Antique Childhood

Wherefore Art Thou Coppertone Girl?

One summer day, when I was about four-years-old, I sat in the front seat of the grocery cart as my mom did her shopping.  As she wheeled the cart around the corner, there on the end cap was a giant cardboard cutout of a little girl whose panties were being pulled away by a frisky little dog.  Her backside was exposed for all the world and the local grocery shoppers to see.  And I was mortified.


I clapped one hand over my mouth in disbelief and pointed at the offending image in horror with the other.  I was aghast.  I remember my mom laughing, amused at my reaction.


I think it is around this age that self-awareness and a sense of proprietary kicks in because I remember being embarrassed, for the little girl in the ad and for me. I remember feeling that I had seen something that shouldn’t be seen. 


You probably already know that the ad to which I am referring is the sweet and innocent Coppertone ad from the 1960s.

 But oh the times, how they are a changin’.


Last week, Sean and I were in Sam’s. He was not in a cart but walking along side me down the aisle with the books and magazines when all of a sudden we rounded an end cap and he was aghast.  He stopped dead in his tracks.  He clapped one hand over his mouth and pointed with the other at the cover of GQ magazine which was right at his eye level.


On the cover of the magazine was not a sweet little toddler and a frisky dog, but Gisele Bundchen who is sitting on a bed, looking a little disheveled and wearing a top of some sort, but nothing else. While the cover was not especially graphic, it was not lost on my son that he was seeing something that shouldn’t be seen.


“Mommy!” Sean whispered-shrieked, “Where are her underpants?”


I just didn’t really know what to say, and when that happens, I just go with the truth.


“I don’t know Sean, but she should put some on, don’t you think?”


We kept moving along and luckily he was quickly distracted by the next thing that caught his eye, and we did not have to continue that conversation.  For now.


I’m getting old, I know that, but I long for the days of Camelot when the raciest thing in the grocery store was the Coppertone girl.



42 thoughts on “Wherefore Art Thou Coppertone Girl?

  1. Oh AM, I get embarassed just watching commercials sometimes! It’s amazing to me how values have changed even in the last 10 years.

  2. I know it. My kids are so modest they are shocked when people walk around in public half-dressed. They are often overheard saying to one another, “That girl needs to put some more clothes on.”

    You can’t take your kids to the mall without them seeing too much skin (even the cardboard bra ads at JCPenney are racy) – so we don’t go out much. 😉

  3. I know!! I’m always worried that my daughter, who loves to read EVERYTHING, is going to glance at the Cosmo magazines in the grocery checkout! Cosmo’s headlines are terribly racy and I really wish they wouldn’t put them at children’s eye level in the checkout lane. Grr…

  4. Oh my goodness! I actually took a photo that my Mom jokingly calls our coppertone shot!

    I was taking pictures of my daughter playing with Jax (my parents’ puppy) when Livia’s ruffle-butt caught his eye… This was the result:

    “Liv & Jax”

    Thankfully, Livia is fully clothed in the photo… But it stinks that you don’t know what you’re going to see when you go out & about. We have to watch & shield our children’s young eyes from so much these days… The worst is when I feel like I should be covering my daughter or niece/nephews’ eyes from someone else out & about.

    AM, can you please do a campaign for the raciest thing to be the Coppertone Baby again? Just a thought :o) Much love to you and yours, take care and God Bless


  5. That coppertone girl, she lives at my house; both of them do. And let me tell you the dog is a big cover up; those girls, it’s all I can do to keep their clothes on them now that it’s summer. But damn that little white bum is cute! Ok, the big one knows she needs to at least keep underware on when playing dress up, but the little one takes every opportunity to drop trou; course her trou are diapers.
    My girls haven’t quite figured out modesty yet, but I’m ok with that, I hope they are always so comfortable with their bodies. The 5YO knows she needs to go to the changing room at the pool now, she isn’t exactly sure why, but she does.

    It’s not easy raising a daughter these days; you don’t want to raise a floozy, but you also don’t want them to be so uncomfortable with their bodies that they end up w/an eating disorder. It’s a fine line and you’re right the media doesn’t help.
    That being said, I also hope they take my lessons on appropriateness to heart as I know all about the wearing one thing out and changing later. NO FLOOZIES in my house!

