From Veronica Lake and Marilyn Monroe in the 1940’s and 1950’s to Dita von Teese today, pin-up girls have been displayed on walls and billboards for generations and admired by men and women alike. No matter their dress size, pin-up girls wear clothes that accentuate their assets, bring out their sexual appeal, and make them look gorgeous, fun, and elegant at the same time. To start channeling your inner pin-up girl, you must balance style with natural beauty, grace, and confidence.
PART 1: Doing Your Hair
Curl your hair. Pin curls and victory rolls were a popular look for most pin-up girls. Curls were often achieved by a “permanent” which made hair easier to mold into a curl, but you can achieve this look without chemicals.
To get pin curls: dab gel onto the root of a small section of damp hair, then twirl that section of hair around your finger until you get to your scalp. (You can twirl in whatever direction you’d like the curls to flow.) Slide your finger out of the curl and pin the curl to your head. Repeat for your entire head of hair, allow hair to dry, then remove pins, and viola!
You can find many authentic vintage ways to style your pin curls online. There are also books that show you how to do these hairstyles.
You can also use hot rollers or a curling iron to create curls, although it will take some practice to get the right look.
Consider a wig. If your hair is too short or you don’t want to go through the effort of styling, try a wig in a pin-up style of your choice. We have many wigs on our wig page!
Add an embellishment. Pin-up girls’ hair should generally be kept soft and simple, with minimal product use, but feel free to have some fun and add a little bit of personality to your look with hair accessories.
Good options include a hair flower, bandana, or large bow. You can also use a snood or a pin.
PART 2: Doing Your Makeup
Start with clean and moisturized skin. Your skin should be clean and free of blemishes. Find good skin products and use them daily.
Lay the foundation. Pin-up girls need flawless skin, so use a full coverage foundation that matches your skin tone perfectly. Follow with a creamy concealer to disguise any blemishes or dark circles, and set your base with a dusting of translucent powder.
Get great eyebrows. Groom your eyebrows and make them pop. First, brush them until they are neat, then fill them in with a matte powder that’s one or two shades darker than your natural brow color. This will create sufficient drama without being garish.
If it’s been a while since your shaped your eyebrows with tweezers, you may need to do that before brushing and applying color.
Make up your eyes. Along with the lips, the eyes are a major focal point of pin-up girl makeup.
Apply a vanilla or champagne colored eye-shadow to the entire upper eyelid, then contour with a darker neutral color, and blend.
Next, use black liquid eyeliner, making sure the eyeliner wings out at the corners of your eye. This is called the “Cat Eye” or “Bedroom Eyes.”
Allow eyeliner to dry and then apply at least 2 coats of a good lengthening and thickening mascara. It’s a good idea to practice this look a lot before actually using it formally.
For extra points, try applying false eyelashes before applying your mascara. This can be tricky but well worth the effort.
Perfect Your Pout. Pin-up lips should be red, though the exact shade will depend on your skin tone. Go with as dark and deep a red as you can, based on your skin.
Outline the shape of your lips first with a red pencil but at the peak of your lips create a sharp cupid bow “V.” Fill in with lipstick that perfectly matches your lip pencil. Don’t forget to blot!
No matter your skin tone, there’s a red out there for you. There are countless shades to choose from, from blood red to cherry red to fire engine red and so on. Have fun experimenting until you find the one that works for you.
Use a brown pencil to give yourself a small beauty mark and a more glamorous look. A black beauty mark will look too severe, but dark brown is a bit softer and more realistic.
Don’t forget your nails. Deep reds, reddish browns, and pinks are good colors to go with, but you can also try black, which was surprisingly popular. Go for medium-length nails with tapered sides and pointed (but not sharp) tips.
Pin-up girls frequently left the lunula, or the white half moon at the bottom of the nail near the cuticle, unpainted.
PART 3: Getting a Pin-up Wardrobe
Draw inspiration from the 1940’s and 1950’s. Your aim is to create an alluring hourglass silhouette. Shirtdresses and belts that cinch tight at your waist are a great way to achieve this look.
Think about pin-ups from the past whose style your admire. Ava Gardner, Jayne Mansfield, Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor, Lena Horne, Dorothy Dandridge, Kim Novak, Jane Russel, Betty Gable, and Marilyn Monroe all provide stunning examples.
Even as you use famous pin-ups as a guide, try to create your own unique look. This is what will make the experience of dressing like a pin-up most fun and fulfilling.
Shop vintage and secondhand stores. Look for genuine vintage items from this era, including pencil skirts, A-line skirts, Cuban heeled stockings, round toed pumps, wiggle dresses, swing dresses, petticoats, 3/4 sleeve cardigans, cropped cardigans with full sleeves, and high waist capri pants, to name a few.
If you don’t live near any good vintage stores, you can search for vintage goods online. You can also buy vintage reproduction clothing online from numerous companies such as Bettie Page Clothing and Stop Staring!
True vintage clothing was produced in the era you are trying to portray, whereas retro clothing looks like it’s from that era but was made more recently. Retro is a copy of the real thing produced in mass market, whereas vintage is the real thing. If your clothing was made before the eighties, check for the “Made in the USA” seal or whatever country you are situated in. On the tag there should be a union name and ID number. A tag that says “Made in China” is a sign that the article of clothing is not vintage.
Clothing made of linen, cotton, and other natural fabrics are more likely to be genuine vintage items.
Instead of buying clothes, you could invest in fabrics with vintage patterns and make your own clothes. This will require time and some level of skill, however, and so is better left to those with experience in sewing.
Repurpose items you already own. Some items from your closet, like sweaters with boat necks and v-necks were popular in the 40’s and 50’s; you can add these to your pin-up wardrobe. Or try turning a cardigan backward and buttoning it up for a quick vintage pin-up look.
Buy a bullet bra. This is the pointy-cupped brassiere that will give you the Marilyn Monroe sweater look which was all the rage during the pin-up era.
Invest in a girdle or corset. 1940’s and 1950’s clothing is designed to be worn with base garments, so consider investing in a vintage girdle to give you a lovely silhouette.
Though you may not have a natural hourglass shape, these undergarments will do a great job helping you “fake” it!
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