Get a beverage and read a bit of lingerie-themed fiction from the past…
A vintage short story entitled, Tall Girl in Hoops by Owen Fitzhenry (illustrated by Boothroyd), as published in Australian Women’s Weekly, February 29, 1956.
It was to be a nation-wide campaign, “Crinolines for Women” …an amazing idea makes this amusing story.
Mr. Ward, director of the Nu World Advertising Agency, ate a handful of benzedrine tablets. Then he spoke to his two copywriters.
“Gentlemen,” he said, “I visualize a tall woman. Tall, aloof, and haughty. A thoroughbred.” He frowned at the men. “You understand?”
“Now,” continued Mr. Ward, “comes the twist. Not only do I visualize her as a haughty woman, but also as a fun-loving teenager, an unspoiled, lovable girl. You understand?”
They shook their heads.
“Nor do I,” admitted Mr. Ward. He sighed and ran his hands through his charcoal-grey hair. “But we have to find her,” he declared.
The copywriters shuffled their feet.
“Mr. Ward,” said George Morgan, “Would you mind telling us exactly why you want this woman?”
“The Crinoline Look,” announced Mr. Ward. He glared at his audience. “Do you realise, gentlemen, that in the Victorian age women were happier, more content than now? And do you know why?”
They shook their heads.
“The crinoline made the Victorian woman content,” said Mr. Ward. It gave them a feminine allure. Look at the women today!” Mr. Ward hit his desk. “Urchin looks, pedal-pushers, and page-boy cuts. No femininity.” He leaned across the desk and dramatically whispered: “How would you men like to go home at night after work and find a woman, a real woman?”
The men nodded eagerly, then shook their heads. “But we’re not married,” they said.
“Don’t make difficulties,” said Mr. Ward sharply. “From now on our motto is: ‘Girls, are feminine, wear a crinoline.’
“The Imperial Garment Company wants us to introduce the Crinoline Look to the world. You both know the Imperial Garment Company.”
“Certainly,” acknowledged Ron Gleeson. “We handled their ‘Girls, Wear The Pants’ campaign last year. Tartan pedal-pushers and all that.”
“O.K.,” said Mr. Ward. “Let’s forget that, huh?” I.G.C. now wants the girls to wear the hoops. It expects some difficulty. The girls might not like this backward step. It is our mission to educate them.
“First, we need a symbolic woman. Think of crinolines and you think of that tall, haughty woman. But that limits our market.
“The gay, laughing typist, the high-spirited factory girl need crinolines. Every woman needs a crinoline. They don’t know it yet. But we will tell them. That is our aim — a crinoline on every woman.
Mr. Ward raised his arms to the fluorescent tubes. “Gentlemen, sharpen your pencils, sharpen your eyes. I want that woman and I want copy about her fast.”
He waved his hands in dismissal. The man trooped out of the room. Mr. Ward called after them: “Gentlemen, I wish you luck.”
You’ll need it, he thought, and moodily munched more benzedrine tablets.
The two copywriters took their problem to the Man of War Hotel.
“The way I see it,” said George Morgan, “is this way. A series of pictures right down a full page, showing crinoline-clad girls jumping through hoops. And the live above “Hoop Happy.”
Ron Gleeson dismissed the idea. “How does a crinoline-clad girl fit through a hoop? Me, I see a semi-haughty woman snuggling up to an aspidistra. And the line” Nothing New Under the Sun The follows a lot of lies about how crinolines never really went out of fashion. They were just forgotten. How does that affect you?”
“Like a hole in the head,” said George. He beckoned the barmaid. “A beer for me and a hemlock for Mr. Gleeson.”
Ron said to the barmaid: “Elsie, would you wear a crinoline?”
Elsie laughed. “Of course not.”
“Well,” she said, “you couldn’t sit down in it, for one thing.”
“My word, that’s a thought,” admitted Ron. “I didn’t think of that.”
Elsie asked if crinolines were to be revived.
“By popular demand,” said Ron. “For years women have been clamoring for crinolines. At last the day has come.”
“Huh,” said Elsie, “they’ll never last.”
Ron was indignant. “That’s what they said about the aeroplane. Now look at the sky — black with silver-winged, man-made eagles, the heavens echoing the sound of their triumphant majesty –“
George interrupted the eulogy. “Just turn around, but slow,” he whispered. “Look through the door.”
Ron looked. His eyes glistened. “My boy,” he said. “It’s just what the psychoanalyst ordered.”
“Can you imagine that in a crinoline?” asked George.
“Delectable,” breathed Ron. “We must get that creature by hook or by crook.”
“By hoop or by crook,” amended George. They advanced on the creature.
“Don’t forget she’s mine,” warned George. “I saw her first.”
“You’ll need assistance,” said Ron. “You need a man of the world. Me. Mr. Big of 1956.”
This is wonderful, thought Doreen Hastings. Oh, this is wonderful. Waiting on a street corner for that man. That self-opinionated, pompous fool. Only the fact that I love him dearly keeps me here.