  6. Before 5:00 am, I don’t have any bright, witty thoughts on this, but I completely agree with your Coppertone Girl entry!

  7. I remember the first time I saw that Coppertone ad too, I was shocked.

    I think of that often, especially in these times when I turn my car radio on and hear songs like, “I kissed a Girl and I liked it”.

    Times have sure changed. I pray that our children do not become desensitized to all that is going on.

  8. Oh my goodness- you are right. Oh how I wish those magazines were somewhere out of site. Even hubby comes home and asks me things like “so did Oprah really cheat on Stedman with Tyler Perry?” and I’m like WHAT? So don’t even get me started on the half naked people.


  9. I smiled when I read your reaction to the Coppertone Girl because mine was much the same. I remember thinking “where’s her mom to shoo the dog away and help her pull up her pants. And where’s her top for that matter?”

    Unfortunately, our kids are growing up with Gisele-like images shoved in their faces every day. It’s a shame.

  10. …You must have read my mind with this…my husband and I were just having a conversation night before last about the barrage of images, profanity, and leave-nothing-to-the-imagination media that infiltrates our lives each day…it started when we were listening to the “oldies” (gulp.) radio station during dinner- and how much the lyrics have changed- from fun and sweet to angry and, well, anything but sweet. Yep, the images in print these days makes that “racy” Coppertone ad of our younger days look like something from Mother Goose! Hats off to you for teaching your Sean better…

  11. I am looking at the world with fresh eyes these days as my son is now 13. He has enough internal struggles, if you will, without being bombarded with images of scantily clad women at every turn. And then there are the actually scantily clad women walking around. It is very hard to keep pure thoughts in the world today and to convince young people to do the same.

  12. It’s odd because, if I’m remembering correctly, the last update I saw of the Coppertone girl was that the dog wasn’t pulling anything down very far. So we seem to have a very odd disconnect between what we are willing to show as a society: Some things have become more modest while others have thrown their modesty (and clothes) to the wind.

    It just strikes me as odd.


  13. I so agree with you! I get very disturbed when my boys see someone scantily dress! Of course their response is . . . “Mommy Why are they nakie?” I usually tell them because, they must not know any better or maybe they don’t have the money for clothes!

    Love the coppertone girl!

  14. Amen. I agree with “Sarah T.” that commercials are embarassing these days. I don’t want to have to explain E.D. or femine itching or KY His and Hers, but the commercial are everywhere!

  15. OH, me too! The ads are so trashy and should not be on display. I love your title. It sums up this whole thing perfectly!

  16. Things have certainly changed in that way.
    But it is funny that both you and Sean had the same reactions!

  17. I have two daughters right now and I completely understand and promote modesty. It is very hard to explain the indecency of people today. Perhaps we need to focus on those who do dress and act modestly. I try to draw my kids’ attention to those women/girls who dress modestly. BUT, I also try to use those immodest ones as an example. I talk to my daughters and let them know it is inappropriate. (my son also) It is disgusting for ME to see a woman’s breasts popping out of a dress. I feel disgusted that my husband is greeted by that AND my son (8years). The only way to get around it is to openly discuss what is wrong with it. I don’t hesitate to turn all the magazines around, but unfortunately you can’t cover a person standing next to you.

  18. Amen Sister! The TV rarely comes on in our house for this very reason. I swear it won’t be long before I’m banning the children from leaving the house! And I know that I’m getting old, too, but the things that the teens are wearing these days really blow my mind!

  19. Ironically I just got got this email in my inbox: “This Tuesday, July 29th, don’t miss a brand new episode of Lifetime’s hit series How to Look Good N*ked at 10pm on Lifetime!!”

  20. Oh my… someone else just told me about that “how to look good n*ked show” and I was just dumbfounded.

    I think I’ll stick to my Deadliest Catch and How to avoid getting eaten by a Shark Shows. You know… things that actually apply to my land locked life.

  21. As a mom, I want to keep all of my kids innocent as long as possible. My husband tells me that I am still very naive about a lot of things, and to be honest, I’d like the same for my kids.

    It’s so hard to find the balance between virtual imprisonment to avoid all that stuff, and using that stuff to teach kids modesty.

    May God give us the grace we need to teach our kids to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.

