The Wizard of Bras
At Hollywood-Maxwell’s
Intimate Apparel Shop
Yesterland
The Wizard of Bras

As you walk up the right side of Main Street, your destination is the store right after Grandma’s Baby Shop. Across the entire width of the ornate, pale yellow storefront, a sign reads, “Intimate Apparel, Brassieres, Torsolettes.”

Even if you don’t feel a need to purchase a corset or bra while visiting the park, walk up the three steps onto the front porch, open the door, and enter the Victorian splendor of the Intimate Apparel Shop, presented by the Hollywood-Maxwell Brassiere Co. of Los Angeles. This is your opportunity to learn the history of underwear.

Your host is the Wonderful Wizard of Bras. From his revolving stage, the Wonderful Wizard speaks to you through the marvel of tape recorder technology.

Don’t miss the authentic Singer Sewing Machine from around 1860—it’s a “most unusual and unique part of the display,” according to advance publicity. And remember to look into all the 3-D boxes to see outer and intimate apparel of the past. As you slowly move your head, you’ll see the models’ turn-of-the-century attire disappear to reveal their corsets and pantaloons.

Hollywood-Maxwell’s Intimate Apparel Shop is not just about the Victorian past. In fact, half the store is devoted to the latest bras and petticoats of 1955.


Yes, when Disneyland opened in 1955, there really was an Intimate Apparel Shop, and it really featured the Wizard of Bras. But the Wizard didn’t look like the artwork at the top of this page. That artwork was from a Hollywood-Maxwell ad in a July 15, 1955, newspaper supplement for Disneyland in various Southern California papers, including the Santa Ana Register and the Long Beach Press-Telegram.

In addition to ads, the supplement had articles about Disneyland—but the articles were publicity pieces that were essentially advertising too. One article included a rare photo of the Wonderful Wizard of Bras.

SHOWN WITH 'WIZARD' (Wizard of Bras at Disneyland) Mechanical Wizard Emcees Continual Show of Fashions

I don’t expect you to read the article to the right of the newspaper picture. I’ve reproduced the entire article below.

ADVERTISING SUPPLEMMENT TO THE SANTA ANA REGISTER — JULY 15, 1955
 
Mechanical Wizard
 
Emcees Continual
 
Show of Fashions
 
      The Wonderful Wizard of Bras, famed symbol of the Hollywood-Maxwell Brassiere Company and major-domo of the novel, eye-popping exhibit prepared by Disneyland by this manufacturer of intimate apparel is one of the major magicians in the nation’s greatest magicland.
      The Wonderful Wizard highlights the Hollywood-Maxwell display which is one of fifty “famous names in American business” selected by Disneyland officials to populate Main Street, U.S.A., an exact replica of an American town of the 1890-1910 period.
      The Hollywood-Maxwell exhibit features the Wonderful Wizard of Bras on a revolving stage, on one side of which is a complete re-creation of the fashions and intimate wear of the 1890’s and on the other side a showing of the fashions of today—inner and outer wear.
      On stage, acting as master of ceremonies, via a tape recorder, is the Wonderful Wizard who, with presto-change charm, explains the basic theme of the show—“This is how it was... Now... This is how it is.”
      The exhibit, like the others on Main Street, is period in both its interior and exterior design, with the only “out-of-this-world” touch being the fabulous Wonderful Wizard who greets visitors with a wave of his magic wand.
      The exhibit will portray a typical 19th Century shoppe. The Wonderful Wizard and modern day clothing will occupy one-half. The remaining part will be devoted to a Victorian “front-room” complete with period fireplace, drapes, large mirror, sofa and old-fashioned showcase. A most unusual and unique part of the display will be an authentic Singer Sewing Machine, circa 1860. In addition, 3-D illusion boxes will be featured depicting both outer and intimate apparel of the by-gone era.
      The company was founded In Los Angeles 21 years ago with two rented sewing machines and an idea, a patented design for a revolutionary brassieres.
      The unique bra—the circular stitched “V-Ette Whirlpool” soon became a much-soughtafter fashion item and the original operators found they were part of a thriving, growing business.
      Several years after the founding of the firm, Hollywood-Maxwell achieved national distribution and was well on its way to becoming the large, successful firm it is today—the largest bra manufacturer west of the Mississippi and one of the important foundation wear style leaders in America.
      In order to keep in touch with the latest fashion styles in the world of fashion, Hollywood-Maxwell’s chic designer, Theo De Voe, regularly attends the Paris openings, determining basic silhouette changes so that Hollywood-Maxwell bras can be styled according to the latest couturier trends.
      Much of the meteoric rise of the company has happened since 1946 when Herndon J. Norris, who previously had been attorney for the concern, bought the company and took over as president.
      Norris has introduced modern methods of manufacture and marketing, making the company a model of efficient and workmanlike procedures.
      Today, Hollywood-Maxwell maintains 10 plants throughout the United States and one in Canada. In addition, the firm has licensed manufacturing and distributing representing in Europe, England, South America, Australia, New Zealand and the Orient.

