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Cashmere Bouquet: Female Focused Marketing Strategies in the 20th Century America

Published onDec 01, 2022
Cashmere Bouquet: Female Focused Marketing Strategies in the 20th Century America

Throughout the modern era, advertising has played a significant role within the economic and social construction of the nation. Although the primary focus of this field is promoting specific products and increasing economic gain, it has a significant influence on the continuation of social norms and accepted values. In some ways the messages depicted in advertising possess the question of which came first the chicken or the egg. Were the methods employed by these companies purely a result of the dominant group ideology, was it used to encourage traditional characteristics, or was it a mix of the two. I am to evaluate the methods employed by advertising companies to sell their products, and how it shaped the female identity within the mid 20th century.

Cashmere Bouquet

A well dressed woman staring longingly into the distance, as if she is facing the same inferiority complex of their target audience. This advertisement is titled "Does Body-Odor Give You Inferiority Complex?"

Image Source: LIFE. 1940. “"Does Body-Odor Give You Inferiority Complex?,” January 1, 1940. 8. Google Books.

The ad, “Does Body-odor Give you Inferiority Complex?,” focuses on the shame surrounding female body odor, and the need to eliminate this in order to be a viable prospect to men. The company employs the slogan “The Fragrance Men Love” implying that capturing male desires is the key use of this product, rather than explicitly providing benefit to the women herself. The language used fixates on themes relating to traditional female identity, as the more sensitive, softer, delicate sex. In addition, the language holds a sexual nature, promoting the soap as a “delicate, penetrating lather.”1 This further depicts the focus of this product as a sexual tool to aid women in finding a man in order to attain the end goal of marriage.

Throughout the article, the author clings to the typical tropes of femininity, and the negative implications of single life on women. Body odor, and its negative influence on relationships results in, from their perspective, a women’s “whole personality [going] vacant and helpless.”2 A striking aspect of this advertisement is the way the female subject was directed, and how her disposition was used to market their product. The woman is notably well dressed, but holds a forlorn look on her face, as if she is suffering from the same shame as the women this advertisement is targeting. The publishing company was very direct in their attack, with the title directly highlighting issues of self-esteem that are typically attributed to women. In this period, marketing campaigns focused on “encouraging millions of women to occupy a primarily domestic traditional role,” placing their “effort on attracting and retaining a husband and on the cultivation of appearance rather than intellect.”3

A woman twirling with a bouquet of flowers, enjoying the pleasant smell, standing above a bottle of Cashmere Bouquet Talc powder. The advertisement states that this talc powder is "your all day veil of fragrance," including the companies slogan "the fragrance men love."

A woman in a dress, twirling while smelling a bouquet of flowers standing above a bottle of Cashmere Bouquet Talc. Image Source: Ebony Magazine. 1962. “Cashmere Bouquet Talc,” August 1, 1962. Ebony Magazine Archive.

In August 1962 a Cashmere Bouquet ad was run in an edition of Ebony magazine that was markedly different from that of the 1940 advertisement. This ad promoting their Cashmere Bouquet talc uses similar language to promote this product, but the image of the women shown is noticeably different. The language used in the advertisement is focused on protecting traditional female ideals, as depicted by the claim that their product “prolongs and protects your daintiness.”4 The talc powder slogan remains the same as in 1940, “the fragrance men love.” However, this advertisement focuses on their product improving female happiness. This shows a marked shift in policy, in that their product can now be viewed as providing benefit to appearance, rather than filling the void left by your natural characteristics. In this advertisement, a woman is depicted in an elegant dress, twirling with a bouquet of flowers with a pleasant expression. This shift from earlier marketing strategies is likely a result of the changing public sentiment regarding women in this period. While the manner that this product has been marketed has altered between these advertisements, many of the key themes remain the same. Particularly in regard to the invoking physical beauty in relation to getting married, and pleasing your husband.

What This Means

In this period, advertisements focused heavily on commodifying beauty within the marketplace, which remained a consistent theme throughout female centered advertisements. The article “Consuming Beauty: Mass-Market Magazines and Make-up in the 1920s” by Rachael Alexander evaluates marketing measures in the 1920’s, the majority of which can be witnessed in later advertisements. The marketing strategy employed reinforces the social norms of the time, encouraging women to remain within their traditional roles in the domestic sphere, while highlighting the importance of marriage in providing safety and security for women’s lives. The role of beauty historically is concerned with adding an “exchange value to women” in the marketplace of marriage and male desires, and as such has continued to hold a central role within female focused advertisements.5 This can be witnessed within both, as the language used attempts to protect or preserve ideas of female gentleness. While both advertisements pictured above are centered around the role of the women in the domestic sphere, the depiction is noticeably different. This encourages the perception of women as belonging to the domestic sphere, and protects traditional gender roles and the idea of the nuclear family.

A key method used by these marketing agencies focuses on presenting their product as the solution to a women’s problems, rather than a luxury good to pamper themselves. The primary method fixated on the perception that women are “inherently lacking something,” which can be overcome by the use of this product.6 This is usually in regard to women’s physical appearance or hygiene, rather than any internal bettering of skills or knowledge. Moreover, the type of beauty chosen to help sell their product, “most likely exert a significant influence on those types ultimately accepted or rejected by the consuming public.”7 This holds significant sway over the accepted forms of beauty within the nation, and highlights the accepted norms of the dominant class as the traditional standard of beauty.

There is a notable change in the depiction of the women between the two advertisements displayed above, most notably in the physicality of the women portrayed. In the first advertisement, the woman is presented as forlorn, akin to a maiden waiting for a prince to save her. However, in the second advertisement, the woman is moving and appears to have a free, happy disposition. The shift from inactivity to activity may be a result of the changing position of women within the workplace in the 1960’s, and the growing movement for female independence from their male counterparts. This shows a shift in marketing strategy to better fit within the constraints of accepted social norms, while still maintaining the same underlying themes of protecting traditional female characteristics. While this does depict a slight shift in the marketing strategies employed in this period, the fundamental use of this product remains the same.


In the end, advertising plays a key role in cultivating and protecting the key identities of the dominant group in any time period. While advertising may not be the most significant force in implementing and protecting traditional values, it may be the most unnoticed. Millions of Americans every day see advertisements, and do not give a second thought to them. However, they do still have an effect on your consciousness, and perception of values and standards of beauty. It is important to recognize the position of this industry in influencing the values, and accepted social norms of the nation without individuals fully realizing the effect.­­­­

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