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Meg Hansen is going through her underwear drawer. Lingerie is piling up on her bed as she digs deeper, making the tiniest puffs of sound when pieces land on top of one another. She pulls out a few bullet bras, plus an amazing example of vintage shapeware: white high-waisted underwear with a corset tie in the front. They don’t conceal quite as well as modern-day Spanx, she explains, but that’s not really the point. She digs deeper.
“And these are just so comfortable. They just feel so good,” she says, holding a handful of delicate slips like a bouquet. “I know they don’t serve much of a function, but I would wear a slip under my jeans if I could.”
Going through her lingerie, it becomes clear what’s at the center of the allure of modern pin-up, at least for Hansen. For her, it’s more than a yearning for a different time, or an attempt to stand out and be different, or a hipster trend. It’s not about vanity or even about beauty. It’s about personality and identity. Hansen doesn’t like the slip just because it is pretty, or just because it is vintage. She doesn’t like it because her friends like it. She likes the way it feels on her legs.
King expresses the same love for the style and time while talking about her sometimes extensive hair and makeup routine. She also addresses the potential perception that being into modern pin-up and self-photography means being vain.
“This is the way I like to present myself. It’s not a waste of my time because it makes me feel good. It makes me feel good and that’s all that matters,” she says. “The pictures are for me. There’s nothing better than getting all dolled up, getting your picture taken and thinking, I look good. I do it for me.”
Or as Hansen says, “Women back then didn’t have less on their plates, but their plates were very different looking. Doing your hair and makeup wasn’t considered extra, it was standard hygiene. I think that’s how a women’s world was designed. The modern idea of beauty is so narrow. [Modern pin-up] is all-inclusive—we get that comment a lot. It is never a matter of, Am I beautiful enough? It’s about hard work to create and market my product. The product is yourself: classic vintage, rockabilly, suicide girl, fetish. It’s getting to create what makes you feel happy and beautiful.”
But perhaps Stella Pearl put it best during the pin-up girl workshop: “Traditional pin-up art used to be for the men. Modern pin-up is for women.”
Traditional pin-up was for men, modern pin-up is for women. This is the key to understanding what pin-up means to the new generation of enthusiasts. To see what Hansen really means by this is as easy as surfing the Internet or flipping through one of the many modern pin-up magazines. These are the places where women who work hard to create pin-up photos of themselves submit their art and also where they go for inspiration.
At first glance, many of the photos look similar to the originals of the ’40s and ’50s: the makeup is the same, the facial expressions are the same, their beveled legs are angled just so. But differences appear in quick succession. Many of the models are tattooed and many have brightly dyed hair. Although the photo themes and sets are similar, modern pin-ups are, much like Stella Pearl suggested, knowingly playing off the old, traditional and sometimes even offensive ideas of the past.
In one picture, a woman in an apron, holding an iron, poses on the set of a hilariously filthy kitchen. Another website displays a collection of Art Frahm pictures, including the one featuring grocery bags and ankle panties, but each image is recreated with goth- and fetish-inspired models sporting combat boots, mohawks and face piercings.
The biggest difference, though, may be that while the most iconic pin-ups of the past were painted—and mostly painted by men—the new pin-ups showcase real people with real bodies and faces, even if they are still trying to create magic and illusion. Today’s pin-up comes in all shapes and sizes, not to mention races. They are well aware of the art they are creating, and in fact many have designed their own hair, makeup, wardrobe, set and concept. And they don’t expect to be pinned above an oily tool bench in a dusty garage. They don’t even expect a paycheck. They take the photos for themselves and each other. They are all, without exception, having fun.
How to put a little pin-up in your life
Ready to make your pin-up debut (or just celebrate the pin-up resurgence)? Cigarette Girls Burlesque hosts a pin-up pageant emceed by Stella Pearl and Legs á la Mode Sunday, June 15, at 5 p.m. at Rock Creek Lodge. Entry fee is $15. Visit the Cigarette Girls Burlesque on Facebook for more information. Also, Stella Pearl runs her next pin-up workshop July 12, from 2-4 p.m. $30. Visit Stella Pearl’s Facebook page for more information.
Get some red lipstick. Stella Pearl recommends heading to Smooch Cosmetics (125 E. Main St.) and asking for a blue-red shade. Be precise and patient when applying it; you can’t smear it on like a lip gloss.
Add a piece of nostalgia to your wardrobe. Stella says even adding a few vintage (or vintage-inspired) pieces to your wardrobe can help you give a nod to pin-up in your everyday dress. Head to Carlo’s One-Night Stand (109 S. Third St. W) to dig for treasures. If you’re feeling adventurous, ask to look in the basement.
Paint on some cat eyes. All you need is some black liquid eyeliner and access to YouTube—the best place to find vintage hair and makeup how-to videos.
Tell a fella that you’re busy doing your hair. These days, when women turn down a date because they’re washing their hair, it’s an accepted lie. But in the 1950s, women did have to spend about one night a week with curlers, bobby pins and round brushes. Take a night off to dedicate to self-care or attempt a new style (or just tell someone you did.)