I’ve been infatuated with pin-ups ever since I opened a Gil Elvgren planner a few years ago and discovered his glamorous world of curvy, seductive girls. Some of my favorite pin-ups are the teasing ones, the women that expose only a glimpse of their sensuality, like the tops of stockings or a flash of leg, in seemingly innocent situations in their daily life. I also love the ones that put it all out there, wearing nothing but pursed lips and curled hair like Marilyn Monroe in her 1953 Playboy pictorial. While there are many different pin-up styles, they all have some things in common, like curves, confidence, and an air of seduction.
Around the same time I started getting into pin-ups, I also began modeling as a hobby and experimenting with retro looks. Although I don’t have the patience to dress like a pin-up all of the time (some people do, and they do it brilliantly), I do like to get all dolled up occasionally to go out or for a photo shoot. I am by no means an expert, but through my experiences I’ve learned some tips to create easy pin-up inspired looks.
The first step to looking pin-up is finding inspiration from books, magazines, websites, old movies, or whatever else moves you. Pay attention to makeup, clothing, setting, poses, and other details to spark your own creativity. When preparing for a pin-up look, I draw ideas from artists like Alberto Vargas and Olivia de Berardinis, classic and modern pin-up girls like Betty Grable, Jayne Mansfield and Dita Von Teese, burlesque performers, fetish fashion, and the rockabilly style in Austin. Remember that you don’t have to follow one particular fashion, and you can create your own individual look by mixing retro and modern styles.
My favorite way to easily create a pin-up look is with red lipstick and “wing tip” eyeliner. To get the wing tip look, apply liquid eyeliner to the top lids only with flicks at the outward corners of your eyes. If you’ve never done it before, there are tons of YouTube video tutorials. While I don’t have a ton of makeup, I do have the essentials for an occasional pin-up look: primer/concealer/ foundation/powder, beige eye shadow, black liquid eyeliner, and deep red lipstick and lip liner.
If you’re like me and don’t like spending a lot of time applying makeup (or if you aren’t great at it), you can also opt for getting a makeup artist or skilled friend to do it instead. Many makeup counters at the mall offer free makeovers with a purchase, which is an easy way to get a professional look as well as makeup to take home and touch it up with. I had my makeup done at a MAC counter for my first pin-up shoot, and not only did I love the outcome, but I’ve also been in love with MAC’s Russian Red ever since.
Whether its victory rolls, pin curls, or even hair still in rollers, curls are essential for a classic pin-up look. If you have long hair, you can either leave it down and curly or curl it and pin it under to get a fake short hair look.
The best way to get an authentic pin-up look is to wear vintage clothing and or lingerie. However, since I live in Austin and vintage clothes are extremely popular and therefore usually expensive, I can’t afford to buy a lot of real retro outfits. While it is possible to find some inexpensive vintage treasures by searching thrift stores, you can also “fake” the pin-up look by choosing the right clothing and lingerie, even if it’s brand new.
Thigh high stockings and garters are an easy way to create a pin-up look for cheap, and you can find them at almost any lingerie shop or online. Choose a garter belt that is high waisted (I especially like ones with metal hooks rather than plastic) and thigh highs that have a Cuban heel or back seam. Corsets, waist cinchers, bustiers, baby dolls, costumes, and animal and cherry print pieces are also good options for modern lingerie that can still have a retro flair.
Other wardrobe choices that can be used to create a pin-up look include button down dresses, high waisted bottoms, pencil skirts, ¾ sleeve cardigans, one piece or high waisted swimsuits, robes, round or peep toe pumps, heels with a single ankle strap, or any clothing inspired by the 1940s and 1950s.
Perhaps the best part of pin-up is that clothing is optional, so if you don’t know what to wear and feel comfortable nude, strip down to a just a smile and a teasing pose.
Some Last Tips
For pin-up shoots, having a professional photographer is ideal, but if you don’t have enough money or access to one, you can still take the images yourself or with a friend’s help, and thanks to the many programs and apps such as Photobucket and Streamzoo, you can easily add a photo filter to your images to make them look old or retro. If you’re planning a pin-up shoot, practice different facial expressions and posing in seductive positions. Also, don’t forget to plan out your makeup, hair, and clothing in advance so you’re not stressing on the day of a shoot.
Lastly, the most important part of looking pin-up is having a sensual, playful, and confident attitude. Over everything else, do and wear whatever makes you feel comfortable, sexy, and seductive.
Photography: Meera Images and Kalospix
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