Origination of the Pin-Up Girl

Where did the idea of Pin-Up come from? Why is the style still so popular today? What is so intriguing about a Pin-Up? Read on to learn about the origination of the pin-up girl.

How it all started

Ever since I saw old pictures of my family in the 1940s, I have been mesmerized with the whole Pin-Up look. Both my grandparents and my former mother-in-law were truly products of this decade. Seeing snapshots of them in their element is when my Pin-Up obsession started.


While the 1940s were considered the “Golden Age of Pinups”, that timeframe is not when the movement originated. In fact, Pin-Up girls were around long before World War I.  The earliest tracings of Pin-Up girls can be found in 1890’s Europe. France is the rich soil where Pin-Up may have started growing. Jules Chéret was a Parisian artist who exhibited young and voluptuous women in his posters and magazines; these women were referred to as his Chérettes. 


Late nineteenth century

Continuing through the late nineteenth century, the Pin-Up movement progressed further with the increasing popularity of the bicycle. Women of this time felt liberated enough to start riding bicycles; it was an emancipation of sorts. However, doctors and ministers were against women riding bicycles, as it could “damage” their delicate reproductive organs or encourage self-stimulation. Despite the nay-sayers, women rode on; and this trend influenced the fashion of the time. Although women were not supposed to show their bodies outside of the bedroom, when riding a bicycle, women wore more functional clothing (some even wore form fitting pants!).


The Pin-Up movement continued in the print medium as the 20th century grew closer. Around 1895, Life magazine illustrator Charles Gibson was credited with drawing the first official Pin-Up girl. His drawings of well-endowed women with hourglass figures would be coined “Gibson Girls.”

Photography By Krisleen

Early twentieth century

Around 1903, the use of calendars became popular. Images of Pin-Up girls began to adorn some of these calendars; subsequently, calendar sales shot up. This led to the invention of the calendar girl, the mother of the Pin-Up girl.

Photography By Krisleen

In 1917, we got to meet the Pin-Up girl we know and love today. During WWI, the U.S. Government used the classic Pin-Up as a form of propaganda. Much like today, the government realized “sex sells,” and they began using Pin-Up girls on their recruitment posters.

Photography By Krisleen

I hope you have enjoyed learning about the origination of the Pin-Up girl. The history of Pin-Ups continues past The Great War. I will stop the timeline here for now, and next week we will talk about Pin-Ups in the 1920s and 1930s.

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