Friday, January 23, 2015

Fairy Tales in Clothing Advertising

With the relatively recent phenomenon of online shopping, companies selling clothes now have different ways of appealing to the buyers. In a store, a garment stands on its own; online, each item is given a name, and sometimes accompanied by a description of what one might do while wearing said item. Companies will try and come up with different images that appeal to the masses, something that makes you believe that if you buy their product, you will have the type of lifestyle described.

And despite the bad, "unfeminist" reputation they sometimes get, fairy tales are often used when selling women's clothes (I don't really online shop for men's clothes, but I assume fairy tales aren't as strong a draw in that market...anyone aware of any exceptions?) It's interesting to note which tales, and which aspects of the tales, companies believe appeal to women today. These are all from Modcloth.

Once Upon a Thyme Coat
"Your style and palette may be all grown up, but you still love to hear classic fairy tales from your childhood! This coat by Steve Madden showcases a woven black and white design, elegant pleats, and a beautiful, cape-inspired neckline wrap that's a fairy-tale-come-true on chilly days. The shiny black bubble buttons add a hint of fun vintage flair along the cuffs and belt loops, as well. So whether you’re shopping for spices at the open market or heading to Grandma’s house to share your newest recipe creation, you’ll look charming in this trendy coat."

My Prints Charming Dress

"Get swept off your feet by the captivating allure of this Southwestern-inspired dress. Patterned in vivid hues of scarlet, black, white, and cream, this softly textured tie-waist shift exudes effortless bohemian beauty that wins your heart!"

"What to wear to a wedding in Chicago and then a gala in D.C.? This tan party dress feels refined and fanciful, so you can reign over your social calendar with elegant ease. A tulle overlay and chevron accents feel princess-like over pink pumps, while a satin bodice and silky lining keep you looking modern with a sequined clutch. Add stunning jewels, and this A-line frock can stay out past midnight - regardless of the time zone!"

Pounce Upon a Time Skirt
"You’ll find that wearing this sweet mini skirt is like living in a fairytale! Designed with white cats playfully patterning a black hue, this pocketed bottom is endlessly adorable."

Grant You One Swish Dress
"Were there a genie in your wardrobe, you’d wish for this floral shift dress by British cult brand Motel, each time you want to look flirtatiously fashionable. Characterized by bold shoulder cutouts, unique white-and-slate blossoms atop a navy-blue hue, and a painterly feel, this swaying dress is always a lucky choice."

Midnight Dance Wedge
"Twirl under the stars as the clock strikes twelve, comfortable and chic in these platform wedges. A vegan faux-suede composition meets a deep -blue hue to create this wonderfully winsome pair."

Happily Endeavor After Boot
"Step into fairy-tale-worthy style with these chic black boots! Boasting buckled straps and a sleek, knee-high silhouette, this vegan faux-leather pair makes for ambitiously charming adventures."

Once Upon a Climb Sweatshirt
"Compose your own fashion fairytale by slipping into this darling pullover, which touts a graphic print of brown, taupe, and rust-orange foliage. You’ll be crowned stylish royalty thanks to this cozy knit! This UK brand uses playful details and a retro-meets-modern aesthetic to celebrate quirky, independent women who aren't afraid to be themselves."

Mirror, Mirror of the Ball Dress
"Just one stride past the ornately framed mirror in the ballroom assures that the union of you and this floor-length dress are one of the most elegant sights here. From the sweetheart bodice swirling with sequins, to the handkerchief-layers of the black chiffon skirt, this captivating frock reflects pure magnificence to all those who see you in it!"

Really, I think one of the reasons people get upset by this whole idea that fairy tales promote unrealistic and too idealistic expectations in life are because we live in such a consumeristic culture. When used to try and sell things, advertisers appeal to the positive aspects of fairy tales-they obviously wouldn't try to tell you "when you wear this skirt, while you may or may not catch the man of your dreams, but it's likely your stepmother and sisters will abuse you, because they're jealous of how cute you look!" They appeal to the "happily ever after" and the romance parts of fairy tales-Cinderella is an image of partying all over the country, going to Grandmother's house is now an idyllic pastime and not fraught with danger, Genies give you floral prints, and when you look adorable your life will be a "fairy tale come true," never mind that we probably only want the end of the fairy tale to come remotely true in real life because the beginning and middle parts are almost all extremely traumatic.

On the plus side, you will notice some more modern, feminist ideas associated with fairy tales in the examples above, like women going on adventures (which is definitely true in folklore, if not the most famous versions of fairy tales known today) or celebrating "quirky, independent women who aren't afraid to be themselves".

Still, I like the fact that fairy tales can be used for advertising, if nothing else because it still shows how well-loved the stories are. Being a fairy tale lover myself, calling a coat the "Once Upon a Thyme Coat" does make it more appealing to me than a more generic "Coat with Cape and Belt."


  1. "when you wear this skirt, while you may or may not catch the man of your dreams, but it's likely your stepmother and sisters will abuse you, because they're jealous of how cute you look!" made me chuckle... Reminds me of a quip from a column by Max Goldt, who commented on a travelbrochure that used the slogan "Holidays like a fairytale". Goldts reply was: "Like a fairytale... Wha's that supposed to mean? Living in a lonely hut in the woods, chopping wood all day and getting nothing for dinner, but old bread and poisoned apples?"