Basics, Laces, and Pretty Faces
// Discourse of Advertising Assignment 2
There is often a clear division in lingerie ads that signify a segregation between the practical and the fashionable. Through advertisements, it is evident that not all lingerie serves the same purpose. In addition, it is also apparent that lingerie brands utilize familiar signs in order to produce palatable advertisements, which minimize the potentially negative effects of themes and images that may be otherwise perceived as taboo.
It is typical for brands such as Fruit of the Loom (pictured above) to exhibit their supposedly comfortably, ready-to-wear undergarments on vivacious and energetic models. The advertisement to the left is crisp and fun. The model wears an immense smile while sporting a soothing green coloured lingerie set. The colour of her attire alone conveys the ideal of freshness, and her minimal-makeup face does the same. Meanwhile, the ad towards the right portrays a similar scene, but with different models of varying ethnic origins. The colours in this ad are just as eye-catching as those in the previous ad, if not more. The poses in these advertisements portray movement, which communicates to the viewer that these are comfortable and non-restrictive. The models are engaged in a variety of poses, in some instances they are not even facing the viewer. Instead they are looking beyond their immediate environment which indicates that they’re busy, and too preoccupied enjoying their mobility to completely lock gazes with the viewer. In fact, this attitude almost seems to imply that these women are free and single, as there is almost no detectable sex-appeal in these ads. It is as if comfortable underwear is for single women.
Now, Victoria’s Secret, a notoriously more upscale brand often portrays women in lacy, itchy looking undergarments. The model above does not look like her lingerie will enable her to move about freely and practically, in fact she isn’t even fully covered. She also appears to be waiting for someone, which could imply that more lavish and scandalous underwear is for women with a partner. Here the model is engulfed in hues of red, gold, and fuchsia. These colours in unison do not contain the same free, innocence as the Fruit of the Loom ads. In unison with the model’s posture and expression, they create a sexually charged atmosphere.
Although, the model’s features can also communicate a more sinister undertone. Her lips are pouted and slightly parted, meanwhile the look in her eyes seems somewhat pained – it is almost as though she is whining or complaining which are mannerisms similar to those of a child. Jhally claims that “persons using [beds] will be positioned lower than anyone who is sitting or standing. A recumbent position also leaves people in a poor position to defend themselves and thus puts them at the mercy of others. These positions are of course also a ‘conventionalized expression of sexual avail-ability.'” Altogether, this constructs a very awkward contradiction where adult women wearing hyper-sexualized lingerie create dangerous associations with the puerile, vulnerable children. Even the direction of the model’s gaze implies that she is fixated on someone above her, someone more authoritative. While such taboo messages should make the reader uncomfortable, they don’t. This is because “as pictures of reality, they do not look strange to us” (Jhally). Semiotically, the way such an ad is interpreted in modern, western society is that it denotes a pretty woman, on a bed, wearing nothing but a pair of underwear. There is the connotative, or associated, meaning that surfaces all of the sexual, and potentially pedophilia, implications (Barthes). To elaborate, we assume that she is looking up at a man, because in contemporary, western society, a nearly-nude woman in lingerie laying on a bed indicates that some form of sexual interaction will occur. Readers can assume that there will be an encounter with another person because the model’s gaze implies that she is not alone in that room. Furthermore, it is assumed that this second person is male, because modern society is conditioned to expect the traditional, gender-binaries to be present in romantic or sexual relationships; this is another reason why viewers may not perceive this ad as shocking since it is “a reflection of the realm of gender displays” (Jhally). While it is sexual, contains devious undertones, and depicts a provocative, impractical pair of underwear, it contains symbols that its readers are familiar with.
Above is a ad featuring supermodel Naomi Campbell for the Spring 2015 campaign from the French lingerie brand Agent Provacateur. This image brings the prevalence of fashion above those of the Victoria’s Secret and Fruit of the Loom ads. Now, there is absolutely nothing practical about this lingerie, and consequently, it is probably targeted towards wealthier women who are able to splurge on multiple pieces of high-end, skimpy, silk garments. Unlike the Victoria’s Secret advertisement, there are no implications of submission. Campbell embodies a strong, edgy woman in this image. She casts a coy glance while sitting on the edge of the vanity with her foot triumphantly placed against the bed. Moreover, her left hand is in a man’s jacket pocket, tenderly holding what appears to be a thin book or passport. While the garments appear to be confining, the model appears to be in control. This image insinuates that she is wealthy, powerful, and perhaps even well-travelled. These are all characteristics that many women aspire to command in today’s modern world.
On a more sour note, all of these ads do share the similar trope of a young, physically fit, and attractive model. There is little variation between the models’ waistlines and physical appearance; they all encapsulate the fantasy of a youthful and toned beauty, regardless of the price of their panties. This may be due to the fact that there is no overwhelming demand for realistic models. Lingerie brands want to sell their products, and they want to please the masses. In the rare event when non-super-slim women are featured exclusively wearing undergarments, the campaigns will be met with backlash. A man named Richard Roeper whined “give me the fantasy babes” after seeing an advertisement will full-figured women (Pozner). Roeper critiqued the audacity of Dove for publishing an advertisement that did not cater to his desire to see young, attractive, idealistic women. Therefore, while there may be a wide variety of types of lingerie that is presented in a vast array of settings; however, the slim, youthful, and beautiful model remains a constant similarity among print campaigns for lingerie giants.
Barthes, Roland. Rhetoric of the Image. Web. Accessed on January 27th, 2015, from:
Jhally, Sut. What’s Wrong with a Little Objectification?. Web. Accessed on January 27th, 2015, from:
Pozner, Jennifer L.. Dove’s “Real Beauty” Backlash. 2005. Web. Accessed on January 27th, 2015, from: