I was paging through the 1948 December edition of Mademoiselle’s Living (“The magazine for smart young homemakers”) as one is wont to do.
Vintage advertisements are a trip. Sometimes the products are enticing (“Why don’t they make that anymore?”), sometimes baffling (“Why did they ever make that?”). Often they are reeeeeeeeeally racist or sexist. In my perusal of this smart young homemaker magazine, I found a pretty spectacular example of what I like to call the “You know your husband hates you, right?” school of houseware adverts.
First off, this is an ad for a product I clearly need. It’s a folding rack to dry your stockings on. So handy. It just looks like a decorative plastic seashell (so tasteful) when it’s folded up, and then folds down into a stocking rack. Introducing the “SafTdri Stocking Shell!”
The basic pitch is that it’s a small space solution–quit cluttering up your bathroom with your drying delicates. But the best thing is, it will make your husband stop hating you.
He does, you know.
So, so, much.
You, with your damnable stockings, and how you thoughtlessly hang them to dry in the only logical place to do so. You’re a heartless bitch, and it isn’t his fault all the tender feelings he once felt for you have transformed into pure contempt. I mean, look at the rage, here:
I am so uncomfortable with this ad. It looks he’s about to hit her with that stocking, right? That doesn’t seem like a big leap. Now, getting smacked with a silk stocking wouldn’t exactly hurt, but I think that is what they call a “red flag” in the social service trades. Meanwhile, she looks both stunned and blank, as though simultaneously confused by and deadened to his violent reaction. This ad is dark, you guys. This ad makes me itchy.
This part of the ad makes me ask a lot of questions, such as:
- Why the screaming? Why is this man so angry? Has nothing bad ever happened to this man, that his wife’s lingerie on the shower rod is enough to send him over the edge?
- Who thought, “It’ll make your husband not scream at you” was a good selling point?
- Is “It’ll make your husband stop screaming at you” a good selling point? Moreover, was it a good selling point in 1948?
- Is it only a matter of time before the SafTdri Stocking Shell is not enough of a solution? Won’t he eventually begrudge her that eight inches of space, too? Isn’t the real problem here evidence of her existence, femaleness and autonomy? That’s a lot riding on a plastic shell.
- Where can I get her dress, exactly, please?
So I think we can agree our friend Mrs. Wifeton needs a divorce more than she needs a stocking rack, but let’s check out this stocking rack.
The copy says it has space for 32 stockings or sox (sic)! 32 stockings! Madness! I don’t even own 32 stockings! Even better they can dry “ALL AT ONE TIME” (caps original!) in just that 8 inch space. They don’t even require clips or hooks! You don’t even need to put holes in your walls to install it! You can dry other things on it (but it’s the stockings that will stop your husband from hating you). Your husband could even use it to store his razor or ties (both of which could be used to murder you, I’d like to point out. I don’t trust that guy).
Nowadays, advertisers tend to shy away from pitches that look like an act of domestic violence is about to happen. Thanks, feminism. Instead, we have the “You poor thing, your husband is a comically incompetent mess!” as the basic houseware-selling narrative, which is still really sexist. These days, advertisers tell us that husbands will wreck our blenders and burn things in the microwave, and destroy our laundry, but I guess that’s better than getting hit in the face with a stocking.