old linen handkerchiefs indeed!
*Yes, I do realize she may have her hair tied up in back. Besides, she’s eating shortening, so I don’t want to hold her up as too much of a role model.
**Although you could wear a corset with this underwear, of course. For a fascinating and hilarious look at what goes under what, read this witness2fashion post.
***I just read Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, a wonderful novel about a woman who worked in advertising in the early to mid-20th century, based loosely on the life of Margaret Fishback. In it, I learned that the advertising style where the product is portrayed as being enormous was known as “hellzapoppin’.”
****In case the print is too small for you to read, the ad says, “‘Now see what you’ve done!’ But careless hubby lacks concern, for he knows that offending cigar ashes are quickly and easily whisked off the rug by the ever handy Royal.” I hate hate hate this guy.
*****The exception: the man in the Cream of Wheat ads, real-life chef Frank L. White, whom I’ve written about before.