  22. I saw that magazine cover too and had to do a doubletake – thinking it MUST be one of THOSE magazines – but no, it was GQ.

    It’s getting harder to do the grocery shopping… and lots of other things. With an almost 15 yo son and a 12 yo daughter, I’m not thrilled with what life keeps throwing in our path.

    But we’ll keep praying and raising them up in the path that they should go on, and pray that God does the rest!

  23. Great response to Sean, AM. Could you figure out something I could say to my daughter about the Bratz dolls? So far, I can only come up with, “I don’t know why those girls look like hookers, honey.” But that sounds a bit snarky.

  24. I remember the Coppertone girl; as well as, the VO 5 girls , Breck girls and the Saint Tropez models from 1960’s advertising. Growing up in the panhandle of Texas, I felt like there was one big beach blanket bingo going on outside of my small quiet world. I could not wait to grow up and ride around in a convertible, with hair that didn’t blow, perennially tanned, with a male counter part sporting non- blowing hair as well.

    Reality is so different and so much better.

  25. Amen. I will admit to passing pretty quickly by some book and magazine covers when Harry is in the cart. I am no prude, but things have gotten to the point where, even on broadcast television, family hours have no meaning, and where the magazine aisle at the grocery store is a minefield.

  26. You miss out on the horrifying public service announcement commercials on workplace safety that are on Canadian television at prime time – they’re notoriously graphic (and shockingly violent). Thank God my kids are in bed by then!

  27. Oy. I had a friend practically go on a rampage to get the Swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated moved from it’s VERY prominent position in the grocery store. And that lady was wearing nothing but strategically placed beaded necklaces. Disgusting.
    Everyone argued with her, but hopefully eventually something got done!

  28. My daughter at four and 1/2 already uses the word “hot” as a description of someone who is attractive. Where did she learn this? I am baffled.

    Of course, I tried to explain we can use the word pretty or beautiful, but we should also be interested in whether she’s nice or not, etc.

    And she said it was okay to be both… “nice and hot”.

    I agree, but it seldom happens that way.

  29. Oh gosh, I just love the “mommy, where are her underpants” comment. It’s just too cute! My little munchkin is not quite a year old so I have a little time before I have to answer such questions, but I like your style. Honest yet sassy.

  30. My children have heard it from me so many times that they now say it themselves. . .”He/She/They need to put some CLOTHES on.”

  31. I’m with you. The good old days when we and our kids (especially them) weren’t so desensitized. Or is it that the public is so desensitized that it’s okay to say B**ch and D**n and S**t on prime time TV and partial nudity is perfectly acceptable.
    Just dropping in to say Hi and see how you’re faring!

  32. Yesterday, my 6 year old daughter was laying on the couch, innocently watching “Word Girl.” Her 3 year old brother, who delights in torturing her, stood in front of her and dropped trow.

    She ran from the room screaming.

    I’ve taught her well.

  33. I have three young boys ages 10 to 3. I think it is sad that I have had to talk to all of them about the dangers of pornography and the “light” pornography that they will see daily all around them. I tell them that a good, strong, loving relationship involves give and take sexually and otherwise and that looking at women degrade themselves involves take but no give. It tells people that women are objects, it is addictive, encourages selfishness, and drives the spirit of God out of their lives. Even my three year old knows to close his eyes when anyone in the family says, “Don’t look!”.
    Store managers can be talked to. They are targeting our kids.

  34. I find it easier to answer the question, “Mama, why do I have to wear this paper bag over my head when we go out, again?”

    Oh, I’m kidding. But it’s tempting.

  35. The really sad thing is that many are so desensitized by this kind of thing that it hardly turn a head.

  36. Amen.

    Once when watching Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, there was a segment where the store set up a display with chocolate boxes all around a mannequin. As the scene quickly progressed, the kids swammed around the mannequin, taking all the chocolate. Left in the store was the mannequin in a garters, panties and stocking.

    When it got to this point, The Boy turned his face to me and said, “Mommy, that was inappropriate. Tell me when I can look.”

    Oh the joy of seeing hard work at modesty come to fruition. Oh the sadness I felt when I didn’t even recognize it. I’ve much to learn and relearn it seems.

  37. Oh how true! Goodness, I never was so happy when we turned off the tv. But you know you can’t turn off the smut in the checkout stands. Sigh.

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