When did the pin-up look take over the vintage esthetic?

Discussion in 'The Powder Room' started by Lady Day, May 31, 2015.

  1. Lady Day

    Lady Day I'll Lock Up Bartender

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    *Before everyone jumps at me for using all inclusives, I've decided to post this disclaimer citing "not everyone/everything blah blah blah" we cool? Okay, moving on.* WOMEN ONLY!!!!!!!!!!

    I've been in the vintage seen for over a decade, give or take. Been sewing my clothing for about that long as well. I've primarily been into the 1940s styles that were reminiscent of what your everyday woman would have worn during that era. I like attempting to be correct, with my own flair, of course, but my goal for the most part (tattoos and stuff aside) is to look like I could have fit into the era if a time machine came and teleported be back to 1945.

    There is a distinct difference between vintage and retro. For the most part, I think we all know the differences. Vintage is associated with a look and cut and hang and fabric choice of the time. The fashion of the past sort of brought into the modern era worn as if you were in the past.

    Retro has always been a modern interpretation on a vintage style. A neckline is liked, but perhaps a bit too "demure" and then it's deepened. Specific vintage details may be appropriated, like princess seams or pipping, and then brought into a modern dress that still carries most of its flair in contemporary times. The thing is, the layman can't often tell the difference, so these retro fashions, as different as they are from modern fashions get taken for the look of the era when the styles are simply paying homage.


    I bring this up because I was talking with someone who works at a vintage store and we were talking about repro fashions. She was wearing a very early (like 2000s) repro dress. It could have been mistaken for a 1945 dress if it were not for the invisible zipper up the back. It was rayon, with a modest neckline, era reminiscent print, gathered detail around the girdle, and a slightly flared skirt that hit just below the knee. It was cute, and we both adored it. We then lamented that you couldn't find repro like that anymore.

    "Everything is pin-up now," we concluded. Then we started to check point the looks that seemed to dominate the market. Big flared skirts with crazy (mostly non era specific) prints. Tight, bodices (often in stretch fabric) and very cleavage showing necklines. Sure, the fabrics have gotten somewhat better (more cottons and such) but the style is a distorted vision of what the mid to late 1950s would have looked like.

    I get that the modern pin-up look is a romanticized take on the era, that's the point, it's just now it's being considered the "look" of the time when it's really a modern vision of an incredibly stylized niche of the past, and because of it, everything else is being drown out.

    I get it, the Rockabilly set, and the pin-up girls with their followers are totally driving the market as to what retailers are going to produce and sell. Duh. My frustration is when I'm wearing my vintage style clothing and I get the 'compliment,' form the layman, "You look like a pin-up," I know they don't mean it as a detriment, but I can't help but feel there is something being distorted about our representation of fashions of this era. Especially when some of the pin-up girls are looking to this fashion as vintage and sometimes you have to tell them…no.

    I know I'm speaking to this from very myopic lenses because I live in the vintage scene, but as these nitche pin-up styles get adapted for mainstream, they start to look more costume than fashion. This isn't about demure dress versus flashy dress. It's more about chocking out a style of vintage fashion because it's not associated with pin-ups.

    I mean, there is a voice out there for people who want more (and dated earlier) historically correct-ish styles, and there are designers who are doing their best to cater, but it makes me wonder with the onslaut of the 'big name' pin-up clothing makers, do you think they will ever widen their umbrella to actually produce fashions not associated with pin-ups?

    What are your thoughts?
     
  2. TheSacredFemme

    TheSacredFemme One of the Regulars

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    I can't help but feel that it's perhaps due to the heavy burlesque revival of recent years. For many people Dita von Teese is the first point of call when it comes to vintage and while she does have very period correct looks all of it tends to swing more firmly in the pin-up direction. I don't think there's necessarily anything wrong with it, but with celebrity culture rising and Christina Aguilera and Katy Perry both imitating a more pin-up look more (young) people swing in that direction. All fine and dandy, but if I find one more lovely 40s dress chopped and shortened to above the knee I may cry!

    I have a bit of a sob story moment whenever anyone calls me "retro" and "pin-up" as well- not quite what I was going for!

    p.s. I do like how with Etsy dong very well a lot of smaller reproduction brands cater to more authentic shapes, fabrics and prints.
     
  3. Lady Day

    Lady Day I'll Lock Up Bartender

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    So true. There are some really nice designers out there and I do hope they get more exposure.

    I don't have anything against pin-up style. I just feel other vintage styles are being crowded out.
     
  4. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    I think it's inevitable that any fashion-driven revival movement will eventually fall into caricature -- it's easier to do a pastiche of a past era than it is to re-create one, and when you fall into pastiche you naturally emphasize the most obvious, easily recognizable elements of the original. From there, caricature is unavoidable. Everybody knows 20's fashion was beaded dresses, feathered headbands, and long strings of pearls, 50s fashion was poodle skirts and ponytails and pink angora sweaters, and everybody knows 40s fashion was short, tight-fitting dresses, platform shoes, and victory rolls. The caricature is far easier to achieve -- and far more profitable to market -- than the reality.

