Guide to the Maidenform Collection, 1922-1997
Digitized Content

Summary
Collection ID:
NMAH.AC.0585
Creators:
Maidenform, Inc.
Dates:
1922-1997
Languages:
English
Collection is in English.
Physical Description:
35 cubic feet
87 boxes, 1 oversize folder
Repository:

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
Patent and trademark documents, advertisements, sales and marketing material, market research, photographs, packaging, company newsletters and magazines, and business records documenting the history of the Maidenform Company from 1922 to1997.

Arrangement
Arrangement
Collection organized into eleven series.
Series 1, Company History, 1922-1990
Series 2, News Articles, 1941-1997
Series 3, Patents, Trademarks, and Registrations, 1871-1979
Series 4, Publications, 1931-1997
Series 5, Sales and Marketing Materials, 1929-1997
Series 6, Advertising, 1929-1997
Series 7, Photographs, 1927-1993
Series 8, Patterns, circa 1950s
Series 9, World War II Activities, 1941-1946
Series 10, Labor Relations, 1937-1990
Series 11, Miscellaneous Unprocessed Materials

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
The history of Maidenform, Incorporated began at Enid Frocks, a small dress shop in New York City owned and operated by Enid Bissett. Ida Rosenthal was a Russian Jewish immigrant and seamstress at Enid's shop. In 1922, Ida and Enid decided that the fit and appearance of their custom-made dresses would be enhanced if improvements were made to the bandeaux style bras then in vogue. They gathered the bandeaux in the middle in a design modification that provided more support in a manner they believed enhanced, rather than downplayed, a woman's natural figure. Ida's husband, William, added straps and further refined the style. The called their bras "Maidenform", in counterpoint to the "Boyish Form" brand then in vogue. Initially, the bras were given away with each dress they sold. As the bras gained popularity they began selling them, and eventually the bras became so popular they stopped making dresses altogether and shifted to full-scale brassiere manufacturing. The first Maidenform plant opened in Bayonne, N.J. in 1925. After World War II, the company began marketing heavily in Europe and Latin America. Eventually, Maidenform operated plants in West Virginia, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
Documentation for the development and manufacture of a "pigeon vest" is also included in the collection. The pigeon vest allowed troopers to carry homing pigeons with them as they parachuted behind enemy lines. During World War II, Maidenform manufactured these pigeon vests and silk parachutes for the war effort.
Maidenform advertising campaigns were enormously successful, and generated controversy as well as praise. The now famous "I Dreamed" campaign was launched in 1949; this campaign ran for 20 years, making it one of the longest running campaigns in the history of advertising. The advertisements featured models in everyday or fantastic situations, elaborately costumed but wearing only a Maidenform bra above the waist. This campaign was followed by the "Maidenform Woman" campaign which was credited with boosting sales by 200 percent in some stores. The "Dares to Dream" campaign played off the "I Dreamed" tagline in 1984, and in 1987, the "Celebrity" campaign began. The "Celebrity" ads were notable for the absence of women in lingerie; instead, well-known male actors discussed their feelings about women and lingerie in print and commercial advertisements. The tone of the advertising shifted in 1992 with a series of ads called "The Women's Advocacy" campaign.
Maidenform was family owned and operated until 1997. After the death of William Rosenthal in 1958, his wife, Ida, became the president of their company. In 1963, she suffered an incapacitating stroke. At this time, son-in-law Dr. Joseph Coleman became head of the company. Upon his death in 1968, his wife (the only surviving child of Ida and William) Beatrice Rosenthal Coleman, gained complete control over the business until her death in 1990.
The Ida and William Rosenthal Foundation, a philanthropic and charitable institution founded in 1953, is run by granddaughter Catherine Brawer.

Administration
Processing Information
Processed by Jennifer Snyder and Mimi Minnick, August 1997-July 1999; revised Jennifer Snyder, 2002; revised Alison Oswald, 2003; corrections David Haberstich, 2005.
Author
Jennifer Snyder and Mimi Minnick
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The collection was donated by Maidenform, Incorporated in May 1997.

Using the Collection
Preferred Citation
Maidenform Collection, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
Conditions Governing Use
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning intellectual property rights. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Conditions Governing Access
The collection is open for research use. Only reference copies of audiovisual materials may be used for research.

Related Materials
The Division of Home and Community Life holds Maidenform artifacts including brassieres, girdles, and "long-lines," and two of the costumes used in the "I Dreamed" campaign.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Advertisements Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Advertising campaigns Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Newsletters -- 20th century Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sex in advertising Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
advertising -- 20th century Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Tear sheets Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Women in advertising Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs -- 20th century Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Videotapes Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Brassieres -- 20th century Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Parachutes -- 1940-1950 Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Symbolism in advertising Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Homing pigeons -- 1940-1950 Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Clippings Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
World War, 1939-1945 Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Business records -- 20th century Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Rosenthal, William Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Coleman, Joseph Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Coleman, Beatrice Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Rosenthal, Ida Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Avedon, Richard Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
P.O. Box 37012
Suite 1100, MRC 601
Washington, D.C. 20013-7012
archivescenter@si.edu
http://americanhistory.si.edu/archives