1930s – History of Pin-Up

The 1930s brought a new approach to the American people. Entertainment was everywhere, from magazines with painted women to films featuring the hottest stars of the day; this era was about glamour, glitz, and bright lights.

Hurrell Style Hollywood Glamour with lots of studio lighting.

Hurrell Style Hollywood Glamour with lots of studio lighting.

There are two notable things we want to look for in this decade: themed photoshoots and overly lit glam portraits. It seems the trend began of having themed outfits, sets, and looks for pretty girls. It wasn’t enough to have a pretty girl with a great bust or long legs. Instead, they needed to be an idea or purpose behind each image. And so a theme was created for just about everything one could imagine. Christmas time? Why not have a girl in a Santa coat (without the pants). Spring time? How about some fresh flowers. Halloween? Yup, the witches will come out to play. The themed pin-ups we know and love started in this decade. The trend continued well into the next decade, too (which we’ll touch on in the 1940s). But it is notable that this was the start of our themed pin-up – and the pin-up girl most people imagine today.

The second style the swept the era was the uber-glamours Hurrell style portrait. I like to think of these images as as Hollywood Glamour. You see, film has continued to grow as a national past time. We now have spotlights, floodlights, and gobos galore. Everything that could possibly be lit was lit. There was a light focused on the background, while another one lit the hair of the starlet. Another light illuminated the actress and gave her deep cheek bones and a sculpted jaw. A sweeping light filled in shadows. And yet another one provided a slight kick across her breasts. There were lights everywhere, criss-crossing and lighting things in an unnatural way. Similar to how a Hollywood movie would be lit, the woman would pop from the page. The looks, expressions, and feelings were all flirty, sexy, and serious.

Thankfully, we didn’t see the mixture of these two unique styles mix. We had our cheaply produced “themed” pin-up beauties and our overly processed Hollywood glamour stars. The styles developed over the decade and started to expand just as the war in Europe was starting get big. And then World War II began and the pin-ups hit the mainstream market.

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