Swimsuits and the Ageless Womab

Swimsuits

The French Canadian Catholic clergy, particularly in Quebec, opposed the distribution of catalogues, claiming that they revealed too much of the female anatomy. The main target of the battle was the swimsuit because the clergy felt it was unacceptable for women to bare their bodies in such fashion. Yet, the first swimsuits were quite modest; the skirt was rather long and the top did not have a low neckline. Gradually, however, they began to reveal more of the body.

To counter this fashion trend, which was considered indecent, the Catholic Women's League was formed in Quebec in 1920. In the 1930s, the League proposed a swimsuit model that was approved by the clergy. Dupuis Frères in Montréal and Eaton's Toronto sold the model. It is interesting to note that Dupuis featured swimsuits in its summer catalogue of 1923. This is all the more significant because the company's mail-order service was only a year old. The models in the catalogue wore large capes or beach pyjamas that hid most of the swimsuits.

The Ageless Woman

As catalogues tried to promote the image of the ageless woman, they completely ignored the importance of those who represented wisdom in their milieu because of their experience. They continued to feature young models to sell all types of clothing, even clothing for older women. Beauty was regularly associated with youth. In the West, however, especially in the Eaton's catalogue published for that region, mature women modelled certain types of clothing, including hats.

Catalogues offered a multitude of products for women who wanted to remain young: creams, soaps, hair treatments, bras, corsets, clothing that made them look younger, etc.

In addition to being ideally slim, women had to look young. Among the products available were creams to keep their skin looking young and small red pills to help them maintain a youthful rosy complexion. Corsets and girdles allowed women of every background to maintain their youthful figures.

Beauty was also widely featured in the catalogues. The women who posed for catalogues represented dream images. Catalogues promoted clothing that had all the elements needed to make a woman beautiful. The Dupuis Frères spring-and-summer catalogue of 1961 advertised "Light and slimming girdles for the beauty and youth of your body." [transl.]
by Shirley Lavertu

© Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation

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