LOOKING AT WHAT GOES ON UNDER THE CLOTHES
[Quennell goes to work for an advertising agency in the 1930s]
The client, too, will sometimes demand an exasperating alteration; such-and-such a point has been neglected, or a cherished phrase omitted. These set-backs, however, were all a part of the elaborate game we played – a cynical game perhaps, but odd and difficult enough to amuse an expert player. Although I could not immediately grasp its rules, I soon acquired some basic training, and found that my prose style could be employed with advantage upon a special range of subjects. I could be as ‘literary’ and decorative as I pleased, writing about products that appealed to women; and in that important field, before my career ended, I had become a virtuoso.
Corsets were my first theme; the type of corset we advertised had been designed by a crippled middle-aged lady; and my weekly task was to immortalize her conception of ‘the body beautiful’, emphasizing the fact that, if it were to remain beautiful, ‘adequate support’ was needed. Miss J liked my style, appreciated my interest in her sex, and from her invalid chair would thank me for the euphonious tributes she once called my ‘ripping write-ups’. She headed a bizarre procession of female clients that eventually led to Miss Elizabeth Arden.
observations: This memoir has featured before on the blog, and we said then that Quennell was somewhat Pooter-ish. My favourite line in the book comes when he, a young and inexperienced Oxford undergraduate, has met a rather racy older women ‘a remarkable night-bird’ and a kept-women. He makes advances to her, he is ‘neither repulsed nor reproved’ and then:
That night I was carried off to Maidenhead.Quennell was working in London, but ended up visiting the
This picture of Elizabeth Arden is from the Library of Congress. Quennell explains that Arden was very keen on horses and racing, and it looks as though this picture was taken at the races – you can just see someone looking through binoculars at the left-hand side.
Advertising offices in the 1930s have featured on the blog twice before – here and here – and this entry deals with reactions to lingerie adverts. Selling corsets in the 1930s is also a feature of blog favourite Miss Pettigrew Lives for A day.
The corset drawing from the 1930s comes from Wikimedia Commons.