Cute, isn’t she?
If you’re into vintage style – or even just doing some exploratory googling on the subject – you won’t be able to turn a proverbial corner without hitting an online dress shop that sells a “pin up dress” or “pin up girl fashion” that, if you’re like me, you drool over while lamenting the fact that food is a thing you have to buy. But while the clothes all have a similar style, it’s hard to know what defines a pin up just from looking at the clothes. What’s the difference between plain old 40s and 50s style and pin up style?
It can all be a little confusing.
So what’s a pin up girl?
Pin up girls have a long and storied history, beginning as far back as the 1800s, but in short, pin up girls were girls who were photographed – or drawn – as the ideal of beauty at the time. They ranged from tasteful and vaguely suggestive to outright nudes, and were commonly pinned up to the walls and in the lockers of soldiers. They got their big break during World War 1 and World War 2, when the United States were attempting to recruit troops – and encourage the ones they already had.
How do pin up girls dress?
Since this is a style and fashion blog, we’re going to skip over the pin up girls who didn’t wear clothes, ha.
Traditionally, pin-up style is defined by an hourglass figure and clothes that accentuate, or create the illusion of, that figure. High-waisted shorts and bathing suit bottoms are common, along with swing dresses and A-line skirts. Tight fitting pencil skirts and wiggle dresses were also common. Pin up girls from the 1940s were likely to be decked out in faux-military garb because their chief audience were soldiers in World War 2; 50s-era pinups were on pretty much an advertising free-for-all, so they could be wearing any of the above, in any theme.
Pin up girls usually wore full, red lips and rosy blush, with defined and groomed brows. Their hair was commonly in pin curls or victory rolls. Bullet or cone bras were common, especially during the 50s, popularized by Marilyn Monroe and her iconic sweater look.
Pin up style is especially flattering for curvier figures, and for the girl who doesn’t have an hourglass, it can be achieved through strategic dressing – or even wearing a corset!
I want to dress like this! Where do I start?
I would suggest starting with a tube of red lipstick.
No joke – it’s as simple as that. Go for a cheap one from Wet N’ Wild if you’re on a budget. Get one as deep and as bright as your complexion allows, and wear it to school or to work, even if you’ve only really thought of red as an evening color before now. Buy three or four cheap ones, if you want, cause they’re only a dollar, and see which one fits your skin tone best, and then paint your nails to match.
Get a pencil skirt, or some high-waisted shorts. Try adding belts to dresses you already have to define your waistline, and learn how to do basic pin curls. Wear a flower or a feather in your hair. Drool over dresses on ModCloth and PinUpGirlClothing.com or even make them yourself!
Watch old movies for inspiration, and google pictures of old propaganda posters and advertisements to find out which pin-up looks you love the most. Hit up those online shops, my new pinup babies, educated with the knowledge that no, you still have to buy canned green beans instead of buying that red polka dot dress, but at least you know where it comes from, now. Bam, knowledge.
What about you? What’s your favorite pinup look? Do you have a pinup fashion idol? I’m particularly fond of actress Rita Hayworth – let me know yours in the comments!