She sensed a hot breath on the back of her neck. So this was his game–sneaking up on me. A hand caught hold of her arm. Ah, caveman tactics.
A voice said, “Madam, allow me to introduce myself.”
An eager-faced young man confronted her. There was another eager-faced young man prancing about behind him.
“Perfect,” said George. He looked her up and down.
“Allow me to introduce myself,” said George.
“Fast,” said Doreen. “Make it fast, then go.”
“How about that!” cried Ron. “Perfect. I told you so.”
“You told me?” snorted George. “I saw her first.”
They argued and Doreen waited patiently. The situation intrigued her. This would be something to tell her boyfriend.
George quietened Ron and continued his address to Doreen. “Madam,” he began, “I have an unusual request.”
“Oh?” asked Doreen coldly.
“Ah,” said George, beaming. “It is a request that will bring you fame and fortune. My name is George Morgan.” He looked expectantly at Doreen. She showed no interest. Less interest, if anything. George continued hurriedly: “My colleague and myself representing the Nu World Advertising Agency.”
“That’s enough,” said Doreen. “I know–you wish me to model for you.”
“Correct,” said George. “And model the most dynamic, world-shattering–“
“No,” said Doreen.
“No?” Why not?”
“It sounds fishy.”
“Fishy?” Ron was insulted. “I’ll have you know, madam, Nu World is an acknowledged, respected organisation.”
“Why, then,” asked Doreen “do they pounce on women in the street? Why not to to the modeling agencies?”
“Clothes horses,” said George. “Cheese cakes. We need a girl of hauteur and warmth. You combine that rare combination.”
Doreen saw her boy-friend ambling towards her. On sudden impulse she linked arms with George. “You’ve won me,” she said. “Let’s go.”
They marched off, Ron hastening after them.
Doreen’s boy-friend stopped dead. He watched in horror as Doreen waltzed around the corner. Kidnapped. Obviously a kidnap. Doreen would not desert him. He looked hurriedly about for a policeman.
“Crinolines!” said Doreen. “Are you serious?”
She was in Mr. Ward’s office. The three men, Mr. Ward, George, and Ron, were grouped around her. Doreen was enjoying herself. Those two copywriters were correct. Nu World was respectable. But — crinolines… “They’re old-fashioned,” she said.
“Not now,” said Mr. Ward. “They have been rediscovered.”
“But you can’t sit down in them,” protested Doreen.
“Rubber hoops!” cried George. “How’s that for a cute gimmick, Mr. Ward? Sponge rubber with sufficient resilience to keep the shape. Comfortable to sit on, too.”
“This is rough,” explained George. “But you get the idea, Mr. Ward?” A nineteenth-century fashion, with twentieth-century additives. Crazy, huh?”
Ron gnashed his teeth. Why didn’t he think of that?
“Gone,” said Mr. Ward. “Real gone. George, you are my boy.” He looked at Ron. “What are you doing here?”
“Wasting time, Mr. Ward,” said Ron. He knew the formula.
“Correct,” said Mr. Ward. “Get lost.”
Ron stood at the doorway. He said in an end-of-the-world voice: “I prophesy defeat for this project!”
“Blow!” yelled Mr. Ward.
“Now,” said Mr. Ward, “we can get under way. Tablet, my dear?” He offered Doreen a bottle of benzedrine. She declined.
“I’ll get the I.G.C. dress-designer,” said George. “We must organise this rubber-hoop biz.”
“Do that,” said Mr. Ward.
George asked for the car.
Mr. Ward refused the request. “It’s only four blocks. Get a tram. No–walk.” He smiled at Doreen. “I believe in physical fitness. Every morning I run five miles.”
George left the office building and looked about for a taxi. A car stopped beside him. A voice growled: “Get in.” George was surprised, but pleased. The taxi service was at last improving. He opened the rear door and recoiled in horror. The car was full of policemen.
“Oh, no,” he said.
But he was dragged into the car. “All right, driver,”growled the voice. “Central Station.” The car glided off with George threshing about in the rear seat.
“Relax,” growled a voice.
“I don’t know why you’ve pinched me,” said George. “But whatever it is, I didn’t do it.”
“Tell the sergeant,” said the policeman.
“Could you fill in a few details, Mr. Commissioner?” asked George.
The policeman explained: “We got a call to pick up any character wearing a blue-grey suit–“
“Blue-charocal,” corrected George.
“–blue-grey,” continued the policeman, “pink shirt, orange bow-tie, and suede shoes.” He looked at George.
The car stopped outside Central. The policeman marched George into the charge room.
George blinked. The room was a blur or bright colors. It was crowded with young men, all wearing blue-charcoal, pink, and orange.
“Here’s another one,” said George’s captor cheerfully.
“Stand against the wall,” ordered the sergeant.
The room lights were dimmed, and a spotlight turned on the first man in line.
“O.K.,” said the sergeant. “That him?”
“No,” said a voice.
The spotlight moved on.
George closed his eyes in a sudden glare.
“Let’s see those big eyes,” ordered the sergeant.
George opened his eyes.
