It Isn’t Done - The 'futility of careless dressing'

It Isn’t Done - The 'futility of careless dressing'
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In an elaborate fitting room, careless Barb is always losing things. She has lost her shoes, and she just may lose her heart this evening too! But she despairs that her evening dress is ‘frightful’ because it ‘flops where it should fit and fits where it should flop’. Attended by a refined and fashionable Ms Blake, Barb learns that it is because she has no foundation beneath her frocking. Ms Blake gets out the tape measure to check her body size. 

The art deco interiors with shaped mirrors, door frames and seating all align with Berlei’s reputation for quality and beauty.

Summary by Poppy de Souza.

Despite some bad acting (both women were employees of the Berlei Organisation and not professional actresses), there are moments of comedy to this clip, especially from the youthful and careless Barb. She pouts and flops her way through the advertisement and even manages some cheekiness in her delivery of the line ‘but I can’t wear a tape measure’. The refined Ms Blake can barely conceal a polite laugh.

It Isn’t Done synopsis

The ‘futility of careless dressing and the importance of correctly moulded figure lines’ is demonstrated through the fitting of a Berlei foundation garment underneath all frocking.

It Isn’t Done curator's notes

According to Berlei’s own advertising slogan of the past – Berlei products are the ‘the foundation upon which fashion rests’. This 1930 cinema advertisement for Berlei continues a tradition in designing fashionable and comfortable women’s corsetry that began in 1912 when Fred Burley founded Unique Corsets Limited with his brother Arthur. Berlei grew from a small store in Market Street Sydney where it offered ‘made to order’ corsets for discerning clientele. In 1919, Berlei Limited was born and since then the company expanded its product line into the United Kingdom and New Zealand. Today Berlei remains one of the most recognisable names in the manufacture and design of lingerie and underwear in Australia.

This advertisement, as well as showing off the fashions of the 1930s, is also a beautiful example of set design. The art deco interiors with shaped mirrors, door frames and seating all align with Berlei’s reputation for quality and beauty. Advertisements often capture the details which shimmer around the edges of the products or services they promote, and this is certainly the case with Berlei. 

Notes by Poppy de Souza

Stanley Hawkins
Adapted by:
Phil W Warner
Ethel Clarke, Olive Lewis, Freda McGhee