Celebrating diverse body shapes
Berlei have a proud history of using models that reflect a diverse range of body shapes. In the 1920s to 1960s their advertising was focused on women learning to overcome their ‘figure flaws’.
Before and after shots of women made over by Berlei corsetieres are beautiful snapshots of women who are not professional models. It’s easy to see them as a precursor to our hunger for make-over and reality television today.
At a time when conversations about the mental load modern women are expected to carry proliferate on social media, these ads are mini-social history lessons. Each one gives clues about historical expectations of women concerning their appearance, deportment, modesty, posture, demeanour, conduct, occupation, dress, health, value and expected level of femininity.
The items in the collection are a sample of the 90 Berlei cinema and television advertisements and 329 glass slides held by the NFSA. The slides came to the NFSA from the Berlei archives in 2008 and were in amazing condition given their age. Many were made and hand-coloured in Australia at a time when most glass slides were produced overseas.
Beauty, dignity and strength
The beauty, dignity and strength of the women depicted in the ads is striking. Berlei were leaders in hiring women in a range of roles and it's amazing to see the work that went into the design and marketing of an Australian brand legend.