    I think the place to look nowadays for "authentic vintage" style isn't in the so-called vintage movement at all but rather among the "indie kids." We have a sewing shop here in town run by a gal in her twenties who seems to have a pretty good sense of "vintagey" style that's not pinuppy at all. A friend wore one of her dresses in a local fashion show recently, and while it wasn't a meticulous recreation of a past style, it was very much in the spirit of a dress from about 1939-40 without being a caricature of one. I think these kids achieve far more in terms of authenticity by just trying to make a comfortable, attractive outfit than pretty much any of the exaggerated, high-stepping pinuppy stuff does.

    As for me, I've never been told I look like Dita. But a lot of people tell me I look like their mother, grandmother, or first-grade teacher.
     
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2015
  5. St. Louis

    St. Louis Practically Family

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    This is all relatively new to me, since there's no discernible organized vintage scene in St. Louis (unless there's something I'm missing?) But perhaps it explains the tedious ebay descriptive headers that read "Mad Men Gatsby Pin-up 1940s." I've often wondered who on earth is taken in by those descriptions, but they must be working, because I see them all the time.
     
  6. sheeplady

    sheeplady I'll Lock Up Bartender

    There is also no vintage scene where I live. I do like the "rockabilly look" which I associate being more like pin-up fashion, but that look isn't for me- if I worked in another line of work and had a different personality I'd totally be into it.

    I don't think I'd ever get the pin-up comments. I think it has to do with the fact that most of the stuff I wear isn't "cute" but more along the lines of business casual or semi-formal work-wear or simple cotton dresses with saddles for casual wear.

    I've noticed that more and more repro does seem to go the pin-up route. This makes me sad because it is too short, too youthful, and too casual for me to wear comfortably. It's not my personality to wear a halter dress with skulls on it, no matter how cute. I'm also uncomfortable with clothing that is too "youthful" in that it shows (too much) cleavage or too much leg; it is not me and not professional enough for me to wear even casually. I'm also at the age where I don't want to dress like I'm in my twenties anymore- that ship has passed.

    Our culture is youth obsessed- I don't need my vintage to be youth obsessed too.
     
  7. St. Louis

    St. Louis Practically Family

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    Youth-obsessed and sex-obsessed. I know I'm sounding like a terminal prude bemoaning the foolishness of the younger generation, but I do worry when I see young women buying into the idea that they look their best when they're, shall we say, displaying all their wares. I'm not talking about the rockabilly look, which I find adorable, but the fact that every era-evocative style has to be dragged down to its lowest common denominator.

    No one would ever mistake me for a pin-up, mostly because I tend to aim for the middle-aged frump look, so I'm not taking any of this personally. I just wonder when an era that I consider glamorous, mysterious and charming became so vulgar in the popular mind.
     
  8. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    Read Ariel Levy's book from about ten years ago, "Female Chauvinist Pigs -- Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture." She delves quite deeply into the sociological and psychological issues at work. There's a reason, in her view, why this particular culture flared up at the particular point in time that it did -- a reason that was far more reactionary than progressive.
     
  9. sheeplady

    sheeplady I'll Lock Up Bartender

    I think it really has to do with downgrading women by general society, often by women themselves. If all we have to choose from is clothing that makes us look like sex objects, then we "deserve" being treated so. It becomes a vicious cycle.

    In the past, I taught in IT. It wasn't unusual for me to have classes that were 90 to 100 percent male; with very few women teaching major IT and business content in the school. As a woman, I had to often "fight" for my place. I had very respectable students, but they would not have taken me nearly as seriously in these short cleavage plunging necklines and short little numbers. Even worse, I fear the administration would not have taken me seriously at all if I dressed that way. Which shouldn't be so- as long as I am clothed I should get the same level of attention and respect as the male professor who shows up dressed in a rumbled polo shirt/ t-shirt and a pair of stained jeans- but I know I wouldn't have in that environment.

    I was once told by a male professor that my clothes were "a little scandalous." I asked him what he meant, and he commented that things like my below-the-knee fitted but not tight pencil skirts with dark stockings were a bit sexy for the line of work I was in. I pointed out that one of my female colleagues was wearing shorts that day- showing more leg than me and the leg was bare; was that a problem too? He said that being bare legged and shorted was much less sexy than a skirt and dark stockings and recommended I change to nude stockings or skip the stockings all together.

    I think I just stared at him. At what point did dark stockings become more sexy than nude stockings or going barelegged with shorts most of the way up your thigh?
     
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2015
  10. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    Sometime after the '90s, for sure -- every woman who worked in an office in those days wore sheer black or taupe hose. Perhaps it's the result of the little boys of that era who grew up with a "hot teacher" fetish.
     
