The Pretty Things Peepshow rolled through Indianapolis last week on a national tour from their home base in New Jersey. Stopping at the Vollrath Tavern on the southside of downtown, this nationally-recognized troupe performed for a packed house on a Wednesday night and provided a night of entertainment that offered a little something for everyone. The three lovely ladies were truly that, absolutely beautiful in that classic burlesque pin-up style of the 1940s, anchored so squarely in the genre it felt a bit like a time-warp. They have mastered the look, the vibe, and the tease of burlesque's hey-day, so beautiful in all their glamour it felt like being in the company of movie stars, or, that classic icon of female sexuality, the pin-up model.
Pin-up girls have been around since the late 1800s. A pin-up girl is defined as a model whose mass-produced pictures are sold for informal collection and display. Many famous actresses, models, celebrities and other performers have pin-up modeling as a part of their repertoire. The pin-up images can appear in magazines or newspapers, on postcards or as chomo-lithographs. Calendar art may be the most popular pin-up format, and pin-up calendars are still popular today.
Many argue that the "Gibson Girl" was the first artistic rendering of a feminized standard of beauty, first appearing in the late 1890s. Portrayed in a series of satirical pen and ink drawings by the illustrator Charles Dana Gibson, the Gibson Girl image decorated fans, screens, tableclothes, and many other collectors items, and held the public's attention as the ultimate representation of beauty. Tall and slender with a large chest, hips, and behind, the S-curved woman often wore a corset to amplify her shape and a cascading wave of curly hair to represent her natural, wild-woman-like appeal. Gibson often depicted her as an equal and seductive presence in men's lives. Many celebrities of the day posed for Gibson, including the actress Evelyn Nesbit, Camille Clifford, and Gibson's own wife.
The collection of pin-up art reached its zenith during the 1940s, although it certainly was in production long before and long after that time. Betty Grable was a common staple for the G.I.s during WWII. A google search of 1940s pin-ups will yield a tremendous amount of art and can easily become an obsession for those prone to collecting. Lauren Bacall, Ava Gardner, Judy Garland, Rita Hayworth, Veronica Lake, Ann Miller, Jane Russell, and Lena Horne are just some of the examples of the famous figures who have posed for pin-up imagery.
Artists are still producing pin-up art today, even though its imagery is so closely associated with the 1940s era. A google search for pin-up art will send you to numerous sites for artists and models selling a host of pin-up products. Victoria's Secret has just released the Miraculous Bra, otherwise known as the Pin-Up Bra. Pretty Things Peepshow, in addition to their touring show schedule, is available to conduct workshops on how to be a pin-up, that teaches women how to get their hair, make-up and fashion ready for a photo shoot. Even here in Indianapolis, local photographer Meg Olsen works with the Melody Inn to produce a pin-up calendar of local girls each year.
A huge thanks to the girls of Pretty Things Peepshow for visiting Indianapolis during their travels. It was a great night of entertainment for those lucky enough to catch the show. For those inspired to learn more about the pin-up style of which the Pretty Things girls have perfected, I encourage you to explore the world of pin-up art on your own. It is rich in history, imagery, and new ways to play with and think about female beauty.
For more information on the Pretty Things Peepshow, visit www.prettythingsproductions.com.