Skip PBS navigation bar, and jump to content.
Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS


The Film & More
Revolutionaries
Newcomers
Gamblers
Rebels
Behind the Scenes
About the Book
Primary Sources
Further Reading

Who Made America?
The Tournament
Discussion
Teachers' Guide

spacer above content
Primary Sources: Ida Rosenthal: We Have Our Eyes Open
Previous Next

return to primary sources  

The immigrant seamstress who marketed the first uplift bra was profiled by Time magazine in 1960. The previous year her company, Maidenform, had done $34 million in business. This excerpt describes the company's long-running advertising campaign, which depicted women wearing bras in public places, with variations of "I dreamed" taglines: "I dreamed I swayed the jury in my Maidenform bra," "I dreamed I went shopping in my Maidenform bra," "I dreamed I stopped traffic in my Maidenform bra," "I dreamed I barged down the Nile in my Maidenform bra."

Nothing gave Maidenform a better uplift than the launching of its famous "I dreamed" campaign in 1949. Dreamed up by a woman copywriter for a Manhattan ad firm (now Norman, Craig & Kummel), the ad drew little enthusiasm at first, even from Ida Rosenthal. It soon caught fire, despite protests that it was risqué. "We love double meanings," says Beatrice Coleman, Mrs. Rosenthal's daughter and the firm's chief designer, "so long as the double meaning is decent." Maidenform now spends 10% of its sales on advertising, mostly on the "I dreamed" ads. "Let them go on dreaming," says Mrs. Rosenthal. "We have our eyes open."

Indeed she has. When Mrs. Rosenthal's husband died in 1958, she took over as chairman, moved from their 18-room Long Island mansion to a three-room apartment in Manhattan, where a chauffeur calls at 9 each morning to take her to Maidenform's headquarters in Manhattan's garter belt. She personally adds up the new orders each morning to "see if the salesmen are working or playing golf," travels around the U.S. to see how her bras are faring in stores. "Quality we give them," she says. "Delivery we give them. I add personality."


Excerpt from "I Dreamed I Was a Tycoon in My...", Time magazine, October 24, 1960, p. 92.



Previous Next

return to primary sources  

page created on 6.30.04
Site Navigation

About the Series: Revolutionaries | Newcomers | Gamblers | Rebels
Behind the Scenes | About the Book |  Primary Sources |  Further Reading

About the Series | Who Made America? | Tournament | Discussion | Teachers' Guide

They Made America Home | Feedback | Search | Shop | Web Credits

© 2004 PBS Online / WGBH



They Made America American Experience