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There’s a lot that can be said about the vintage pin up style that is still popular today. It’s risque but not explicit, flirtatious but independent, exciting but usually leaving much to the imagination. When you think of the term ‘pin up girl’, what image comes into your head? Many think of the all natural American sweetheart originally created to win the adoration of men everywhere. Illustrations of girls were everywhere in the 1900s-1950s, and they were associated with things like bouncy girls, rosy cheeks, and an hourglass, well-endowed figure. Illustrations quickly became photographs of the most beautiful Hollywood women, and the rest is history!

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Let’s talk more about the history of the pin up girl, what pin up girl style is about, and the resurgence of pin up girl style!

The History Of The Pin Up Girl

Since the 1890s, girls have been drawn, painted and photographed as the beauty ideal and were later labelled ‘pin ups’. It was in the 20th century when true pin up style as it is known today came into focus. Many say that ‘pin up’ is a by-product of men attempting to repress women’s freedom of expression.

Would you believe that it all started due to a bicycle? Doctors and men of the era deemed these contraptions not suitable for women due to their ‘sensitive insides’ that could easily be shook around when riding and seats that could cause friction and ‘arouse’ them. Women were generally excited by the concept, as it meant they no longer required a man’s help to get from A-B. It meant freedom and independence!

However, full length skirts and dresses didn’t make it easy for women to ride these bicycles. Practical pants that were more fitting were donned by many ladies, highlighting and enhancing parts of the figure they had concealed in the past. Although still leaving much to the imagination, this was just the start of women becoming more masculine and sexy at the same time. Things got truly interesting!

Jules Cheret, a Parisian artist from the time, was one of the first to exhibit young and voluptuous women in posters and magazines. However, the 1900s Gibson Girls from Charles Dana Gibson were closer to the pin up girls we think of today. They were never as risque as pin up girls from the 40s and 50s, but they did begin to celebrate new ideas of beauty. They tended to have piled high hair, full lips, and curvaceous figures with sweetheart necklines. There were countless imitators of Gibson as the images became more popular and well known all over the world.

The images were soon printed in magazines and became easily attainable to all. This was also helped by the fact that in 1903, the calendar girl was born (after calendars of George Washington failed to sell). People started displaying flirtatious images of women on their walls.

The 1910s and 1920s saw the Ziegfield girls, who were essentially scantily clad stage girls. Women from the roaring 20s were enjoying the Jazz era and making the most of their freedom while their husbands were away. They became more teasing and flirtatious, and revealed more of themselves in the way they dressed. Women had never known freedom like it and were making the most of it.  

In the 1930s and 40s, the Varga girls were the most well known of pin up art around, thanks to Alberto Vargas. They were often shown in risque costumes and military or navy uniforms. The actual term ‘pin up’ didn’t come about until the 1940’s, derived from the tendency for cheap, mass-produced photographs to be torn from magazines and “pinned up” on walls. A cheap and attractive decoration for boys and men!

Millions of these images were shipped out to soldiers during the war. World War II was heavily impacted by pin up culture, as illustrations and photographs were used to keep soldiers ‘morale’ up. This is when pin up reached its hey-day. Essentially the images were pieces of propaganda draped in flags and national symbols. Their purpose was to encourage men to join the war and make them forget about the horrors that could await them once they got there. When men looked at these images in magazines, on walls, and out of their pockets, they had a reminder of ‘what they were fighting for’.

In the 1940s and 50s, Hollywood pinups were the norm. Bettie Page took the culture from mere illustration to photograph, and is known as one of the most collected pin up girls in history. There are many other Hollywood pinups that could be listed here; Betty Grable, Rita Hayworth, Lucille Ball, Veronica Lake, Jane Russell, Ginger Rogers, and so many more women were popular. You would be hard pressed to find a locker door without one of these attractive women pinned up on the inside.

Christian Dior soon piloted a new avenue of advertising, integrating pin ups into print ads. It was then that pin up advertisements were seen everywhere. You couldn’t turn around without seeing a pin up advertisement. People were finally starting to realize the fact; sex sells.

In 1953, Alberto Vargas was hired by a brand-new publication, one that would become much less subtle in its depictions of women: Playboy. Rather than showing risque costumes and flirtatious poses, Playboy favored full nudity. However, this was viewed as classy art photography, and pin up culture continued to grow as a result.

Pin Up Girl Style

Pin up girl style is so distinctive, that you would know it right away if you saw it. The hairstyles, the makeup, and the clothing all make pin-up what it is, although there are variations of each element. This makes pin up style highly enjoyable to emulate and allows each girl to remain authentic in her dress.  

