At a time when polite society would t dream of hanging women's and men's underwear on the same clothesline, a Minnesota manufacturer dared to advertise the unmentionable. Don't Say Underwear , crowed the ads, Say Munsingwear! Consumers of the 1890s responded. The company's wildly popular itchless union suits represented a truly revolutionary advance. When fashion and central heating changed the market, Munsingwear offered silk and nylon stockings, stretchy-seat briefs for men, and the essential Foundettes, the Spanx of its generation. Erotic ads showed underwear-clad women (or men) in provocative poses with promising captions: Half-pint pants , Next Best to Nothing . And by the 1940s and '50s, Munsingwear was selling risque lingerie in its famous Holly wood Vassarette line, including bullet bras, lacy merry widows, chiffon peigirs, and silk sleepwear. Beyond these playful and suggestive ad campaigns, author Susan Marks also provides a fascinating view of the company's labour relations, from sweatshop conditions in the 1880s to the changed world of the 1920s, when Munsingwear provided free medical care, a library, teams and clubs, and Americanisation classes. Richly illustrated, this is t just the history of a company but an intimate look at the changing mores of America.
Susan Marks is a freelance writer, producer, and director.