CULTURE & ARTS
02/03/2016 08:45 am ET

Your Visual Guide To The Timeless Queens Of Pin-Up

Meet the women who shaped the fantasies of the 1930s to the 1960s.
Famous pin-up Blaze Starr (real name Fannie Belle Fleming) in 1950.
Getty
Famous pin-up Blaze Starr (real name Fannie Belle Fleming) in 1950.

The bombshell above is Fannie Belle Fleming, also known as Blaze Starr, the stripper and comedienne hailed as the Queen of Burlesque. She was known for her fiery red hair and even more fiery sense of humor, often ending an erotic strip tease by releasing smoke from between her legs. 

Blaze was skilled at her craft and she knew it, often refuting the slut-shaming mentality of more mainstream modes of thought. "Society thought that to be a stripper was to be a prostitute," Ms. Starr told The New York Times in 1989, a statement that today would sound outdated, but for her time period, was revolutionary. "But I always felt that I was an artist, entertaining. I was at ease being a stripper. I kept my head held high, and if there is such a thing as getting nude with class, then I did it."

The burlesque star, and her all-American little sister, the pin-up girl, were crucial ingredients to American pop culture throughout the 20th century. In conjunction with the image of the modern, independent woman, these women were exploring their sexuality and flaunting their agency, although often in a manner directly dictated by the male gaze. 

Actress Dolores Reed poses during a portrait session in Los Angeles, California, circa 1956.
Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Actress Dolores Reed poses during a portrait session in Los Angeles, California, circa 1956.

Dian Hanson, author of The Art of the Pin-Up, explained the particulars of the American babe to The Huffington Post. "Her sexiness is natural and uncontrived, and her exposure is always accidental. A fishhook catches her bikini top, an outboard motor shreds her skirt, a spunky puppy trips her up or the ever-present playful breeze lifts her hem, revealing stocking tops and garter straps, but never the whole enchilada."

The history of the pin-up girl is bound up with the rise of feminism and women's liberation, which you can read more on here and here. But you came here to look at images. Glamorous, sexy, powerful, flirtatious, the women below embodied eroticism and shaped the fantasies of countless devoted fans. From the coquettishly cute to the boldly risqué, these are the beautiful icons of pin-up history, from the 1930s to the 1960s. 

