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She Was an American Girl
Quick content warning, fine folks. I’ll be addressing sexuality and nudity in this blog. If sex, sexuality, nudity (even though I won’t be posting nude photos), or the mention of said topics upsets you or makes you uncomfortable, you might want to back out of this post now! Thank you!
America is a melting pot! It’s one of the great things about this country. We’ve incorporated and embraced the creations of other cultures and adopted them as our own.
But let’s talk about purely American creations. Jazz music. Sales tax. And pin-up girls. Ah, pin-up girls! As a fashion-obsessed woman, pin-ups are a truly American cultural phenomenon I can get behind. Well, that and jazz music.
More than a century after pin-ups were created as a sort of burlesque marketing campaign, we remain fascinated by these naughty still-life images of alluring sexpots.
Now, whatever your opinion of nudity or sexuality, particularly female sexuality, pin-ups are cemented in our culture.
The very word pin-up was considered taboo in the early 20th century. These photos and drawings of cute women in suggestive poses were called cheesecake photos. I remember hearing this term when I was a kid and thinking, what on earth does that even mean? These pictures have nothing to do with dessert, and to this day, I can’t figure out why they were called cheesecake photos.
Cheesecake, pin-up, whatever you choose to call them, they’re hot, hot, hot!
Sexually suggestive images of women are nothing new, and they weren’t new even back when pin-ups had their heyday. But coming on the heels of the Victorian era, which repressed female sexuality, daring, bold images of women as sexual beings were scandalous! Some of the images were merely scantily clad women while others were partially or fully nude.
Given the abundance of nude images the good old interwebs offers us in our modern era, pin-ups almost seem quaint. Pornography is rather easy to access, after all, including things that make a peek-a-boo breast seem absolutely adorable.
As a culture, we seem simultaneously over-sexed and puritanical. I don’t think there are easy answers for why this is, but this is a cutesy-poo blog post about pin-ups, not a thesis.
Back to World War II.
And pin-up photographs blow up like a rocket’s red glare! Servicemen pinned them on their walls. You might recognize Betty Grable at the top of this post. It remains one of the most iconic pin-ups in history.
It’s important to note that Vargas girls, those beautiful girls painted by Alberto Vargas, had been appearing in Esquire magazine for almost a decade before WWII. But American service members went absolutely bonkers for these beautiful ladies.
Vargas girls were painted on the noses of airplanes! They were tattooed on shoulders and chests! They were everywhere!
There is a definite look and feel about the pin-up image. Come-hither, for sure. But also very subtle. Even the nudity in full nude pieces seems almost accidental. As if oopsie-doodles! You walked in on me! Or this feather-light negligee I always walk around in just happened to fall, revealing a breast. There’s a voyeuristic quality to them, like we stumbled upon this unexpected beauty quite by accident, and we can’t look away. And that’s what it feels like to discover them even in this modern era.
Making the unapproachable approachable. This could be why so many Hollywood starlets were the subject of these pin-up photographs. Your average Joe could never have a Marilyn Monroe, but he could certainly pin a photo of her on his wall. Rita Hayworth, Jane Russell, Veronica Lake, and Ava Gardner were all the fantasy women that graced pin-up images. And I could write an entire book (and many have) on Bettie Page, even though she rose to prominence post-World War II.
I’ve even been inspired by pin-ups while modeling some looks for the shop.
This mid-century nightie and robe is currently available at the shop:
This babe, however, was recently sold, but I love the floaty look of vintage lingerie! And my inspiration for these photographs leaned heavily on those iconic pin-up images.
So let’s hear it for those all-American pin-up girls! And let sexual freedom ring, baby!