Back in 1955 and 1956, Disneyland had its own monthly newspaper, The Disneyland News. If Main Street, U.S.A. represented a small American town, it was only fitting to have a small-town newspaper.

Disneyland News
The Disneyland News, September 1955.

The September 1955 issue of The Disneyland News included a human interest story about Hollywood-Maxwell’s Intimate Apparel Shop on Main Street. Here’s the entire short article for your enjoyment:

THE DISNEYLAND NEWS - SEPTEMBER 1955
 

If Hubby Is Shy, Watch Him
 
At Main Street Corset Shop
 
      Is the modern male embarrassed about walking into a corseteria? No he isn’t—or at least, not as “shocked” as his father would have been, according to the Hollywood Maxwell Company, operators of a corset and bra shop on Disneyland’s Main Street.
      Surprising as it may seem to some, it’s the teenagers who are most affected by the exhibit of old and new in corsets, bras, and petticoats. The younger sets’ reaction is usually one of giggles as they look at the small models in various stages of dress.
     Through a system of looking glasses in the corseteria on Main Street, the visitor can by slowly turning his head see the models change from the full dress of the turn of the century into their underclothes—corsets and pantaloons. In the modern sequence, the model switches from an evening dress into bra and petticoat.
      Many men hesitate to enter the shop—especially older gentlemen accompanied by their wives. It’s the older women who seem to be most anxious to shade their husbands from any “risque” experience.
      But it’s the older generation of men who are the most polite—they invariably remove their hats upon entering the store!
      The fathers and mothers of recent years seem to take the whole thing in stride—while the older women often are guilty of a bit of giggling, as are the teenagers.
      The 10 to 12 year olds, especially the girls, are particularly appreciative and interested in the old time furnishings of the 1900 period in the store.
      Hollywood Maxwell’s experience seems to lend credence to the belief that Americans are becoming more “liberal” through the years in their thoughts on such formerly “taboo” subjects.

The Intimate Apparel Shop didn’t last long. In January 1956, just a half year after it opened, it closed. The Glass and China Shop next door expanded and absorbed the Intimate Apparel Shop space. It’s now called the China Closet.

At least the Intimate Apparel Shop outlasted Grandma’s Baby Shop. Grandma departed before summer 1955 had ended. The Silhouette Studio moved in, and it’s still there today.

Former corseteria at Disneyland in 2007
The former Intimate Apparel Shop (left) as it looked in 2007.

The Main Street storefront that once housed Disneyland’s Intimate Apparel Shop is still there. It’s now blue with white trim. There’s no longer a sign on the storefront, and although you can step up onto the porch, you can’t go through the door.

In 1958, the Hollywood-Maxwell Company of California combined with the Vassar Company of Chicago, a part of Munsingwear. The result was the Hollywood Vassarette Intimate Apparel Division. At one time, Munsingwear was America’s underwear giant. Today, the Munsingwear brand is marketed by PremiumWear, Inc., and is best known for knit golf shirts with the penguin logo. PremiumWear, Inc. also markets Jockey brand underwear. The Vassarette brand is still around. It’s now as part of Vanity Fair Brands, LP.

But the Hollywood-Maxwell brand is history.


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© 2008 Werner Weiss — Disclaimers, Copyright, and Trademarks

Updated May 29, 2008.

Wizard of Bras from Hollywood-Maxwell advertisement, 1955: courtesy Orange County Archives.
“Mechanical Wizard” article & photo from 1955 ad supplement: courtesy Orange County Archives.
The Disneyland News, September 1955 image and article © Disney.
Photo of former Intimate Apparel Shop: 2005 by Werner Weiss.