“Yes, that’s him.”
“All right, girl-snatcher,” said the sergeant, “let’s have a little talk.”
Mr. Ward slammed down the telephone receiver. “The double-cross!” he yelped. “The dirty double-cross!”
“What gives, man?” asked Doreen. Goodness, she thought, they’ve got me talking that way now.
“That was I.G.C. on the phone,” explained Mr. Ward. “They have given the crinoline campaign to another agency.”
“Oh, said Doreen.
“Oh! Oh! Oh!” cried Mr. Ward. he jumped about the room.
“Did they mention George?” asked Doreen.
“George? Who is George?”
“Your copywriter. He was going down there to see the dress-designer.”
“Maybe he fell under a tram,” said Mr. Ward. “Maybe we should all fall under a tam. Next time I get a contract in writing.” He snarled at Doreen. “It’s all your fault.”
Doreen was shocked. “Me? Why my fault?”
“We didn’t find you in time. That other agency must have organised some gimmick before us. Consider yourself fired.”
“I never considered myself hired,” retorted Doreen.
Ron Gleeson burst into the office. He yelled, “Mr. Ward! What have you dome?”
Mr. Ward looked blankly at his excited copywriter.
“Mr. Gleeson — you are drunk,” said Mr. Ward.
“Mr. Ward,” said Ron desperately, “look out of the window!”
Mr. Ward looked. “Good heavens,” he said. The street outside was swarming with policemen. With horrified eyes Mr. Ward watched a platoon of armed men enter the building.
“Confess, Mr. Ward,” pleaded Ron.
“You should be ashamed of yourself,” said Doreen.
“I’m innocent!” protested Mr. Ward. “it’s a frame-up, Rival agencies…bitter enemies…stab in the back.” He crawled beneath his desk. “Tell them I’m out,” he said.
The police sergeant had said to George: “Man here says you kidnapped his girl.”
George looked at the man. “Never seen him before.”
“What about the girl?”
The sergeant said to the man: “You describe the girl.”
“Well,” said the man, “Doreen is–“
“Doreen!” cried George. “Doreen Hastings? The well-stacked lass I picked up–“
“Ah, you admit it?” asked the sergeant.
“I don’t admit anything,” said George. “It wasn’t a kidnap. It was part of my work.”
“Oh, yes,” said the sergeant. “Tell me more.”
George began: “I saw this girl and I thought, now she would be suitable.”
“What for?” demanded the sergeant.
“What for? George was surprised. “Why, the hoops, of course. What else?”
“What else!” exclaimed the sergeant in a strangled voice. “You go about putting girls in hoops!”
George frowned. It all seemed perfectly simple to him. He explained further: “Not every girl. It has to be a particular type. My boss, Mr. Ward, has got Doreen now. She will be soon well and truly in those hoops.”
The sergeant struggled to control himself. “Where is your Mr. Ward?”
“In the Nu World building. You know it?”
“Yeah.” The sergeant clawed at a telephone. He could see the girl now, imprisoned in hoops. What sort of hoops? Red-hot, maybe. A sadist in the Nu World building! It was unbelievable. He called into the telephone: “Get the riot squad to the Nu World building!”
“Take it easy!” cried George. “Let me tell you more!”
“You’ve told me enough,” snarled the sergeant. “You murderer!”
Doreen’s boy-friend fainted.
Ron Gleeson said to the sergeant: “Mr. Ward is in Pattagonia.”
“Who is that under the desk?” asked the sergeant “Governor Bligh?”
Mr. Ward crawled out. “All this fuss over a radio licence,” he protested.
“Don’t stall,” ordered the sergeant. “Where’s the girl?”
“Girl? What girl?”
“Don’t try to fool me,” said the sergeant. “I mean the girl you’re putting in the hoops.”
Ron Gleeson laughed hysterically. The sergeant went cold. Maybe there had been a slip-up.
Doreen said: “This girl–she would not be Doreen Hastings?”
“Yes,” said the sergeant. And then he knew. “I suppose you are–?”
“Yes,” said Doreen. “I am.”
“Oh,” said the sergeant. He added hopefully: “You have any complaints?”
“No,” said Doreen. “I’m sorry.”
“You should be,” agreed Mr. Ward. “Running about like a bunch of Roman assassins–” He stopped. “Romans,” he repeated.
“I’m with you,” cried Ron. He was eager to make good his previous lapse.
“You with me, man?” demanded Mr. Ward.
“Togas,” said Ron.
“How do you think up these ideas,” demanded Mr. Ward.
“Woman’s natural garment,” said Doreen.
“Excuse me,” said the sergeant, “we’ve got your George Morgan down at Central. What will we do to him?”
“Shoot him,” laughed Mr. Ward. “Ron, get I.G.C. on the phone. Tell them we have the greatest idea. Doreen, look Roman from now on.”
The sergeant excused himself again. “We have Miss Hastings’ boy-friend at Central–“
“Shoot him,” ordered Doreen.
The sergeant left.
Doreen accepted a benzedrine.
“Crazy,” she said.