- A poster showing a famous or attractive person.
- A person featured in a pin-up.
The image of the pin-up has tended to be a rather youthful one, either a teenage ‘pin-up girl’, or more often young women in their early to late twenties. While pin-ups can take many forms, of any gender, the most recognised pin-up style remains the popular mid-century form focussing on young women in figure-revealing clothes (often dresses, swimwear or lingerie, some of which by today’s standards are hardly considered revealing at all). The popular pin-up image of Rita Hayworth in her pink satin and black lace negligee was taken by Bob Landry in 1941 when she was 23, and during WWII this image was second in popularity only to the image of Betty Grable in swimsuit and heels. This picture, taken in early 1943 by Frank Powolny when Grable was 26, was reportedly owned by one in every five American servicemen during the war. With this in mind, it comes as a surprise to some that the iconic Bettie Page, arguably the most famous pin-up of the twentieth century, did most of her work in her thirties. Born in 1923, she was 32 in her famous Playboy “Miss January 1955” pin-up shoot, though readers didn’t know it. According to Page, photographer Bunny Yeager suggested she lie about her age to the magazine to assure her submission would be accepted.
In recent years classic pin-up photography has seen a resurgence, particularly among the vintage and rockabilly communities and the new body positive movement, and ‘pin-up style’ has developed its own recognised look within the scene – separate from but related to the looks popularised by the mid-century photographic form. But while WWII pin-ups were painted or photographed primarily for servicemen, usually by men (with the exceptions of photographer Bunny Yeager and artist Zoe Mozert, among others) the new pin-up photographers are more often women photographing women for women. Now it is personal, and sometimes political. Pin-ups are older, or tattooed, or differently bodied than the mainstream models of today, and they don’t always smile sweetly for the viewer, either. Women of all ages and body types are embracing pin-up style for their own reasons, as we will read below in their own words, and increasingly, there is no longer a need to lie about one’s age, nor a desire to, with many women wearing their age as a brand of honour. Put simply, the ’20-something’ age cut off of the past no longer applies, with even the most trailblazing pin-up of today, Dita Von Teese, (pictured above) herself over age forty and at the height of her career.
Here are just 13 women pin-ups over forty, from international vintage sensations and trail-blazing cult heroines to regular gals and rockin’ home makers, to remind us that not all pin-ups are ‘girls’:
Emma Lindsay, 40, Australia. ‘I wanted these pictures done as a present to myself at the age of 40, so I can leave them to my son and any children he may have to show them what ‘Nana used to look like’! The images aren’t photo-shopped at all, Helen just uses good cameral work and stylists to get the effect.’
Alexandria Mees, 40, of Martinis and Slippers, Australia. ‘I have been dressing this way for the past 5 years. I love it so much. I have 2 children and I am a work at home mum with my own business (Martinis and Slippers). I make handmade vintage inspired bamboo and acrylic brooches. Initially, I thought about sewing vintage inspired clothes but my path led me to brooches and because I couldn’t find a martini glass cocktail brooch.’
Janey Paul, 41, Canada. ‘I got into pin-up just over 2 years ago and it was the best thing I ever did. I find it so empowering. Vintage has always been my passion so it seemed an easy authentic fit. I turned 41 in Sept and have no plans to slow down as this is way too much fun.’
Photograph by Jodi Thompson Photography.
Victory Lamour/Tara Moss, 42, Canada, Australia. Your author had her first vintage-style pin-up shoot at 40, and has no intention of slowing down. I love the scene, enjoy celebrating the women in it, and take it as a personal mission to shine a light on the less often celebrated members of the scene, including older, differently bodied and racially diverse women. (PS If this is you, please contact me on Hello@VictoryLamour.com).
Dita Von Teese, 43, USA. The iconic Von Teese, who almost single-handedly brought vintage pin-up style to a new generation, has just released her latest stunning book, Your Beauty Mark, which I plan to review in a future blog. Here she wears the ‘VIP Coat/Dress’, styled as an original design on the basis of wearing only your lingerie underneath for your lover as a ‘surprise’. Taking her cues from midcentury beauty, fashion and fetishism, everything about Dita screams cool elegance and erotic, old world glamour. ‘Beauty is my art,’ she says. ‘It’s my nourishment, my salvation. It’s what brings me joy.’
