Ad Campaign – Virginia Slims, 1972

Here’s a post from 2014, updated.

Back around the Turn of the Century, fashion dictated that you run around the tennis courts in layers upon layers of clothes.  That made you look elegant when you moved.  If you could move.

I can only imagine the thousands of words that have been written by scholars of women’s studies about the Virginia Slims ad campaign and their crazy mixed message of “You’ve come a long way,” and then, “baby.”   I am old enough to remember when the ads came out in the late 1960s, and though I was barely a teenager, I was irked by the mixed message.

In case you are not old enough to actually remember the ads, they put a recreated scene from the past showing how it was for women in the “good old days,” and then the way it was in the early 70s after women got their own cigarette.  The recreated scenes showed an interesting mishmash of Edwardian looking clothing on women who were usually sneaking a smoke.

In the “old” photo above the two tennis players do look overdressed, so what were women wearing to play tennis in 1905?  According to tennis player Violet Sutton:

But it’s a wonder we could move at all.  Do you want to know what we wore?  A long undershirt, pair of drawers, two petticoats, white linen corset cover, duck shirt, shirtwaist, long white silk stockings, and a floppy hat.  We were soaking wet when we finished a match.*

So change these women into white stockings (and shoes as well) and it looks to be fairly close to Violet’s memories.

Last week I spotted this pinback button in an antique mall. The button was made for the Virginia Slims Tennis Circuit which was started in 1970 and lasted until 1995.  Philip Morris, the maker of Virginia Slims sponsored professional women’s tennis, helping women players achieve pay that was equal to that of men players.

The ad is from 1972. Look carefully at the model’s sweater as it features the smoking tennis player logo. You could order the sweater for $9 plus 2 pack bottoms from Virginia Slims cigarettes.

*Interview with Violet Sutton recounted in “The Sutton Sisters” by Jeane Hoffman, published in Fireside book of Tennis, 1974, quoted in When the Girls Came out to Play, Patricia Campbell Warner, 2006


Filed under Advertisements

8 responses to “Ad Campaign – Virginia Slims, 1972

  1. Remember this ad, too – felt that last “baby” negated their entire campaign!
    PS/Kindled Hawes’ “Fashion is Spinach” last night & am loving it. Thanks very much for writing about her!


  2. Yes!..the clothes..must read the interview with Violet,,as you mentioned earlier – the layers of pressed linen..i remember the “Women/girl buddies” were all young professional women in DC andNYC- in Fashion and Law , Banking – i never once heard a complaint re: the “Baby” term! . Then again, you had to be a little more cosmopolitan-perhaps…?..certainly the “girls ” in 1905 were trying to be!!!..If one showed their ankle in 1905 it was “questionable” according to social history-


  3. And I could never understand why a “sports” motif would be used with trying to sell cigarettes!


  4. It’s interesting that the ad people got close to a correct interpretation of the past. Perhaps they consulted with a fashion historian. And the ads–I remember them well and found them insulting in the day.


  5. Carrie

    Yes, it’s kind of impressive that they got the historical dress “right” while totally mangling the spirit of Women’s Lib! I remember those ads and as a smoker at the time was a target for them, but remember scoffing at their tone and reaching for the Marlboros instead (ugh, the current me is thinking… 🙂 )


  6. Oh, no, now I have the Virginia Slims jingle in my head…”You’ve come a long way, baby, to get where you got to todayyyyyy! You’ve got your own cigarette, now BABY, you’ve come a long, long wayyyyy!” Yeccchhhh! My college roommate did smoke them, though, because the thinness made them more feminine and like fashion statement, maybe? She had long nails and used to wave them around a lot while she was smoking. Thank God I never started!


  7. Here’s a fascinating little piece showing the 1904 Wimbledon champion in clothes such as Sutton described, and then a picture of Sutton herself when she won the following year, in – scandal! – rolled-up sleeves and a shorter skirt! Interestingly, it looks like she went for black stockings instead of white.


  8. jonathanwalford

    We have the sweater in the museum’s collection. It’s 100% acrylic of course, and a bit pilly and stretched out, as acrylic likes to do, but we have it! I will photograph it for you the next time I come across it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.