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Paulina Wegrzyn

Vogue Ad Deconstruction

Vogue Imperial Leather Ad Deconstruction

The Imperial Leather Ad in the Vogue July 1965 issue essentially aims to sell soap to the readers of the
magazine. However, a lot can be deducted from this when the social context from the 1960’s is taken into
consideration. And it can reveal a lot about certain issues in society back in that time.

First of all, in the 1960’s, it was a social expectation that women’s life goal was to be a stay at home
mother. It was widely accepted that women were defined by motherhood. This Ad, like many others from
that time period, and within the same Vogue issue, promotes ideal identities for males and females (David
Gauntlet’s Theory of Identity). Women were almost pressurised to stay inside by the media, which
actually lead to a large number of addictions to anti-depressants as many women were unable to find
fulfilment. There is a powerful mode of address, as we can see that the woman’s focus is entirely on her
child, she looks very happy and the adoration on her face suggests a sense of fulfilment and that she has
self-actualised as a mother. This contrasts with the boy who is staring off into the screen, which could be
interpreted as staring off into his prominent future and a variety of possible accomplishments available for
men, whereas women weren’t offered a wide range of lifestyle choices. Furthermore, the woman’s head is
tilted down, which suggests that she has reached the top of her life (self-actualisation), and she doesn’t
have anything more in life to look up to, therefore she is focusing solely on the child. This is further
reinforced through the choice of wardrobe for the mother, she is dressed in a black jumper which almost
blends into the background, accentuating only her face (to show how happy she is), and her child. Lastly,
body language can also be analysed in order to retrieve meanings from the main image. The mother is
embracing her little boy, and showing him love, while he doesn’t seem to be paying much attention to
her. This reflects the level of independence that men have in society, and highlights that its women who
are the ones which need attention and approval from men.

There appears to be a very prominent ideology of beauty which Vogue is consistently promoting. All
images seen of women so far (in the July 1965 issue), were younger, white, often blonde, clear skin and
body proportionate women. In this Ad, the mother also has blonde hair, ‘perfect’ makeup and clear skin,
which suggests that women still need to be making a project of themselves and must look appealing to
society. Even as a mother, which takes a lot of hard work, women are expected to conform to the beauty
standards of the media and look ‘flawless’. Furthermore, the advert states that using this soap will make
women as ‘soft as a child’ (infantilization), this subtly reinforces that women should be childlike,
unchallenging and passive, which reflects on how women were treated in this time period. This makes a
lot more sense when it is considered that this image was created by men. This is because although Vogue
is a magazine aimed at females, there were still males in charge. This highlights male supremacy and a
patriarchal society in which women were led into particular roles in society which were dictated by men.
Belle Hooke’s Feminist theory is very applicable to this advert, as it shows the oppression of women in
society in the 1990’s and reveals the limited options that were presented to women

by media, with little to no career choice. Therefore, this shows the struggle of women to end patriarchal
oppression. This also ties in with Gerbner’s Cultivation Theory, which is the idea that exposure to
repeated patterns of representation over long periods of time can shape and influence the wat in which
people perceive the world around them. In this case, the add is repeating the pattern of representing
women as individuals who self-actualise as mothers and stay at home, with limited education and career
options. This leads to society accepting this belief as a mainstream value, making it the new norm in

Although this advert is still promoting desired qualities in a woman and shaping them to conform to the
standards that media shaped for them. It can be said that it differs from the majority of the other ads that
we see in this issue of Vogue. Unlike many of them, this ad does not sexualise women, in order to

Paulina Wegrzyn
Vogue Ad Deconstruction

provoke male gaze. However, it can still be argued that the male gaze still applies, as the main image is
showing the ideal world that men want to live in (as men are behind constructing this advert, since
women weren’t really in high up positions in the 1990’s).

The chiaroscuro lighting, which is used in this, links back to the traditional techniques of referencing
classical art to give a sense of heritage and something which is normalised. The pattern of this culture
goes back generations. It can be interpreted that this lighting code acts as an anchor to this image, which
is communicating that women committed to the role as mothers a long time ago. Suggesting this is how it
always has been, and women self-actualising through motherhood is a hereditary thing which is now
normalised and accepted into society (cultivation theory)

There is also something else in this advert which aims to give a sense of familiarity to its audience. It is
the construction of the image. The image in this advert shows a resemblance to Leonardo DaVinci’s
Madonna and Child painting. Imperial Leather’s advertising agency is using dominant images with rich
historical context as a reference to the idea of ‘what the ultimate woman should me’ which goes back to
religious ideals of what women are expected to be. This kind of anchorage provides a great deal of
validity to the message which this advert is sending to the audience. Further oppressing the female gender
into ideals constructed for them.