The story of the Pinup girl

The story of the Pinup girl

How did Pinup start?

The pinup girl of modern times originated around the 1890s when Charles Dana Gibson's painted his famous Gibson Girl. This was an idealized woman with slightly wildly updo hair and extreme hourglass shape. From there, in the early 1900s, a culture developed around these sensual ladies, always dressed but challenging, and with an easy innocence! They were made both in the form of illustrations such as the Gibson girl, or pictures and photographs of, for example, the performing artists of the time.


Mondo Kaos vintage dresses and clothes

The name pinup originated when the images were mass-produced as small cards or calendars to hang up. These pinup images came in many editions, drawings, painted illustrations and of course photographs. The idea was that the picture of the lightly dressed lady should be so captivating that you (d) would like to put it on the wall, "pin it up"! There were magazines that devoted themselves to this art, i.a. Esquire in the USA (from 1933) and La Vie Parisienne in France. La Vie Parisienne was especially in the 20s and 30s responsible for the erotic art deco and art nouveau girl.

Pinup and World War II

It was in 1941 that the terminology 'pinup' was used for the first time, and the pinup culture today is inevitably associated with the look from 1940s og 1950s. It was, of course, World War II that pushed for the development of this kind of innocent erotica, and it was used both to recruit soldiers and to keep morale high, and to remember the soldiers on the front line for what they fought for. From the wartime, you see especially pictures of women in patriotic colors, and for example in sailor outfits. Calendars were produced, and also small paperbacks which could be sent to the soldiers. That the soldiers took this 2% for granted, it turned out, among other things. through so-called Nose Art, where American pilots painted pinups on the 'nose' of their aircraft.

Vargaspigen and Christel

Pinup was originally mostly illustrations before photography became easier to print, and many illustrators specialized in making beautiful sensual, lightly dressed women. Some even became very famous such as Alberto Vargas, whose 'girls' became famous under the name Vargas girls. Vargas illustrated for both Esquire and Playboy, and his illustrations are known all over the world, and the originals get high hammer blows when they come up for auction today. 


Beautiful sailor dresses from Mondo Kaos

But it was not only men who illustrated these coquettishly lightly dressed ladies, there were in fact quite a few women in the industry, such as Zoë Mozert, who, among other things, painted Jane Russell on the movie poster for The Outlaw.

At home we had from 1940s the famous Christel to draw cute, coquettish girls, with long legs in shorts and high-waisted trousers, and a twinkle in the eye.

Pinup dresses and other clothing from Mondo Kaos

Pinup and Hollywood

Because the pinup pictures with their sexual overtones and undertones became so popular, they started using the same style for eg movie posters, and from there it was not long before the movie stars themselves promoted / were promoted with a little extra 'sex sells'.

Rita Hayworth was already a well-known actress when she posed in 1941 in negligence for Life Magazine. Thus, she cemented her status as a pinup, and became one of the most widely used moviestar pinups among American soldiers during World War II. This in no way destroyed her image, rather the opposite, when in 2 she played the role of Gilda, who probably made Rita Hayworth the icon she is even today.

Beautiful pinup dresses and other clothes in pinup style

Equally famous was the actress Betty Grable who had many films behind her when in 1943 she had the famous pinup picture taken, where she, wearing a bathing suit with her back to the camera, looks over her shoulder. The image was to surpass Rita Hayworths in demand among the American soldiers, making Betty immensely popular as a pinup as well as actress.

Marilyn Monroe as Pinup

But it went both ways; certain actors started by making themselves known through the pinup medium. Probably the most famous of all, Marilyn Monroe, through pinup images not only aroused the interest of film studios, but also gained her first camera experience in this way. Through her pinup business, Bettie Page also had the opportunity to work as an actress, as did the bathing nymph Esther Williams.

Pinup clothes and dresses at Mondo Kaos

What is a vintage Pinup look?

Typical pinup girls from 40s og 50s you see everything from swimwear to swing skirts. There are typically two kinds, a slightly more undressed version, typically photos, and a more witty version that plays on innocent ignorance, typically an illustration that when a skirt happens to be lifted a little too high.

