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May 17, 2012

Return of the Pinup!



So today's New York Times has an article about the popularity of the vintage pinup aesthetic, "A Sly Wink to Pinups of the Past" by Ruth La Ferla.  Do take a look.

I know most of you are going to be, like, So what else is new?  But it's always interesting to see how the mainstream press covers trends, especially a trend that, in sewing-blog land at least, has been around a long time, and probably longer elsewhere.

In this case, I'd say the Times is considerably behind the curve.  Behind the curve...pinup...get it?   Oh, I'm clever!


Pinup culture -- the vintage cheesecake, va-va-voom sort -- never really went away, though it moved outside the mainstream in the Nineteen-sixties and Seventies.  By then, magazines like Playboy and Penthouse were providing more explicit imagery than old-style pinups could deliver.  When hardcore pornography can be picked up at your local 7-Eleven, who needs a calendar girl in a bodystocking and toe shoes?


In the Seventies, performers like Bette Midler were sending up WWII-era pinup style.  The joke was that Bette was loud, coarse, and not beautiful, which was part of the reason she was so popular.  At the time it was considered a little transgressive.


Bette portrait by Annie Liebowitz

And then there was Farrah, whose pinups really weren't that far away from Rita Hayworth's when you think about it.  The difference is that you always saw Farrah in something sporty, never lacy lingerie, let alone a Jean Louis satin evening gown.  Farrah was active -- a pinup for the Feminist era.



I wasn't really aware of how popular vintage pinup style had become until I started sewing and reading blogs, though I had noticed that my local events magazine, Time Out New York, included burlesque listings and there are a lot of them -- female and male, if you can believe it.  Of course this is ironic, tongue-in-cheek burlesque, not Gypsy Rose Lee performing to a house full of heavy-breathing husbands.


I get the popularity of the pinup thing among young women, or at least I think I do, and many of the reasons for it are mentioned in the Times article.  Old-fashioned pinup girls (pinup women sounds like a pc parody) looked happy, healthy, and wholesome.


They had wide faces, rosy cheeks, flesh on their bones, and a twinkle in their eye.   They never looked angry, anorexic, or asexual.  Nobody was a size 0.


 A very different mindset.

Of course, many of the popular pinups of the day were illustrations rather than photos, but the poses and general aesthetic were similar.  The illustrated ones tend to be a little more sexually suggestive, but still tame by contemporary standards.  A flash of lower breast or stocking garter was about all you got, but that was part of the fantasy.  The idea was to suggest, to titillate playfully. 


Finally, while lifted, separated, and probably padded, the old-fashioned pinup's breasts were her own, as were all her other body parts.  There's something so refreshing about that!



In the sewing world, we can witness the pinup aesthetic in the growing interest in corsets and cinching (covered in the Times only yesterday -- I smell a trend), and in the popularity of vintage play suits and bathing attire, not to mention dark bangs and ruby red lipstick (I won't mention names).

Readers, what do you think of the return of pinup style?  Does it say something about our times, or is it just another all-too-predictable swing of the style pendulum?

Can you dress "sexy" and not look like you're selling yourself as an object?  (The pinup, remember, was so-named because she was image to be stuck on a soldier's wall and ogled -- good for morale and all that.)

Do you like to sew and/or dress in pinup attire?  If so, what do you like about it?

Put on your play suit and share!

35 comments:

  1. I am a big fan of the pin up aesthetic; I have always loved vintage culture and believe that we have lost a lot of the joy of titillation --why be entranced by a beautifully coiffed and made-up zaftig girl in lingerie when you can have it all naked and splayed out on a slab? Not very empowering, to my way of thinking.

    Over and above the fact that I find the clothes and environment much more interesting, I have several friends who are burlesque performers (some espousing a vintage aesthetic) and I enjoy their shows immensely. I'm very much looking forward to Dita von Teese's touring production (Strip, Strip, Hooray!) whenever it gets close enough for me to see it. She does vintage right.

