The 1950s sucked but they had killer clothes

Seen anyone on campus in a petticoat lately? What about cat-eye glasses and a headscarf? A kitsch brooch and impractical heels? You may have spotted a pinup. The pinup community is a fashion subculture obsessed with 1950s style clothing (named after the pin-up poster girls of the 40s and 50s). The community is made up…

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Seen anyone on campus in a petticoat lately? What about cat-eye glasses and a headscarf? A kitsch brooch and impractical heels? You may have spotted a pinup.

The pinup community is a fashion subculture obsessed with 1950s style clothing (named after the pin-up poster girls of the 40s and 50s). The community is made up of lovers of true vintage and fans of modern clothes with retro silhouettes. If you know where to look, there are specialty brands famous for their uniquely printed circle skirts, pastel cruelty-free shoes, and Tiki print beachwear. Sub-genres of pinup clothing touch upon burlesque, rockabilly, preppy pearls and church-wear, Hollywood glam… everything from Sandra D to Sandy in leather.

What’s interesting about the community is that it’s a huge variety of women eschewing the male gaze. I’ve come across child pinups dressed by enthusiastic mothers, functional uni pinups in blue jeans and bandanas, burlesque performers, pinup drag queens, and a whole heap of fortysomething mothers finding confidence in post-baby bodies. Some ladies commit to petticoats and shapewear every day, and some just like to chuck on a red bandana for housework. No matter which demographic, body positivity and heart eyes emoji abound.

While the 1950s was an age of oppression against females, queer folk, and people of colour, the modern pinup movement supports everyone’s shared passion for fifties fashion. Drag performances lean into vintage stylings, people of colour are frequently used as models by modern brands, women of every size and shape are seen everywhere within the community. Dressing in 1950s clothes today not only subverts modern fashion, but also the stifling and oppressive 1950s epoch itself. Modern women have reclaimed the aesthetic of the era.

I am an active member of the community, which has a bunch of tip-sharing groups on Facebook, sites all over the fashion/style blogosphere and hashtaggers on Instagram. This is where the community spends most of its time. Following the behemoth brand PinupGirlClothing on Instagram is a must, as is following pinup personalities Cherry Dollface, Miss Rockabilly Ruby, and Doris Mayday.

Many pinup Instagrammers post a daily Outfit Of The Day, and are probably a part of three or four Buy/Swap/Sell pages on Facebook. Pinups do meet up in real life, of course – think local rock n roll markets, swing dance classes, vintage car shows, and charity picnics. The biggest gathering is the 1950s expo called Viva Las Vegas. Their competitions are held in high esteem – Miss Viva Las Vegas 2015 (kiwi hairdresser Miss Victory Violet) has over 105 thousand followers on Instagram. Some local Sydney pinups I think are cool are Little Blue Renn, Pinup Days Vintage Nights, and Miss Bobbie Brooches.

A common hashtag found in the pinup world is #effyourbeautystandards, a campaign started by size 22 model and sometimes-pinup Tess Holliday. The campaign operates from Holliday’s Instagram, where she features users who share their stories of body confidence. The Facebook page has over 70 thousand likes.

This campaign, and indeed broader pinup culture, defies mainstream fashion’s opinion: beauty is not what size you are, or what shape. Pinup beauty is the smile on your face when you wear that new skirt, or the joy of finding a true vintage pair of gloves in some back-alley op shop. Pinup beauty is a feeling – a bright, cutesy, headscarfy, red-lipped feeling that gives women confidence and reclaims a decade full of oppression.

Instagram MissEmmaDecember; Twitter @balfies

Art: Ann Ding