The look is most often focused on short skirts, stockings, shorts or swimwear and underwear, while the top can easily be a tight-fitting sweater or a shirt, as long as it is buttoned far down, or tied on the stomach. The hair is always set perfectly and the makeup is important. Dark eyebrows and focus on flirting eyes with eyeliner. Of course red lipstick and red 'fresh' cheeks round off the look. Pinuplooket from 40s og 50s is more sun-golden and playful than one sees it today.

How to style a classic Pinup look?

Today, the pinup look most often equates to fine porcelain skin. Eyebrows are highlighted as in 40s og 50s, and many place great emphasis on making a classic cat eye "winged" eyeliner. Classic red lips are a must, while saving a little on blush compared to the pinup of earlier times. For a perfect pinuplook, the hair must be styled, and you also often see that it is colored or bleached, to achieve a strong contrast.

The clothes are high-waisted pants, shorts og pencil skirts, and they are styled eg with an off shoulder blouse, or one shirt tied to the stomach. For styling tips see below.


Tops to Create a Pinup Look

Black Off Shoulder Ruffle top from Unique Vintage

Black Off Shoulder Ruffle top from Unique Vintage

White Off Shoulder Ruffle top from Unique Vintage

White Off Shoulder Ruffle top from Unique Vintage

Black Off Shoulder top from The Oblong Box

Black Off Shoulder top from The Oblong Box

Pencil skirts to create a Pinup Look

Classic red pencil skirt from The House Of Foxy

Classic red pencil skirt from The House Of Foxy

Classic black pencil skirt from The House Of Foxy

Classic black pencil skirt from The House Of Foxy

Classic navy blue pencil skirt from Daisy Dapper

Classic navy blue pencil skirt from Daisy Dapper

Shorts to create a Pinup Look

High-waisted red shorts from The House Of Foxy

High-waisted red shorts from The House Of Foxy

High-waisted black shorts from The House Of Foxy

High-waisted black shorts from The House Of Foxy

High-waisted navy blue shorts from The House Of Foxy

High-waisted navy blue shorts from The House Of Foxy

Pants to create a Pinup Look

Black trousers with wide legs and a high waist from The House Of Foxy

Black trousers with wide legs and a high waist from The House Of Foxy

Classic jeans with a high waist from Lady K Loves

Classic jeans with a high waist from Lady K Loves

Red pants with wide legs and high waist from The House Of Foxy

Red pants with wide legs and high waist from The House Of Foxy

Swimwear in Pinup Style

Swimsuit with dots in 50s pinup style from Esther Williams

Swimsuit with dots in 50s pinup style from Esther williams

Bikini with cherries in 50s pinup style from Esther Williams

<strong>Bikini</strong> with cherries in 50s pinup style from Esther williams

Swimsuit in black in 50s pinup style from Esther Williams

Black swimsuit in 50s pinup style from Esther williams

What is a modern Pinup girl?

That pinup has had a renaissance is partly due to the fact that "mid-century" has become popular in everything from interior design to art. In addition, the burlesque milieu and their famous advocate Dita von Teese can be mentioned. And also the Rockabilly lifestyle that centers around 50s the culture. Maybe the love of fashion is due to the image from the 40s and 50s also that we, after a long time of emaciated style icons, again want to see a more varied image, and preferably female forms such as those celebrated in the pinup culture.


The pinup ideal is an hourglass-shaped figure with lots of femininity and sensuality. The modern woman can reflect in wanting to take back her femininity, and love the female body as it is with shapes that need to be displayed, rather than having to force themselves on a diet to fit high street bar clothes. 


Pinup in glass and frame

The pinup has gone from being a bit risqué, something you set up with a drawing pen, to today being moved into the living rooms. With the whole retro mature, and after we decorate our homes in mid-century style, are also many of 50s artists moved into the walls of the home. This also applies to pinup pictures, at home perhaps especially the Christel girls. We see that today they have been exalted, the beautiful women in happy colors, are no longer just "pinned up" on the wall, but come in glass and frame in the living rooms, where they beautifully and coquettishly decorate the home and give it a little extra unique style. Something we in Mondo Kaos love! ❤️

Loving greetings,
Team Mondo Kaos ♥


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