  11. St. Louis

    St. Louis Practically Family

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    It really does become tiresome, having to gauge one's every clothing decision by whether someone, somewhere, will draw weird conclusions about it. I recall not too long ago there was a thread here about women wearing dresses, where some soul of romance opined that women in dresses made him think about "what was under the skirt." And here I was thinking that dresses represented a refined, old-fashioned, lady-like form of clothing!

    Speaking of which: I don't believe that aspiring to be "lady-like" is nearly as destructive to a woman's independence, self-respect, and fulfillment as attempting to embody some teenage boy's fantasy.
     
  12. AmateisGal

    AmateisGal I'll Lock Up

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    This is a fascinating discussion. Lizzie, I need to read that book, especially considering I have a 15-year-old daughter. She doesn't like to dress in any type of revealing fashion, thankfully, (not that I would let her) and I hope she keeps it that way once she's out of the nest.
     
  13. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    Somebody said that to me once to my face. I looked him dead in the eye and said "Worn-out white cotton underpants."
     
  14. Lady Day

    Lady Day I'll Lock Up Bartender

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    I think the larger question is, and citing the book that Lizzie mentioned: Do women dress, whether pro or con, based on the wanted or unwanted reaction of men/others reactions? If that is the case then where is the line drawn for 'dressing for you'? Does that require approval as well?

    I don't buy into the social hetero-normative construct of what is "lady like" and what is not. That can fall as bad as Sheeplady mentioning that now wearing cover ups was considered "more provocative" by that co-worker than showing skin. Skipping the reciprocal of what is considered alluring and what is not this leads to the paradox of can women actually ever dress for themselves- without getting into the larger construct of "do we ever dress for ourselves"- trying to keep the scope smaller.

    If our forever changing fashion styles are constantly seen or not seen as 'sexy' to male or others eyes, how is that taken as the clothing wearer's issue?
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2015
  15. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    And that ties into the very concept of "contemporary fashion," which is very much rooted in a marketing driven concept of what's "hot," not what's practical. It's bad enough when adult women willingly buy into this mindset, but when it's focused toward younger women who are still forming their ideas about sexuality and self-image it crosses the line from sleazy commerce to vicious, cold-blooded exploitation. Young gals at this stage of their lives are extremely vulnerable to this kind of manipulation, and the more insecure they are, the more insecure it makes them.

    I work closely with young women in their twenties, not just as a boss or a supervisor but as a trusted friend -- and I've seen up close how unhappy all this makes them. But they feel like they "have to fit in" or they won't be able to get a boyfriend, and who wants to be alone? There is nothing liberating, liberated, independent or self-assured about a culture that promotes this kind of perspective.
     
  16. St. Louis

    St. Louis Practically Family

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    I always try very hard to state all my personal views and tastes as personal. Nothing I said should be taken as normative in any way at all. Of course I realize that lady-like is a loaded term; I was merely observing that I found that notion less destructive than some others, particularly those imposed by teenage boys or their emotional equivalents.

    I do think a lot of the blame has to be laid on women's magazines. I've pretty much become allergic to them-- but that is another discussion entirely!
     
  17. AmateisGal

    AmateisGal I'll Lock Up

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    I think that perhaps the culture is slowly, but surely turning in a different direction. There was a plus-size model who became famous for becoming the first plus-size model to be signed to a major modeling agency. (And isn't it ridiculous that she was the first and that it created such a huge stir? The model industry should have been signing ALL body types long, long ago!). But I see a lot more positive body-image stuff floating around today, and there are some campaigns out there aimed toward young women that encourage positive self body image. ModCloth is great for that (and they have really cute retro/vintage-type clothes, though yes, the length of the skirts is often too short for me).

    My daughter and I were watching Daredevil last night on NetFlix and the bad guy's girlfriend, Vanessa, was onscreen, and my daughter said, 'I like her. She has curves.'

    I'm finding that the older I get, the more I dress for me and don't worry about what other people think of me. But when I was younger and before I was married? I'd say I definitely dressed to impress the opposite sex.
     
  18. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    What bothers me is that "plus size" is even a concept. That implies that it's beyond some ridiculous marketing-defined standard of "normal size," which in another time and place would have been considered "emaciated."
     
  19. AmateisGal

    AmateisGal I'll Lock Up

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    Very true.
     
  20. Lady Day

    Lady Day I'll Lock Up Bartender

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    Wasn't making a personal attack, but rather using what you said (because it is an anecdotal social norm) as a broad point.

    Lane Bryant used the word 'stout'. I prefer that.
    The whole plus size thing I could go on and on and on about. I have a lot of issues with it, and in a lot of ways, who we as women handle these terms and then reject them, but that's another thread..... ;)

    Such discussion!!
     

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