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A pin-up girl, also known as a pin-up model, is a model whose mass-produced pictures see wide appeal as popular culture. Pin-ups are intended for informal display, e.g. meant to be "pinned-up" on a wall. Pin-up girls may be glamour models, fashion models, or actresses.
The term pin-up may also refer to drawings, paintings, and other illustrations done in emulation of these photos (see the list of pin-up artists). The term was first attested to in English in 1941; however, the practice is documented back at least to the 1890s.
The pin-up images could be cut out of magazines or newspapers, or be from postcard or chromo-lithographs, and so on. Such photos often appear on calendars, which are meant to be pinned up anyway. Later, posters of pin-up girls were mass-produced and became an instant hit. As social standards changed, male subjects also began to be featured in pin-ups.
In the late 19th century, burlesque performers and actresses used photographic advertisement as business cards to promote themselves. These adverts and business cards could often be found in almost every green room, pinned-up or stuck into "frames of the looking-glasses, in the joints of the gas-burners, and sometimes lying on-top of the sacred cast-case itself." Understanding the power of photographic advertisements to promote their shows, burlesque women self-constructed their identity to make themselves visible. Being recognized not only within the theater itself but also outside challenged the conventions of women's place and women's potential in the public sphere. "To understand both the complicated identity and the subversive nature of the 19th-century actress, one must also understand that the era's views on women's potential were inextricably tied to their sexuality, which in turn was tied to their level of visibility in the public sphere: regardless of race, class or background, it was generally assumed that the more public the woman, the more 'public,' or available, her sexuality", according to historian Maria Elena Buszek. Being sexually fantasized, famous actresses in early 20th-century film were both drawn and photographed and put on posters to be sold for personal entertainment. Among the celebrities who were considered sex symbols, one of the most popular early pin-up girls was Betty Grable, whose poster was ubiquitous in the lockers of G.I.s during World War II.
In Europe, prior to the First World War, were the likes of Fernande Barrey (aka "Miss Fernande"), arguably the world's first pinup as is known in the modern sense. Miss Barrey displayed ample cleavage and full frontal nudity. Her pictures were cherished by soldiers on both sides of the First World War conflict.
Other pin-ups were artwork depicting idealized versions of what some thought a particularly beautiful or attractive woman should look like. An early example of the latter type was the Gibson girl, a representation of the New Woman drawn by Charles Dana Gibson. "Because the New Woman was symbolic of her new ideas about her sex, it was inevitable that she would also come to symbolize new ideas about sexuality." Unlike the photographed actresses and dancers generations earlier, fantasy gave artists the freedom to draw women in many different ways. The 1932 Esquire "men's" magazine featured many drawings and "girlie" cartoons but was most famous for its Vargas girls. Prior to WWII they were praised for their beauty and less focus was on their sexuality. However, during the war, the drawings transformed into women playing dress-up in military drag and drawn in seductive manners, like that of a child playing with a doll. The Vargas girls became so popular that from 1942–46, owing to a high volume of military demand, "9 million copies of the magazine-without adverts and free of charge was sent to American troops stationed overseas and in domestic bases." The Vargas Girls were adapted as nose art of the WWII bombers; seen not as prostitutes but as patriots for good luck.
Among the other well-known artists specializing in the field were Earle K. Bergey, Enoch Bolles, Gil Elvgren, George Petty, Rolf Armstrong, Duane Bryers and Art Frahm. Notable contemporary pin-up artists include Paul John Ballard, Elias Chatzoudis, Armando Huerta,Cris Delara and Chuck Bauman. Another is popular pin-up artist Olivia De Berardinis who is most famous for her pin-up art of Bettie Page and her pieces in Playboy.
According to Joanne Meyerowitz in "Women, Cheesecake, and Borderline Material" an article in Journal of Women's History, "As sexual images of women multiplied in the popular culture, women participated actively in constructing arguments to endorse as well as protest them."
As early as 1869, women have been supporters and protesters of the pin-up. Women supporters of early pin-up content considered these to be a "positive post-Victorian rejection of bodily shame and a healthy respect for female beauty." Conversely, women protesters argued that these images were corrupting societal morality and saw these public sexual displays of women as lowering the standards of womanhood, destroying their dignity and harmful to both women and young adolescents.
It has further been argued by critics that in the early 20th century, these drawings of women helped define certain body images—such as being clean, being healthy, and being wholesome—and were enjoyed by both "normal" men and women; but as time progressed these images changed from respectable to illicit.
In comic books, a pin-up is simply a full-page piece of artwork, most often without dialogue, that showcases a character, group of characters, or significant event, published within an issue, rather than made available by itself as a poster.
In professionally published fan magazines for films and television series, a posed photograph of actors or actresses from the subject matter, but which might also showcase specific scenes from the subject matter in photograph form (called stills) are occasionally called pin-ups. The label is very casual, though, as these types of fan media are more accurately described as posters.
In professional wrestling, female superstar of the 1950s Mae Young modelled her in-ring look on the various pin-up girls of the time. Also, Rayna Von Tosh, of SHIMMER fame had a burlesque pin up gimmick.
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