Advertising Propaganda in Fashion

Glittering Success
By: Maddie Vahle

    Have you ever found yourself flipping through the pages of a fashion magazine and all of a sudden you find that your eyes are drawn to an ad for the latest trend and you simply cannot look away? If the answer is yes, you are not alone. It is not a coincidence that you were drawn to this advertisement. In fact, the fashion industry spends millions of dollars every year with the hopes that people will do that very thing. Companies in the fashion industry use many different types of propaganda when it comes to the advertisements. Two very effective uses of propaganda is the use of weasel words and glittering generalities in fashion advertisement campaigns.  

    While there are many different forms of propaganda techniques when it comes to advertising, a very common one in fashion ads is the use of weasel words. Weasel words are, “Small words that usually slip right past us, but that make the difference between reality and illusion” (McClintock). A weasel word is how advertisers get away with stretching the truth. By using these words consumers will think that not only will results definitely happen exactly as shown in the ad, but will happen fast. It is a very effective use of a propaganda technique in the fashion industry.


     Trying to sell athletic shoes and apparel can be a very difficult thing to accomplish. There are so many different types and they all pretty much do the same thing. However, advertising that a brand of athletic wear is proven to make the average person become 28% more tone will definitely give the competition a run for their money. When the commercials for Reebok Easytone collection of shoes and apparel were first shown everyone began talking about it. The commercial features young women who all appeared to be fit and in shape, wearing the shoes while dancing around in different situations. It is exactly what every woman wants, a proven guarantee that if they wear this then they will look better. However, very few people actually stop to think about what “28% more tone” really means. More tone than what? Most people just assume that it means more tone than you would get by wearing another brand, but who really knows? It could simply mean that if you wear the Reebok Easytone collection then you will become more tone than you would if you were to sit on the couch all day and eat junk food. This genius use of weasel wording is the result of the $23 million dollars that Reebok spent on advertising the Easytone collection. The money was well spent considering the company has now captured a third of the billion dollar athletic apparel market (Zmunda).

    Another form of advertising propaganda that is used quite often is the term, ‘Glittering Generalities’. Glittering generalities are very similar to weasel words, but with a few differences. “In this case, advertisers surround their products with attractive-and slippery-words and phrases” (McClintock 266). They take something ordinary and just smother it with words that are anything but ordinary in hopes that consumers will be drawn to the fabulous idea of the product.  Advertisers are very smart when it comes to tagging certain words to products. They attach words that can have many different meanings to the consumers that the product is aimed for.

    Advertising propaganda is also used to intrigue consumers. For example, the slogan for Macy’s department store is, “The Magic of Macy’s”. The word magic is used to create an expectation for the type of fashion and overall environment that Macy’s has to offer. The slogan allows the consumer to create an enchanted vision of the store and the clothing. The ad never exactly states just what the, “Magic” of Macy’s is though. In a print advertisement for Macy’s there is a woman wearing a sparkly cocktail dress while flipping her hair and looking very happy. Macy’s trademark stars are falling all around her and in bold lettering across the ad are the words, “FIND YOUR MAGIC at Macy’s, where it all comes together.” Apparently magic is now not only being sold to the general public, but to find it is as easy as going shopping for cocktail party attire at Macy’s. The advertisers are using the glittering generalities word of magic in hopes that it will attract customers who want to look and dress like the woman in the advertisement. The Find Your Magic ad campaign is geared significantly towards everyday women who want to feel just as glamorous as the models in the print ads, and with the help of glittering generalities, Macy’s succeeds in making them feel that way.

    Glittering generalities can also be used in fashion advertisements specifically aimed at men. The Levi’s Jeans 2010 Go Forth ‘Ready to Work’ ad campaign was not designed for any men though. The commercial made it very clear that Levi’s Jeans are intended to be worn by American men. Within the first five seconds of the commercial a large half sunk and barely lit up America sign is shown twice. As the black and white vintage style video continues the screen is filled with shots of places and people all across America. Throughout the entire commercial there is a recording playing of classic American poet, Walt Whitman, who is reciting none other than his poem, “America”. His patriotic words fill the bottom of the screen until two young men are shown running with a banner with the words, “Go Forth” written on it. The classic Levi’s Jeans logo is shown for the final four seconds of the commercial. This advertisement is crammed to its very edges of glittering generalities all about America. The message that Levi’s Jeans wanted to get across is that if you are a patriotic American man, then you should be wearing these jeans. It is the perfect form of propaganda for men in the fashion industry. The advertisers specifically chose to go the patriotic rout because they know that no American man is going to deny being one. The campaign was designed to inspire a new generation of “real workers” during the economic recession (Archambault).  The Levi’s Jeans Go Forth ad campaign is the perfect example of how glittering generalities can greatly influence advertising in the fashion industry.

    Advertisers are very smart people who know exactly what they are doing. Advertising companies in the fashion industry spend thousands of dollars on their advertisements with the hopes that the consumers will in return spend thousands of dollars on the clothing. Nothing in fashion advertisement is done by coincidence. It is all done with psychological knowledge about the consumers that the merchandise is aimed for. The fashion industry uses the propaganda techniques of weasel words and glittering generalities in their advertisements simply because they know how to do it, and they know it will work.

Works Cited

Archambault, Erica. "Levi's Proclaims "We are all Workers" with Launch of Latest Go Forth Marketing Campaign." levistrauss, 24/06/2010. Web. 1 Mar 2011.
McClintock, Ann. "Propaganda Techniques in Today's Advertising." The Gulf Coast Reader. Comp. Conan Griffin, Nathan Hill, Amy Towne. Boston: Pearson Learning Solutions, 2010. Print.
Zmuda, Natalie. "Reebok EasyTone Katrin Ley, Head of Brand Strategy, Business Development and Women's Sport Business." AdvertisingAge 15/11/2010: n. pag. Web. 1 Mar 2011.