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  2. This aesthetic is too stylized for me (from a wearing perspective), though I've been known to incorporate modern elements. Part of the challenge is, if one has a general "pinup shape", dressing to it makes on incredibly noticeable. I don't want to be stared at because I've highlighted every way in which my body conforms to that stereotype.

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  3. If you care to see some really bizarre pinup check out Art Frahm. He had a thing for fallen underwear.

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  4. I kind of like the pin-up aesthetic and, in sewing/blogging land, it fits in quite closely with the over-all trend for vintages styles.
    On the topic of the name and the function of the original images, maybe we are far enough removed from the times when women purely sexually decorative to feel we can play with the old stereotype. Or maybe we are, by now, all so jaded by more explicit imagery (sex sells and all that) that the once risque pin-up look now seems like wholesome good fun.

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    1. I think you're right on both counts -- it's fun to send up a stereotype that's far enough in the past not to feel threatening (to most), and it feels like play: it's FUN to put on pinup drag; you can always take it off!

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  5. I love the pin up style and aesthetic. There is no shortage of bosom and booty. It's so American, so iconic, so naughty Norman Rockwell. Playboy got it right with the use of the Bunnies. They are living breathing pin ups and men still go wild for it. IMHO the pin up look is far superior to the skanky look that many women shoot for. There is nothing attractive about a woman walking around the grocery store wearing shorts that make me want to barf and a tissue for a t-shirt. More is not better, it's just.... more.

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  6. I like the way you bring back memories. My brother had the same Farrah pinup in our room growing up. Personally, I think for style, class, and sophistication no one beats Cathy.
    ,

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  7. I sew and dress pin-up, retro, vintage... However you want to call it. Why? Because I have curves. Because I don't want everybody to see my underwear when I pick something up from the floor. Because it makes me feel beautiful and happy.
    It is very popular right now, I know. That has it's pro's and con's for me. But I will still like when the popularity of it fades.

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  8. I ADORE pin up fashions. I really love to play with mixing vintage pin up styles with modern pieces. For me dressing pin up is not about copping the look of the time exactly, it's about capturing the essence.

    Pin up style photography may not be so mainstream as to be in playboy, but there is still a huge following of men! A cute girl smiling and winking at them can be even more effective than nude and spread eagle.

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  9. I've loved the pin-up look for years (even in the 90's when it was all about "heroin chic" or cargo pants) but I could never hold myself to just pinup and nothing else. I was built with curves. Whether I'm size 2 or size 16, I will never have the Calvin Klein figure. Pin up swimsuits in particular are the best for my body shape. The pin-up/rockabilly look is very flattering for me (I think), but I love to have elements of all kinds of eras available in my closet. Also, elements of various vintage looks, for instance the items that Katherine Hepburn, Lauren Bacall, and other '40's actresses wore in their movies are absolutely wonderful, but a little too starched and covered up to be "pinup". The good thing about the pinup look becoming "popular" is that it does make for improved availability of some items, especially cute shoes, which makes it easier to get them for less expense. The downside is that when the trend is "over", those of us who still like those elements will run a risk of looking "so last season" instead of "vintage classic". (a risk I will probably be willing to take)

    It's interesting that you tie the rise in interest in corsets to pinup looks. I had thought it had to do with the vampire themes in popular entertainment in recent years. Next up, a movie with pinup vampires (probably from outer space because that would make for a good movie title)...it'll be a cult classic.

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  10. I love the pinup look! Just a few days ago, I came across a post showing the models posing for what would become those great pinup illustrations. I found it fascinating so I thought I would post it here, since it seemed relevant-
    http://www.retronaut.co/2012/05/pin-up-girls-before-and-after-ii-1950s/

    The models don't seem very comfortable in some of those poses, poor dears!
    -Natale

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    1. Those are fabulous! Thanks for the link.

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  11. Perhaps after the baby, Cathy will quickly regain her figure and reward us with, "A day at the beach, 2013". Sewing swimwear may prove to be beneficial for your readers, as well as provide Ms. Lane with a media storm of "she's still got it!" notoriety.

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  12. You know, that snap of Cathy leaves me wondering when Hollywood will come to its collective senses and cast her in a biopic of Edith Head!