Honey Fatale, 44, Australia. ‘I re-discovered my love of pin-up in 2002 when a friend’s grandmother was kind enough to loan me her floor length black hooded opera cape with royal purple lining for a winter movie premiere in Melbourne. My hairdresser at the time had given me big bouncy Marilyn hair and with my wiggle dress – I felt like an absolute star. Moving to Sydney and dipping my toe in the pin-up pond has been wonderful. I am even signed with a modelling agency as a plus size pinup. For me, the most satisfying thing about the pin-up community is it the level of acceptance. I’m a short, curvy woman and I look and feel fabulous in my pin-up wardrobe. Other members of the community encourage you – its all about the proliferation of positive vibes.’
Photograph by Bek Morris of Bexterity.
Suzie Ephedrine, 47, Australia, of Sydney Derby Skates. ‘I have been into the rockabilly scene for about 15 years or so now and I love everything about it; the clothes and hairstyles and makeup, the tattoos, the music and dancing, the cars, the people…I love everything 50s. Whilst I have only done a couple of pin-up shoots, they made me feel beautiful and sexy, and that my life is not over at 47!’ *laughs* ‘I would absolutely love to do more in the future.’
Photograph by Suz Forrester of Cupcake Photography.
Simone Homewood, 48, Australia. ‘I just love the romance of 50’s vintage glamour. We tried to capture a little more demure scenario of the true 50’s.’
Chrissy Keepence, 50, Australia, Headmistress and Owner of The Lindy Charm School For Girls.
‘I have deliberately, in the past, omitted my age due to The Lindy Charm School For Girls ethos that ‘there are No Age or Beauty Barriers when it comes to the Lindy Charm School For Girls’. I actually don’t mind anyone knowing my age but I do have an issue with so much emphasis in these times being placed on a number, particularly with regards to women.’ For Chrissy, and many other women, age can be a frightening thing for health reasons. ‘Every woman in my family for many generations back were diagnosed with cancer at 49 and died at 50. My own mother got cancer at 49 and thankfully, due to advances in treatment, lived with her cancer for 20 years only passing away in April. I too was diagnosed with cancer at 49 (1 year ago this month) and again with the benefit of today’s treatments I am still here. I am so happy to be involved in your blog that is celebrating women over 40 in all their diversity.’
Victoria Edwards, 53, of Moving Makeup, UK, Australia. ‘I have been interested in the pin-up and Rockabilly scene for a number of years now. I am originally from London but have lived in Perth for 10 years. I love the vintage scene, from the music to the fashion. I am a makeup artist so I get to meet a lot of girls who are having pin-up shoots.’
Photograph by Cyrus at Lighthouse Photography.
Helen McKee and Gail Squires, both 58, Australia. ‘ We have been friends since primary school. We both seem to agree that our interest in the retro/pin up look is the air of confidence, sexy glamour and femininity that seems to go with it. Last year Helen McLean convinced us that we would be great together in a photo shoot. We both have quite quirky senses of humour. And the rest is history as they say.’
Tura Satana, 67, Japan, USA. The late Japanese-born Satana, star of cult classics including Astro Zombies and Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (in which she was the first woman shown to kill a man with her bare hands on screen) was glamorous and butt-kicking right up until untimely her death at 72 in 2011. ‘A few years ago, I received a lifetime achievement award as the Femme Fatale of the 20th Century. I thank you all for that… I love you all, keep kickin’ butt. Remember that life is not like movies. There is good and bad all around. Make sure you are never a victim but always a survivor,’ she told Zuri Zone. I was proud to call this woman a friend. Her strong image still has a huge influence on pin-up and retro style today.
Photograph by Austin Young.
- Words by Tara Moss, AKA Victory Lamour. All images published with permission.