If you’ve ever set foot in an antiques or vintage store, you’ve likely seen the occasional iconic portrait of a glamorous pin-up girl. But have you ever wondered where pin-up comes from? With perfectly-groomed hair, a touch of makeup, and idyllic staging, pin-up girls reach back in time as far as the 19th century. In this post, we look at the development of pin-up over time as it evolved to modern boudoir photography.
Where Does the Pin-Up Girl Come From?
Known to be an ideal photographic portrait of a handsome man or woman, pin-up girls have long been “eye candy” for the interested viewer. With roots reaching back to the 1800s, pin-up actually began with burlesque dancers. During early development, burlesque performers distributed business cards with their photos at theaters to advertise their upcoming shows. These eye-catching advertisements created much intrigue and helped to grow the performers’ business. With their photos literally pinned to the wall, the tradition of pin-up, or “cheesecake photos,” carries on to this day!
Who Was the First Pin-Up Girl?
Pin-up began in earnest around the time of the First World War with the distribution of photographs of pin-up on both sides of the conflict. A popular choice among soldiers, the French model and painter Fernande Barrey posed in partially nude photos cherished in Europe and abroad. For this reason, “Miss Fernande” is credited as the first pin-up girl.
Over the years, there were many famous pin-up girl icons. From Bette Grable to Bette Page, pin-up rose to new heights in line with the movie stars of Old Hollywood and continues in today’s boudoir photography sessions. (Looking to book a shoot with one of the best boudoir photographers around Washington D.C? Click through to get in touch with us!)
Famous Pin-Up Artists
Through the years, several artists from around the world gained notoriety for their pin-up inspired pieces. From origins on paper to boudoir photography, the pin-up style inspires artists working to this day. Here are some of the most famous pin-up artists from the peak of its popularity:
A Peruvian painter born at the turn of the 20th century, Alberto Vargas studied art in Europe before moving to the United States in 1916. In the 1940s, he created a series of iconic pin-up girl portraits for Esquire Magazine, now referred to as “Vargas Girls.” His most famous painting is the release poster for the movie “The Sin of Nora Moran.”
George Petty IV
An American born in 1894, Petty also created pin-up for Esquire Magazine between 1933-1956. These “Petty Girls” are said to have influenced the nose art of World War II fighter planes, including the Memphis Belle.
Another American artist who received recognition around the time of WWII, Gil Elvgren was born in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1914. He was a great commercial success, creating pin-up for big brands like Sealy Mattress Company, Coca-Cola, and General Electric. Additionally, he crafted a series of calendars for Brown & Bigelow, which feature artwork with his signature.
Pin-Up Inspired Boudoir Photography
With origins in burlesque, modern pin-up is a constantly evolving art. Sometimes called a “glamor shot” today, photographers use many tools to make the most appealing portrait of their subject possible. This “photographer magic” boosts self-esteem in women and broadens self-expression. As a result, boudoir photoshoots captivate and inspire people to this day.
After the hayday of WWII-era pin-up, we look to boudoir photography for our most sensual expressions of human sexuality and play. For more info on vintage-inspired boudoir, read our latest post.