    Dear Edith Head - she gave great costume....

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  13. I never gave them much of a thought until my daughter went ga-ga for pin-ups around 10 years ago...she even wrote a college paper about them...for Christmas this year I gave her 3 original pin-ups from esquire magazine. I adore them and if you will notice, I even have a pinterest board for them.

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  14. I need to know more about Numal. While I struggle to lose the same 10kg over and over again, my darling husband is struggling to gain weight and it seems that Numal might be the way for him to go!

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    1. Yes, and it will be "firm, attractive flesh" to boot! LOL

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  15. I think you hit the nail on the head with why they appeal to women as well as men - the pinups are normal and real-looking, healthy and most importantly they look like they're having fun. They're not offering sex, they're offering a shared giggle. The boob-implant woman does not look like she's having fun. The porn stars in the explicit photos do not look healthy, or normal, or like they're having fun. There is no joy in those, just crass consumerism and being shaved, implanted, injected, tanned and pouty. Blech.

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  16. Ah, the days of the "very different mindset." If only...

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  17. I do not but I greatly admire Dita Von Teese who is one of the best dressed women in the universe

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  18. Sassy vintage wear is basically why I sew. It's an affordable, well-fitted, form-fitting garment, but still kind of a costume, so the sex appeal has inherent humor. When we walk to a bar and I'm in my gear, the women wearing seven-inch heels and things that I can't decide are long tees or extremely short dresses make sure that I don't come off as flaunting myself. Florence King once said that "Southern flirting is fun, and besides it works." Same thing applies here. (Agree that Times reporter must have been living under a rock, though. Geez.) Great post!

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  19. I think that a lot of women today feel excluded from ever being desirable or sexy in their own bodies. The difference between the model in the pink bikini and the Marilyn Monroe picture says it all. I'm a bit worried about the fashion industry exploiting the interest for pinup style. Not that there are anything wrong with seeing more of it. I'm just so tired of the juvenile, size 0 version of everything.

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  20. It's a good thing I'm not closer to NY--I might hunt that Cathy down and steal her playsuit! ;) lol.

    I, as you know, definitely love adding a bit of the pinup look to my daily outfits. I've always been drawn to the more "vintage" style of beauty, and the pin up aesthetic (to me) is just a bit more stylized and specific. I've never been super skinny, so gravitating towards a look that flatters the "curvier" parts is more appealing than trying to fit into styles that don't work well with curves. I've found a lot of people either find it terribly ugly ("why are you dressing like our grandmothers did?!") or attractive. It's not for everyone, that's for sure!

    And Peter, just for a moment after you said something about "short dark bangs", I had an urge to finally chop my bangs into the iconic Bettie Page style... Been toying with the idea for awhile, but still can't commit. ;) (Because when it comes to hair, I've got a phobia about commitment... lol.) But somehow I've been itching to add even a bit more pinup flair to the ol' face... ;)

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  21. Well, historically the pin-up jiggle body form of the 40's is in sharp contrast to the thin straight style of the 20's and 30's. But I think it is also noteworthy that the 30's were leaner times. As we entered WW2, there was a sense of prosperity (even though everything was rationed), a lot of families had everyone in the house working: men off to war, women working in production factories and older children were busy with collecting metals and whatnot.

    It is a reflection of the times, the pin-up. A lush vibrant representation of our society, economy and culture.

    I think it is interesting that some of the fashion houses have come out and stated that they will not display models who are under aged or under weight. I think the actual verbiage was "models who displayed eating disorders." We are again, as a society and culture, in leaner times and the fashion of the day is bone thin.

    With the exception of the pin up subcult, we are socially and culturally educated to believe an ounce of fat is shameful. Almost all images flashed before us involve skin and bones. Heroin chic came at a time when drugs were normal. Now, we are expected to be thin but healthy.

    I suppose these are ramblings and wanderings, however, I am hoping I am making some sense, and not enraging anyone. Do take care, Peter, I enjoy reading your blog.

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    1. I agree! Excellent insights.

