Artful Conception #3: The A-Frame

In an article at printmag.com, design artist and critic, Steven Heller, claims that the cutoff-torso-spread-leg framing device is possibly the most frequently copied trope ever used. In fact, Heller calls it a "design virus"; one that persists to this day. He names it the "A-Frame".

Take a brief glimpse through old movie posters, books, records, comics, magazines, etc. and you'll find this device used over and over again. As I was compiling the gallery at the end of this post, it really did start to resemble a virus; one that's decades old. There's been other so-called design viruses (the polka dot design virus of the 60's, for example), but none so consistent and long term.
As usual, I couldn't leave well enough alone, and had to start dissecting the reasons why this is so prevalent.
According to one source, "a woman’s legs in the A-frame position usually connote domination and empowerment over a puddle of males, and lots and lots of sex". Sounds reasonable enough - you don't have to think too hard to arrive at the conclusion that a close-up of a faceless woman's legs, spread apart, must have some sexual connotation.

image source

Read on if you'd like to check out a gallery of the "A Frame" and other images that come close.  This being Retrospace, these are all vintage pictures; however, you can find just as many contemporary examples quite easily.

These next courtesy Epiclectic

Wilt Chamberlain at bat, 1963 (source)


  1. =v= I don't think "domination and empowerment" is the main signifier here. Certainly some of these images convey that intent, but most of them simply put the legs in the foreground to make them easier to ogle.

  2. Actually good stuff here and thanks for compiling it all into one neat little package. I recently got in a film and the poser art seemed like something for one of your subliminal posts. I think the 'hidden' message is clear for this poster for the exploitation film about an obscene phone caller The Telephone Book:

    scroll down a couple images


  3. Jym- I agree. Easier ogling is probably the real story here, not some deep subconscious meaning.

    Bill- I followed your link; not too subtle. Thanks for the comment.

  4. No wonder I'm a leg man. I've been exposed to them for decades through different media. By the way, great site! I've been perusing most of the day.

  5. Whatever happened to pantyhose and stockings, anyway?

  6. AnonymousMay 19, 2012

    they are uncomfortable is what happened... this is just a fantasy view, not a symbol of empowerment quite obviously -love, a female

  7. http://www.coverbrowser.com/image/american-flagg/46-1.jpg