The bra store that was too racy for Disneyland guests

Photo of Katie Dowd

When you imagine Disneyland in the 1950s, you likely imagine scenes of carefully sanitized fun. You probably do not think of someone contemplating, "What I actually need to do today is buy a new bra."

But that was the demographic (along with — we presume inadvertently — horny teens) served by Disneyland’s Wizard of Bras upon opening in July 1955. The store was one of the first things park guests saw as they ambled down Main Street, housed in a purpose-built pretty Victorian building with ornate white railings. 

“The Wonderful Wizard of Bras” — unclear how L. Frank Baum’s estate felt about that particular bit of appropriation — was the brainchild of Hollywood Maxwell, at that time one of the biggest bra makers west of the Mississippi. The lingerie company was famed for its V-Ette Whirlpool bra, which had that classic pointy shape you’re likely already envisioning when thinking of ‘50s shapewear. Advertisements sometimes featured a little cone-shaped bra wizard with bottomless black holes for eyes. He held up and wand and scissors, which look fairly menacing and not at all conducive to family-friendly fun.

Companies competed to get a spot on Disneyland’s Main Street which, upon opening, was even more of a commercial stretch than it is now. Today, most of the stores are strictly Disney apparel or food. Then, it was something of a mini strip mall, featuring well-known retailers and even a professional glass blowing show put on by Pyrex at the Crystal Arcade. In 1955, an advertisement in the Long Beach Independent lauded Hollywood Maxwell as one of 50 "famous names in American business" to win a bid for a Disneyland shop. 

The store was, in a word, weird. Like other Main Street stores, it was meant to evoke a late 19th century atmosphere. Half of the shop was made to look like a Victorian-era receiving room, complete with a fireplace, comfy sofa and old-fashioned drapery. The other half was just a lingerie store, selling the usual array of bras and other undergarments. 

"A most unusual and unique part of the display,” the advertisement boasted, “will be an authentic Singer Sewing Machine, circa 1860.”

This, by any objective measure, was not the most unusual part of the display. That distinction went to the Wizard of Bras, a mechanical figure who waved his “magic wand” at guests and rattled off a pre-taped spiel about the history of intimate apparel. 

Hollywood Maxwell advertised the experience thusly: “The Wonderful Wizard of Bras [is] on a revolving stage, on one side of which is a complete recreation of the fashions and intimate wear of the 1890s and on the other side a showing of the fashion of today."

After being educationally titillated by the Wizard, guests could peruse the latest in lingerie and make a few souvenir purchases to take home.

“Many men hesitate to enter the shop — especially older gentlemen accompanied by their wives,” the September 1955 issue of the Disneyland News wrote. “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!”

Bras were not hot sales items at a theme park geared toward minors and their guardians, however. According to legendary Imagineer Rolly Crump’s memoir “It’s Kind of a Cute Story,” the intimate apparel shop “only lasted six months before Disney asked them to leave.”

The store had a few more iterations, but in 2009 closed entirely to guests and now serves merely as a beautiful and decorative storefront. If you look up, you’ll see a pretty sign in the upper-floor window for Roland F. Crump’s Palm Parlor. 

Rolly Crump's window on Main Street U.S.A. at Disneyland. The shop used to be an "intimate apparel" store featuring the Wizard of Bras.

Rolly Crump's window on Main Street U.S.A. at Disneyland. The shop used to be an "intimate apparel" store featuring the Wizard of Bras.

Julie Tremaine

“My window is special to me, not only because it honors me, but because it’s hanging in a special place. The building it’s on is the only building on Main Street that has a porch,” Crump said in his memoir.  

"It was the oddest shop that was ever on Main Street," he added, "which, I suppose, suits me pretty well, doesn’t it?"

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