Pin up girls have been around for a lot longer than you think. Since as early as the 1890s girls have been drawn, painted and photographed and presented to the world as the ideal of beauty and sexuality.  Like fashions in beauty and body shape, the pin up has changed enormously over the last century. Here are a few of the defining styles of pin up from the last century.

1900s: Gibson Girls

The Gibson Girls were the invention of Charles Dana Gibson, and were idealized drawings of beauties of the late 19th and early 20th century. While they weren’t as risque as later pin up girls, they celebrated new ideas of beauty and the sexual emancipation of modern women of the time.
 Gibson girl pin up

1910s and 20s: Ziegfeld Girls

The chorus girls from the Ziegfeld Follies were famed for their beauty and grace during the 1910s and 20s, and are said to have ‘loosened the corsets’ of the Gibson girls, turning them from idealized sketch into scantily clad stage girls. These girls were famously photographed by Alfred Cheney Johnston and often ended up either getting into movies (like Joan Crawford and Lucille Ball) or marrying rich gentlemen.
Ziegfeld Girl pinup
Above: A Ziegfeld Follies girl photographed by Alfred Cheney Johnston c. 1910-1920

1930s and 40s: Varga Girls

Varga girls are perhaps the most well known of pin up art. Alberto Vargas started painting quite modest beauties for Esquire Magazine in the 1930s but they became the iconic pin up images we know and love during WW2. The girls were posed in more risque costumes and attitudes, and were often dressed in (very scanty) military uniforms or with skirts blowing up to reveal their underwear. These pin ups were so popular that millions of copies of Esquire were shipped out to soldiers during the war as a morale boosting exercise and they were copied onto the noses of planes during the Second World War as symbols of good luck.

You can see a gallery of Varga Girls here – I think you’ll be surprised by how many of these pictures you recognize!

Above: pin up dresses, like this sexy sailor-style dress are inspired by the style of the 1940s Vargas Girls

1940s and 50s: Hollywood Pinups

During WW2 most of the female Hollywood screen stars posed for pin up photos as part of a moral boosting campaign for troops posted overseas. The most popular pin up star of all was Betty Grable, famous for her fabulous legs, and also Rita Hayworth who graced many a locker door.

Betty Grable pin up

Above: Betty Grable’s famous 1940s pin up photo

Take a look at my pin up gallery, and let me know who your favourite is!



Image source and copyright: 1, 2,This media file is in the public domain in the United States. 3: This work is in the public domain because it was published in the United States between 1923 and 1963 and although there may or may not have been a copyright notice, the copyright was not renewed.