When it comes to pin up girl hair styling, it is often sleek and bouncy, whatever style it has been teased into. Victory rolls were the most popular style of the 40s, which you could wear with an up or down style. Both large and smaller victory rolls could be found on the glamorous ladies at the time. The fringe could be pinned under into an attractive curl, or each sides of the hair could be pinned back. Pin curls were another hugely popular style; these were tight curls often pinned up while keeping the sweep of the curl, or styled into a bouncy bob: think Marilyn Monroe.

A bouncy pony with a bow, bandana, large flower, or another type of hair accessory was also a popular hair style. As long as it was bouncy and polished, you could get away with it as a pin up girl!

Pin up makeup is also extremely distinctive. You’d be hardpressed to find a pin up girl without their trademark red lip! Usually, the lip is pillar box red and ultra matte, but you can find glossy shades and darker red lips also. Heavy black eyeliner is usually a must, helping to create that sought after ‘cat eye’ effect. Groomed, arched brows are important for finishing the look, and finally, blushed cheeks. The look is sexy, distinctive, and unique. It’s a look that is still popular today.

A well placed beauty spot on top of the cheek or by the lip can also be added to the look, and was made desirable by ladies like Marilyn Monroe.

In terms of what to wear, there are many options to get that unique and sexy pin up girl style. Button up shirt dresses are a great option, and can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion.

It has to be said that every pinup girl should own at least one A line skirt. These skirts are associated with the classic shape of the pin up girl and can help to create more curves than ever before. You can purchase standalone A-line skirt styles or A-line dresses.

The midi length is usually the most popular length when going for pin up girl style. That being said, in modern day pin up girl styles, there aren’t any hard and fast rules.

Sweetheart necklines show off just the right amount of skin and are another classic style of the 40s and 50s.

A cinched in waist is usually a must, so something belted can be worn, or you can add a waist belt to get the perfect hourglass shape. Something that pulls you in can give even straight up and down ladies the desired hourglass look. Then you have the fun elements of pin up dress, such as incorporating patterns like polka dots (a hugely popular pattern), and bow accents on the chest. There are hundreds of different styles available for modern day pin up girls, helping you to achieve an individual look that you really love. Don’t forget to add your high heels, usually peep/rounded toe stilettos or wedges, to finish off your outfit.

These are just some of the most popular available and instantly recognizable!

The Difference Between 1940s and 1950s Pinup

The 1940s and the 1950s were the golden era of pin up girls. It’s when the phrase was coined and is considered the hey-day of the culture by all. However, there are slight differences between 1940s girls and 1950s girls.

In the 1940s, pin up girls were considered flirtatious and risque for the era. They usually wore military uniforms and other ‘male’ associated dress, and in many cases, they were not women, but illustrations. As time moved forward and Hollywood women began posing for calendars and advertisements, clothing changed, the hemlines became shorter, and way more skin was on show. By 1953, pin ups were posing naked in Playboy magazine – the first being Marylin Monroe. She was paid $50 to do so, which was a huge wad of cash back then.

The Resurgence Of Pin Up Culture

Pin up culture may have quietened down for a while. After all, we had the swinging 60s, when flower power reigned everywhere. We had the flares and high neck jumpers of the 70s. We had the 80s with its crazy patterns and reimagined shapes. The grunge scene of the 90s. Finally, the noughties, with spaghetti strap tops and platform shoes defining the Y2K trend.

Certain trends come around again and again, and Pinup culture is no exception. However, the difference between pin up styles and other styles is that pin up is truly a lifestyle. Modern day pin up women are dedicated to the glamor, the makeup, and the shapes that make pin up what it is. ‘Retro’ styles are a source of interest for many today, but there’s a difference between retro and pin up.

Pin up girls of the modern age are still associated with glamor, curves, and wit. You can just look at ladies like Dita Von Teese as proof. She is an advocate of glamor, all day every day, and her style shows it. She claims that she is not the prettiest, that she does not have the best figure, or that she is the best dancer, but that her pin up style makes her unique and confident.

Then we have Burlesque troops that seem to be becoming more and more popular. Even ladies like Scarlet Johanson emulate the pin up trend well, even if in a more subtle manner than Dita.

In the modern age, it’s all too easy to access things online that leave little or nothing to the imagination. We’re a long way away from the early pin up years when these things were nigh on impossible to come by. However, as these things are so easy to find, people are looking to seek out things that leave more to the imagination instead. Enter: pin up style!

Pin up culture is no longer solely adored by males. It’s something that women love. Very few people are stick thin; the average woman has curves and wants to find ways to feel confident and celebrate them. Celebrating one’s curves (or enhancing non existent curves) in a glamorous and exciting way has never been easier with pin up style!  

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