Chubettes, the badly-named clothing line for overweight girls, 1957

This 1957 ad for "Chubettes," a line of clothes for "plump" youngsters, betrays an ad agency where the person who thought up the product names was vastly outclassed by the illustrator. I mean, seriously: was there ever an overweight kid who greeted the news that Mom was buying her some "Chubettes" with delight?

Chubbettes, 1957 (via Boing Boing Flickr Pool)


  1. Horrible name aside, it seems the story here is more how normal that kid looks from the lard-squinched vantage of today.

  2. In American high school these days, she’d be considered one of the slimmer schoolmates however, in American Vogue, she’d still be considered a plus sized model.

    Innerestin’ how times have changed!

    1. She looks fit as a fiddle compared to today’s kids…

      She’s actually 237 pounds, but the dress hides the extra weight very effectively. Thanks, Chubbettes™!

    1. It’s like a pendulum with healthy societal body image in the middle. Some years you can just get a look at it as we collectively swing by.

    2. Yes, which is why it is in an ad for Chubettes. If she were morbidly obese with braces, coke-bottle classes, and acne it would probably be harder to sell the product, yes? More aspirational marketing. Which is why all of the comments about how she looks fit compared to today’s kids is silly. Today’s ad would not look so different.

  3. I mean, seriously: was there ever an overweight kid who greeted the news that Mom was buying her some “Chubettes” with delight?

    Being a child of the 70s, I remember reacting in abject horror at the news that my mother had bought me ‘Huskies’ jeans for the upcoming school year.

    Then she put a ‘kick me’ sign on my back and attached a toilet brush to my nose and off to school I went…

  4. it’s funny how much the concept of “plump” has changed.  today this girl would be presented as “normal,” and in actuality would probably represent the *low* end of “average” weight.  even when i was in elementary school (mid 80s), the “plump” kids werent’ nearly as large or as numerous as what i see when i’m out in public.  i know that there’s an obesity epidemic, lifestyles change, et cetera, but it always strikes me most regarding children.

    all that having been said, the illustration *is* absolutely adorable.  but what i love most about it is how, the more i look at her face, the more i suspect she needs an exorcism.

    1. And for dapper young lads, the special occasion line… Chubby.

      “Does your son have an important event to attend? He’s sure to have all eyes on him, if he’s sporting his Chubby!”

  5. It’s probably worth saying that “plus-size” models of today are also barely discernibly overweight. Obviously children being obese or overweight is a much bigger issue now than in the 50s, but there were obese children, and they didn’t run around naked!

    Besides, when it comes right down to it, consumers (which is to say, consumers besides ourselves) aren’t always as stupid as we like to think they are. What if Chubbettes were the best clothes for heavy girls on the market? I mean, I’m not crazy about the name of Where’s The Rest Of It™ brand condoms, but I’ve shopped around and I don’t think there’s a better quality prophylactic for the bantam gentleman.

    1. Plus-size models of today are not barely discernably overweight.  They’re of below-average weight, just not as far below as other models.

  6. Amused by the “Pounds and Personality” booklet offered, which will help parents of the “chubby girl” handle “tactless remarks.”

  7. Reading the whole ad, I’m surprised at the level of sensitivity, name aside. (Actually, chubby used to be a polite, positive word albeit patronizing). Embracing size, believing that a girl can be both pretty and overweight, all features of Fat Positive, 1950’s style. I’d be interested in reading the booklet that was offered, that addressed the difficulties overweight girls faced back then. (And now). I can’t imagine how Dr. Gladys would have missed the mark.

    1. Did I read the same advertisement as you? She can be as “happy and self assured as her slimmer schoolmates,” if she wears Chubbettes. As if being slim (read: attractive) automatically makes you happy and self confident.  I get it, it’s an ad so they are going to try and make you believe that their product will make you happy but the comparison to skinnier kids is unnecessary.  And then the booklet?   Understand her problems, shyness, tactless remarks and the “game of dieting”? Why does someone chubby necessarily have problems, shyness, make tactless remarks and diet? That seems like the furthest thing from sensitive to me.

