Show girls on black & white
Computex Taipei has recently come to a successful close for another year. It seems that trade shows in Taiwan, big and small, all have to have “show girls,” who use up photographers’ film and memory card space, if they are to win media attention. The online discussion sparked off by the decision of a NTU (Taiwan’s premier university) to chose being a show girl as her career showed that there will always be controversy in Taiwan when a top student, and a female at that, chooses an unconventional career.

Show girls or rather “show misses” at the time actually appeared in Taiwan in the 1950s. During Taiwan’s period under Japanese rule “advertising board girls” were a
form of advertising that spread from Japan. The “modern” trend at the time encouraged Taiwan’s women to leave agricultural society and become part of the modern business system, their young and pretty faces quickly finding a place in service industries and business. 

After the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War and then the Pacific War in 1941, luxury became the public enemy and the role of women changed, their image being Yamato Nadeshiko" (literally Daughter Spirit of Japan) serving the emperor and the country. After the end of WW2 and the return of Taiwan to Chinese rule, the clothing and image of women in Taiwan changed dramatically, with qipao Chinese gowns replacing kimono and national defense uniforms, “the traditional virtues of Chinese women” and other such words becoming part of people’s lives. In the 1950s Taiwan emerged from the rubble of the war and light industry, making essential goods, began to develop. Sales promotion became a key to economic development. Using attractive young women to attract business became a strategy supported by the government.

In the 1959 ROC Made Products Show Brochure we see the show girls being selected and their parade, all with the support of the organizers; these activities were, in fact, the highlights of the show. The show girls from the 1950s and 60s dressed far more conservatively than those we have seen since the 1990s.Today’s show girls only have to do their best for the product they represent and their own purse while the show girls of yesteryear had to take part in float parades and even wear military helmets to inspire patriotic feelings in the hearts of the people. 

Film maker unknown(October  3, 1959-Novemeber 11,1959/)。”1959 ROC Made Products Show Brochure” TELDAP Union Catalogs. on June 8, 2010)

1959 was the first year of the 1959 ROC Made Products Show and also the year when Taiwan was hit by a devastating typhoon on August 7. After the show the show girls traveled to south and central Taiwan to entertain the troops working on reconstruction. This new clip shows that after the typhoon there were no divisions in society or loss of faith in the government like happened after the August 8 flood disaster of 2009 and, helped by industrialization, “man will conquer nature” was the dominant thinking in society at the time. The fact that show girls entertaining the troops featured in a news film shows how important they were in Taiwan at the time


Film maker unknown(1959/12/12-1959/12/16)。”Show girls entertain the troops”。《TELDAP Union Catalogs》。 on June 8, 2010)

In this film “The 1964 ROC-made product exhibition opens” we can see famous local brands like Baolida health drink and Chang Kuo-chou stomach powder and also see the show girls busily receiving customers. With their smiling faces and busy scenes this film can serve as testimony to the gathering pace of Taiwan’s post-WW2 economic development. 

Film maker unknown(February 2,1964-March 3,1964)。”The 1964 ROC-made product exhibition opens”《TELDAP Union Catalog》。 on June 8, 2010)

In this film we see Miss Swan surrounded by group of male admirers asking for her autograph, we also see a company’s female workers on the production line busily sewing away. These women didn’t attract as much attention as the beautiful show girls but they played a central, albeit behind the scenes role, in Taiwan’s economic take-off.


Film maker unknown “Miss Swan receives a warm welcome from the public””。《TELDAP Union Catologs》。 on June 8, 2010)


No matter what the era people always strive to find their own way to survive amid the main trends of society. People can make a contribution to society in production, R&D, marketing, promotional work or service. Taking a look at the show girls from several decades ago, their beauty and vitality still move us.


Text and films are provided by TELDAP e-Newsletter (August, 2010)