The evolution of the dress in advertising

By AdNews | 7 March 2019
1940s advert

This (Part 6) first appeared in the AdNews March 2019 magazine as part of a six-month project with Lida, looking at Bauer's Women's Weekly. Support AdNews by subscribing here.

See you see Part 5: Capturing the hearts and minds of Australian women?

We asked Minnie the robot to pull adverts for dresses from every decade to track how an essential, but also aspirational, item was pitched to women.

We then asked some of our female colleagues what their favourites were, and what progression they thought women had made. Check out the ads and views below.

1950s advert


Toy & Hobby Retailer editor Imogen Bailey
There’s a clear change away from unrealistic, ‘ideal’ body types and formal occasion wear, to a more relaxed, every day, functional garment, body type and posture. The focus is placed on the outfit ,rather than the body type and appearance of the model. However, in saying this, in terms of representation, there is still an absence of women of colour and diverse body types. I like the ad from the 70s the best as it appears the most candid. The model looks the most relaxed. It is also the ad that doesn’t place any emphasis on the body type and also doesn’t force any ideals - be those ambition, power or sexualisation on the woman – she is just free.



Ragtrader editor Assia Benmedjdoub
There is a visible progression away from form to functionality. As second-wave feminism whips into full-swing in the 70s, constrictive garments and accessories are swapped out for relaxed silhouettes and fashion campaigns. #PraiseBe. The 1980s Woolmark advertisement is a favourite. Shot from below to give the model a sense of authority, the campaign captures the power of a modern-day career woman.


Ragtrader journalist Paige Murphy
There is a definite shift in the focus on a woman’s figure across the ads. I think the 80s ad shows the most progression, in terms of showcasing a woman who is confident and career-driven, but the David Lawrence ad from 2016 shows a progression in terms of minimal make-up use, a relaxed pose and natural beauty.



AdNews editor Pippa Chambers
The move from unrealistic sketches of make-up-adorned blondes with tiny waists to a real life photo of a more natural looking woman, undoubtedly shows progression. It’s not all about glamming up, zoning in on feminine curves and being a ready to go trophy wife, it’s about looking natural and confident – for yourself. Without the internet you can see why it was important to make such text heavy ads to get product perks in. Whereas fast forward to 2016 and all that’s needed is the brand name and website.




Yaffa team

The Yaffa team discussing women in advertising

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