Friday, January 7, 2011

Selling Romance - "Don't Let Them Call You Skinny"

At the turn of every year, when resolutions are made (and not always kept) weight loss is often a common goal. But what about weight gain? This advertisement for "Wate-On" from Charlton's Teen Confessions #30 (October 1964) purports to do just that -- aid in the putting on of weight and give true believers a shapely body.

Available in four forms, "Wate-On" promised that it would not only help add shape to trouble spots such as the bustline, arms and hips; it would also help fight fatigue and "nervous tension." According to this food blog, our product in question was concocted of the following ingredients:

Hydrogenated Stabilized Soybean Oil
Propylene Glycol
Polyoxyethylene 20 Sorbitan Monolaurate
Sorbitan Monostearate
Xanthan Gum

Though today it seems that most people are in search of weight loss and not weight gain, it is obvious that the quest for beauty transcends time!


  1. How's about a height gain ad? "Don't let them call you Shorty!"

  2. Nice find Jacque. I've seen a few different ads like these championing curves in 1950s romance comics, but this is a particularly cool one. The oldest I have is from an 1890s fashion magazine, again extolling the virtues of putting on a few extra pounds. I have even come across comics that have weight gain and weight loss ads in the same issue! If the thunder don't get you then the lightning will! The basic message is always that there's something not quite right about your body image but stress out no longer... our product can help! There were actresses of the 50s and 60s who were well-built women - Jayne Mansfield, Marilyn Monroe, Sophia Loren, Raquel Welch, etc., but eventually Twiggy won out, and anorexia seems to have been on the rise ever since! It would seem that the romance comic weight-on ads were contemporary with the popularity of fuller-bodied screen goddesses.

  3. I love this!! Lord, please bring back the 1950s figure! Ladies, please belly up to the Wate-On bar. Although, if I was marketing the stuff, I'm not sure I'd call it a "homogenized, liquid emulsion."

  4. I remember recently stumbling on to some of these ads in a few 1950s-vintage comics that I downloaded (apparently legally, I should add, from the Digital Comics Museum). They certainly are amusing from today's perspective. Although when I look at these from a more sociological standpoint, I have to say they're also a little sad and/or disturbing, esp. when you also realize that comics were filled with those "muscle-up" ads aimed at men, as well. They really tried to take advantage of any potential self-esteem issues on the part of their mostly underage readers...

  5. There is a book called SHRINK YOUR FEMALE FAT ZONES. Ladies, please do not shrink your female fat zones. They are my favorite zones.


  6. darkmark: I could have sworn I've seen ads in the comics for some sort of shoe insert for guys to make them taller!

    KB/Edo: Very good point: "The basic message is always that there's something not quite right about your body image but stress out no longer... our product can help!" Advertisers were smart in placing these ads where susceptible young readers would see them... as Edo says in the comment about ads targeted at guys to build muscle.

    Marshall: Haha! It is hard for women -- losing weight in areas that are favorable leads to losing weight in those "female fat zones" you speak of! I guess that is where advertisements for bust enhancer creams would come in handy! :)

  7. Oops! Didn't mean to skip over you there, Mykal! I wouldn't want to take anything that had emulsion in the name either. Kind of sounds corrosive! I think Joan from Mad Men has definitely made everyone want to bring back the figure of the mid-century woman! Today, most of us ladies do not wear a whole lot (comparatively) in undergarments, and I suspect if we did, we would all be a little more Miss Holloway-esque!

  8. Jacque: Remarkably, this type of ad, and all others mentioned in the comments, fall into the category of ads condemned by Wertham in Chapter 8 of Seduction of the Innocent, "Bumps and Bulges". For me that chapter stands out as the one where he really did get it right, as what he said there has subsequently been corroborated by research into body image and eating disorders, etc.