Pinup girls are an iconic American pop culture image. The modern pinup photoshoots we do today pay homage to the rich history of pinup girls from decades past.
Let's take a look at where the pinup tradition comes from and how we're bringing its unique spirit to photography today.
The Origins of Pinup Girls
Pinup girls are most associated with World War II, but they actually started evolving as early as the 1800s.
Advertisements and calendars depicting an idealized female form started cropping up in the 1880s. However, Charles Dana Gibson's "Gibson Girl" is usually cited as the first "official" pinup girl.
The Gibson Girl was meant to represent the ideal American woman. She first appeared in LIFE magazine in the 1890s. Charles Gibson wanted to show a conventionally attractive woman who was well-educated and independent, but not overly political.
Similar illustrations appeared again in World War I recruitment posters.
These prints showed round faced women in military uniforms encouraging young men to enlist. This laid the groundwork for the 1940s pinup girl.
The Height of the Pinup Era
As we mentioned earlier, the pinup girl is most closely associated with World War II, when she became popular.
Pinup girls were not only used in recruitment campaigns, but also passed out to soldiers to boost morale. These images were supposed to remind the men what they were fighting for. This is where the term "pinup" comes from, because the images were meant to be pinned up on the walls of the barracks.
The pinup art style remained popular after the war as well. Pinup girls appeared in all kinds of advertisements, showing fun, flirty, and sexy women.
Around this time, people started referring to pinup pictures as "cheesecake photos," as the term "pinup" had become taboo.
Who Is the Most Famous Pinup Girl?
Betty Grable is usually considered the most famous pinup girl. She was an actress and model who did a pinup photoshoot in 1943 wearing a bathing suit. It became the most popular and famous pinup photo, and has been named one of the most influential images in the world.
Modern Pinup Girls
Today, pinup photoshoots mimic the style of the 1940s and 1950s pinup girls.
A modern pinup photo should show off the subject's personality. The model wears vintage outfits including military uniforms, bathing suits, lingerie, and 50’s housewife dresses.
Pinup photos can be revealing, but they mainly try to showcase the beauty of the female form and celebrate femininity.
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