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    2. I wish I had the article, but back in the 1990s Newsweek did a feature on fashion styles as heroin chic was settling in as the dominate style. The author argued that thin styles held sway in Democratic eras, as the emphasis on youth, freedom, egalitarianness, and even the "maternal state" led to styles that encouraged thin bodies. In Republic ears, the trend went towards a more curvaceous body because people wanted a more maternal image to identify (the state was "cold") and with the veneration of traditional gender roles, fashion did so as well. I'm not sure I completely buy it (some of the 80s looks are somewhat men's styles for women), but it is a provocative way of thinking about the intersection of style and politics.

      What was also interesting about some of the WWII-era pin up images is how they also used Americana, like Dorothy pinafores, red-white-n-blue garments, and even factory wear to reinforce the idea of a nation pulling together. Rosie the Riveter, Andrew the Airman, and Betty Grable all did their part for the war and all were cloaked in a sense of patriotic optimism than is missing from the more explicit post-modern pin up as envisioned by FHM, Maxim, etc.

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  22. I'm a photographer and painter that has started shooting Pin-Up inspired shots. My models love it. I think they like knowing that their curves are sexy, and that mainstream media has it all wrong. I also think they have fun with the playful sexuality.

    We start by taking a shot that is similar to an actual vintage pin-up painting, then just let the shoot happen from there.

    If you'd like to check them out, the family friendly ones are here:
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Donigans-Celtic-Creations/155042194602500?sk=photos

    -Daemon Donigan

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  23. Youngest DD has been a Betty Paige fan for years, and Dita Von Teese also. I believe her show was here recently. Pin-up was a lot more fun than the more explicit stuff that's around now.

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  24. Sorry to be the odd one out, but I found a couple of the things in this post a bit sad. I am that 'size zero' 'asexual'-looking 'anorexic'-looking woman (I'm not anorexic and never have been, just built 'bone thin' as someone else commented). And the media and culture (even blog posts and comments) constantly tell me that I'm not really a woman because my breasts are 30AAs. So that ad saying 'skinny girls are not glamour girls' that you've described as a different mindset, it really isn't. It's exactly the same mindset as is widely held now. As an experiment, try to see how many AA-sized bras are available in department or lingerie stores. Victoria's Secret certainly don't make them.
    Sorry to be the downer comment, but I just think that celebrating a particular style doesn't have to involve any language that is negative or critical of others. I'm sure that wasn't your intention, though.

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    1. I've always been big, but I agree-- at both ends of the size spectrum, there is a social tendency to neuter women's bodies. Or to inventive a narrative-- skinny must mean obsessed, or sick, or anorexic-- fat must be lazy, or gluttonous, or out of control. And I want to go on the record as HATING the expression "real woman." Real women are shaped through experience, time, and life, not verified or created by a shape or size.

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    2. Linda, I think you've described it perfectly. And I really love your last sentence about real women. That phrase always bugs me, because it does the opposite of what it's meant to - it's assumed to be inclusive, but it ends up being exclusive, just like the model/fashion/celebrity ideal it's supposed to criticise. If we're women, we're all real women, there is no further qualification needed.

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    3. Thanks for sharing this, Pam. I appreciate hearing your perspective.

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    4. You're welcome, Peter. Overall I did like the post, I'm not really into the pin-up style myself but I do appreciate it's stylised aesthetic, it was just those couple of words I didn't like.

      Sad, isn't it, how much we all absorb the relentless negativity about our bodies and how we should look that even trying to be encouraging is fraught. And because we're all so different, there are so many different things that can make us feel bad about ourselves. I wish there was an easy answer to how to not be affected by what the media and society tell us about how we should look, but I guess it's the million dollar question.

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  25. I enjoy vintage pin up posters but this take on them using male models really cracked me up: http://www.flickr.com/photos/clickandclash/sets/72157626584908000/with/6217378212/

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  26. Fun post! I do pinup modeling and love the vintage lifestyle as well. Came across by way of Elegant Musings. LOVE the playsuit image at the end! Get ready for summer!!!

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