      1. Agreed. Anyone who speaks about ‘chubby’ ladies as anything less than a lady has some tactless remarks coming their way. 

      2. As if being slim (read: attractive) automatically makes you happy and self confident.

        It sure doesn´t hurt.

  8. When I was a kid, all department stores had racks of “slim”, regular, and “chubby” sizes for girls, and “slim”, regular, and “husky” for boys. The first time my mother took me to the “chubby” rack, I immediately went on a diet and lost 20 pounds -at age 12! Believe me, there was quite a stigma attached to that rack.

  9. I would just like to casually and not at ALL pedantically point out that Chubbettes has two b’s in it.

  10. Times have certainly changed.

    1957 chubby is nothing like 2011 chubby

    This is a serious and tragic situation – largely due to systemic food and education policy.  Subsidizing corn syrup is a HUGE contributor to this out of control public health disaster.

  11. L. Gidding & Co. actually had three categories of girls’ wear: Chubbette’s™, Saucy Sausage™ and HolyFuckingJesus™.

  12. I would totally rock clothes from Chubbettes if I could. I love the name! And I agree that the model is not supposed to look fat. Most plus sized stores today also use models on the lowest end of the plus sized scale.

  13. It’s not so much that “Chubettes” is a bad name, but rather the concept itself. By that, I mean no matter what you call a fat person, the term will be percieved as derrogatory. 

    Also, and science will back me up on this, fat people are fat because they eat too much. Period. I’m fat, but I know it’s because I eat ice cream like it’s going out of style. I’m not going to get all offended at being called “fat” or whatever. I have a mirror; those people are correct–I am fat. Calling me “Plus Sized” or whatever is like calling the slow readers “Blackbirds”–nobody is fooled.

    1. Slight correction, fat people are fat because they eat more than they use. I know some people who eat tremendous amounts of food (even Ice Cream) and won’t get fat, simply because they exercise accordingly.

      One of them got fat in two weeks because he continued eating the same despite being unable to exercise; food habits are often a hard thing to beat.

  14. Chubbettes. Two ‘B’s. It’s written out several times in the ad for you to copy. How did you manage to think it was ‘Chubettes’ THREE times? Gah!

  15. Ilknope, think of it in terms of the 1950’s. I did say it was patronizing, wasn’t it? But take it from my mother, a “chubbette” from the 50’s herself. The typical approach was shaming and unhealthy diets, and sack like hand made clothes. Making ready-to-wear plus-size clothing, or even providing patterns, was a novel idea at the time. People even thought of it as enabling. At least we somewhat understand now that larger size is not a result of greed and laziness, but back then, few people thought otherwise.

  16. You know what? Reading some of the comments here, it seems Chubbettes as a company was a helluva lot more sensitive. I’m seeing a lot of “there are waaaaaaay more fat kids bigger than ever stomping around!!!” comments. I agree nutritious food is to hard to get a hold of, and too many activities are sedentary. But those sort of comments are sort of annoying.

  17. I’ll just leave this here. 

    Disclaimer:  I think that you should eat well and get regular exercise and whatever you look like is fine.

      1. No, it’s okay to mock people’s bodies if they’re skinny and they’re supermodels and pictures of them with white powder around their nostrils keep showing up.

  18. @twitter-44505040:disqus  No, I understand that within the context of the 1950’s, this ad wasn’t as horrible as the usual sentiments about chubbiness.  But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t actually horrible.   I get your point though.  What really gets me is that booklet.  Let me tell you how to solve your problems, fatty!  When in reality, the problem is other people, not the chubbettes and chubbies.

    And I agree that there are a lot of insensitive comments in here. Plus a total lack of awareness that the ads then and the ads now, especially, depict underweight girls and women as the standard of beauty rather than a range of weights. There’s nothing wrong with being skinny, average or chubby, in my opinion. Bounds of reason, of course.

Comments are closed.