‘Fashion has always fascinated me. However, in the years I have been alive, there has not really been a trend that suited my body shape as well as the cuts and styles of the 1950’s.’
Meet Miss Jessi Leigh. Jessi runs a hair salon specialising in vintage styling and makeup, she is a vintage blogger, a pin-up, she makes vintage-inspired accessories and enjoys teaching Glee dance classes for kids. She stopped by Victory Lamour for a quick chat.
Welcome to Victory Lamour. What first got you interested in vintage?
My love for vintage began as a child. As far back as I can remember – maybe 4 or 5 years old – I remember being fascinated with the starlets of black and white movies. I wanted to be Shirley Temple and I was enamoured with the movie musicals of the 40’s and 50’s, full of breathtaking costumes, flawless hairstyles and impeccable make up. Fashion has always fascinated me. However, in the years I have been alive, there has not really been a trend that suited my body shape as well as the cuts and styles of the 1950’s.
Then, while doing a period musical, I remember seeing my reflection in my vintage styled hair, make up and costume and loving what I saw. It wasn’t long before I started incorporating this styling into my every day look. It certainly wasn’t fashionable to do so at the time, and the whole ‘pin-up’ scene wasn’t as prominent if it existed at all the way it does now.
I was often referred to as ‘dramatic’ or ‘over the top’ in my fashion choices, mainly because back then before the internet, we really only saw what the media in print and television wanted us to see, and my choices were far from the trends of the day. The older I got, the less I cared about what was ‘in’ and the more I cared about what made me feel great, eventually vintage styling just took over.
Can you remember your first piece of vintage or retro reproduction clothing?
I can! In High School I performed in a production of ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ and due to being bigger than all the other girls, costuming was always an issue. At home I had a matching frock and dress coat that belonged to my Aunt’s Grandmother, from the 1950’s, so I wore that onstage. It was bright yellow and hand made, with a huge full skirt that twirled when I danced. I loved it but had never considered wearing it for anything other than a costume. It wasn’t until years later after many years of tears and much heartache, every time I needed to shop for a dress and not being able to find anything to fit or feel beautiful in, that I stumbled across a Pinup Couture Heidi dress in Cherry Print. I turned my back on current fashion and embraced what made my heart sing. This is truly where my relationship with my body began to heal.
Do you see the body positive pin-up movement as building confidence and challenging perceptions about society’s beauty standards?
This one is a tricky question. I have mixed feelings about it. I love the intention behind the idea that through pin-up, society’s perception of what is beautiful will change, and in a lot of ways it has. The reality I find though, is that is has just created another barrier for plus size women to break down. If a woman who has had a torrid relationship with her body and body confidence her whole life, and through vintage fashion and pinup, discovers a new found love and acceptance of herself, then pop the champagne, HALLELUJA! That is wonderful and should absolutely be celebrated. I know for me personally, discovering that I love how I look in vintage fashion was certainly a key factor in coming to be proud of my body. I adore that pin-up gives some women a confidence within themselves that would never exist without it. What I struggle with, is that society’s perceptions haven’t really changed, they’ve just altered slightly, which is still a great start, but not the ground breaking movement that it’s made out to be. People are ok now with the thought of a full-figured woman dressed in beautiful vintage fashion being beautiful, but what about the ones that aren’t into vintage?
A full figured woman in a great big circle dress with layers and layers of petticoats and delightful seamed stockings, a matching cardigan and gloves, accessorised with perfect hair and makeup is now appreciated as beautiful by a big chunk of society, which is great and as it should be. While she is appropriately covered up and everything is held together we can all clap politely and pat her on the head at the wonderful job she has done… Then, god forbid, this same woman develops enough confidence to pose for pictures in her swimwear, or lingerie, still of the same era mind you, and of course the sisterhood gather around to voice their support, but the general community don’t seem to have much to say about the latest pictures. What if this particular woman, doesn’t fancy vintage fashion?? What then? What if she would rather wear leopard print spandex and a leather jacket? What if her outfit of choice was a mini skirt and mesh crop top? All of a sudden, this same woman, posting pictures of herself, just as before, is met with mean, hateful, vicious, vile words, telling her she is disgusting and unhealthy and setting a bad example. The same woman, the same size, just wearing different clothing.
So yes, I’m thrilled that for some women, myself included, pin-up has sparked an inner confidence and awareness in society that big can also be beautiful, I just get cross with how many stipulations are attached to that.
What kind of experiences and responses have you had since you got involved in pin-up?
In the beginning it was wonderful… Unfortunately, as is commonly the case nowadays, I have experienced a little online bullying on both Facebook and Instagram, due to my size, however the good far outweighs the bad. The women that do take the time to reach out to me and comment on my pictures are delightful. To hear that my ramblings and tips on hair and make-up, or where to buy cute bras for big boobs, is helpful to some people brings me great joy and gives me reason to continue doing what I do.
Thanks for dialing in, Miss Jessi Leigh.
Images courtesy of Derriere by Jlp www.byjlp.com