  • 1930s
    Titled "A Little Salt," this pin-up woman in a sheer outfit and a sailor cap looks the part in 1930.
    Underwood Archives/Getty Images
    Titled "A Little Salt," this pin-up woman in a sheer outfit and a sailor cap looks the part in 1930.
  • A pin-up portrait of Lilian Harvey in Theatre World magazine in December of 1932. 
    Culture Club/Getty Images
    A pin-up portrait of Lilian Harvey in Theatre World magazine in December of 1932. 
  • A pin-up portrait of American actor and stripper Gypsy Rose Lee (Louise Rose Hovick, 1914-1970) dressed in a see-through
    Hulton Archive/Getty Images
    A pin-up portrait of American actor and stripper Gypsy Rose Lee (Louise Rose Hovick, 1914-1970) dressed in a see-through tinsel top and long tinsel skirt, standing with her hands on her hips, circa 1935.
  • A pin-up portrait of Getty Jassonne, French ballet dancer, captured between 1936 and 1939. This appeared on a cigarette card
    The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images
    A pin-up portrait of Getty Jassonne, French ballet dancer, captured between 1936 and 1939. This appeared on a cigarette card from the "Real Photographs" series issued by the manufacturers of State Express and Ardath Cigarettes.
  • Pin-up portrait of Gypsy Rose Lee seated on a pedestal, wearing a slit gown, circa 1938.
    Frederic Lewis/Getty Images
    Pin-up portrait of Gypsy Rose Lee seated on a pedestal, wearing a slit gown, circa 1938.
  • Ruth Colman pictured here circa 1938. This pin-up portrait appeared on a cigarette card from the "Modern Beauties"
    The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images
    Ruth Colman pictured here circa 1938. This pin-up portrait appeared on a cigarette card from the "Modern Beauties" series, issued by the British-American Tobacco Company.
  • 1940s
    One of famed pin-up artist Gil Elvgren's paintings, c. 1940, titled "Caught in the Draft."
    Gil Elvgren/Underwood Archives/Getty Images
    One of famed pin-up artist Gil Elvgren's paintings, c. 1940, titled "Caught in the Draft."
  • Ann Savage presents a preview of what the well-dressed lady will wear in the winter season of 1943-44.
    PhotoQuest/Getty Images
    Ann Savage presents a preview of what the well-dressed lady will wear in the winter season of 1943-44.
  • A French pin-up portrait from 1946.
    Serge DE SAZO/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images
    A French pin-up portrait from 1946.
  • A pin-up painting by Peter Driben from 1948.
    Buyenlarge/Getty Images
    A pin-up painting by Peter Driben from 1948.
  • A pin-up girl on the beach in Los Angeles, California, in 1949.
    Camerique/Getty Images
    A pin-up girl on the beach in Los Angeles, California, in 1949.
  • A 1949 pin-up portrait of a smiling blond woman wearing a red cropped sweater and plaid skirt while holding a golf club.
    Camerique/Getty Images
    A 1949 pin-up portrait of a smiling blond woman wearing a red cropped sweater and plaid skirt while holding a golf club.
  • 1950s
    American actor and pin-up girl Betty Grable lifts her robe to look at her legs in a mirror on April 15, 1950.
    Gene Lester/Getty Images
    American actor and pin-up girl Betty Grable lifts her robe to look at her legs in a mirror on April 15, 1950.
  • An American pin-up portrait circa 1950.
    Keystone-France/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images
    An American pin-up portrait circa 1950.
  • Burlesque dancer Lonnie Young in a bikini decorated with flowers, posing for a pin-up shot circa 1950.
    Hulton Archive/Getty Images
    Burlesque dancer Lonnie Young in a bikini decorated with flowers, posing for a pin-up shot circa 1950.
  • Pin-up model Bettie Page poses for a portrait wearing lingerie in 1952.
    Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
    Pin-up model Bettie Page poses for a portrait wearing lingerie in 1952.
  • A pin-up painting by Peter Driben shows a cheerleader tumbling to reveal her silk stockings and garter belt in1951.
    Buyenlarge/Getty Images
    A pin-up painting by Peter Driben shows a cheerleader tumbling to reveal her silk stockings and garter belt in1951.
  • Actress and stripper Lili St. Cyr poses for a publicty photo for the film "Son of Sinbad" (released in 1955 due to censorship
    Donaldson Collection/Getty Images
    Actress and stripper Lili St. Cyr poses for a publicty photo for the film "Son of Sinbad" (released in 1955 due to censorship problems) in 1953 in Los Angeles, California.
  • Another Peter Driben painting from 1953. 
    Buyenlarge/Getty Images
    Another Peter Driben painting from 1953. 
  • American pin-up Bettie Page, Playboy playmate of the month for January 1955, poses in a suspender belt.
    Weegee(Arthur Fellig)/International Center of Photography/Getty Images
    American pin-up Bettie Page, Playboy playmate of the month for January 1955, poses in a suspender belt.
  • American actress and pin-up model Joi Lansing is "impressed by a typewriter" circa 1955.
    Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
    American actress and pin-up model Joi Lansing is "impressed by a typewriter" circa 1955.
  • A pin-up model poses with a custom Ford Thunderbird in 1957.
    Al Paloczy/The Enthusiast Network/Getty Images
    A pin-up model poses with a custom Ford Thunderbird in 1957.
  • 1960s
    Blaze Starr, also known as Fannie Fleming, poses in 1960.
    Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
    Blaze Starr, also known as Fannie Fleming, poses in 1960.
  • June Wilkinson, British actress and pin-up model, wearing a short, sleeveless and striped top with a scoop neckline, and a pa
    Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
    June Wilkinson, British actress and pin-up model, wearing a short, sleeveless and striped top with a scoop neckline, and a pair of white shorts, kneeling in a studio portrait, against a white background, circa 1960.
  • Portrait of the American actress Janet Leigh in pin-up attire in the 1960s.
    Mondadori Portfolio/Getty Images
    Portrait of the American actress Janet Leigh in pin-up attire in the 1960s.

 

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