Pretty in Pin-up

Pin-up girl tattoos, pin-up girl cosmetics packaging, pin-up girl postcards, pin-up pins on Pinterest… where does it end? And, are you sick of it?

While I admit that it’s a bit much sometimes, deep down, I’ve always found the retro pin-up aesthetic very appealing. What is it about the 1940s and 50s American pin-up girl that captures the imagination today?

“Charming” by Gil Elvgren

I have some theories:

  • Classic femininity: In today’s pornofabulous media environment, it’s sort of sweet to see rather wholesome-looking women in cheeky, rather than overtly sexual, poses.
  • Clean aesthetic: The look of classic pin-up is usually very crisp and defined. The skin is fresh and clear (and unfortunately white; these were the bad old days), the makeup is simple, usually just some red lipstick and blush, maybe some eyeliner. And the hair is long and unicoloured; no complicated highlights or edgy asymmetry to be seen anywhere. If there’s clothing involved, it’s usually simple and very feminin.

    Tattoo artist Kat Von D

  • Easily adaptable: From punk to rockabilly, because the pin-up look is so clean and classic, it allows lots of room for reinterpretation. Think of the L.A. punk aesthetic of tattooist Kat Von D; she’s like a pin-up girl gone a little messy and dangerous. Many of the brave women of the roller derby revival also channel this look. Another revival happening is the burlesque revival! Check out Dita Von Teese; she remains very true to the classic look while adding a modern sexuality to the presentation.
  • Woman-friendly(er): Even though the pin-up is essentially an object meant to arouse men, she does hold some appeal for today’s women. It’s a question of context! Unlike the women we are used to seeing in contemporary media, the pin-up could be the girl next door. She’s not intimidating or a femme fatale. She doesn’t have a personal chef, doesn’t spend 2 hours a day at the gym, and she’s certainly not a high-achieving career woman. In other words: SHE ISN’T PERFECT. She’s like us. Maybe her thighs jiggle, but she’s still playful and sexy.

    Burlesque star Dita Von Teese

So get used to seeing this look continue to be celebrated and reinvented in years to come. I don’t think the pin-up girl is going anywhere!

What’s your take on the pin-up girl? Are you inspired by it?


  1. Before reading through this whole post I was going to say that the pin up was still kinda like porn back in the day when it existed because that was what was devious back then. But now, I guess I’d absolutely take your view on it if you consider them to be more like the everyday girl. I see where you are going with that.

    • Yes, well I think that’s why it’s so appealing now is that we’re used to seeing images that are much more explicit. There’s a bit of nostalgia there, like jeez, THAT used to be naughty? It’s so cute!

  2. Very true! 🙂

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