Provocative Pin-ups

The Unfiltered Feminine

Image: Rita Hayworth

BY: Jes Zurell

Post-war pin-up girls cement their place in your heart in one fell smooch; their creamy curves and sweet faces embody classic feminine charm in a way that contemporary models and photographers can’t replicate without several layers of filters and makeup. We find this provocative.

Filters are a way of life. As for the evidence of time Snapchat and Instagram can’t erase, there’s a $532 billion cosmetics industry. Even in the age of #effyourbeautystandards and body positivity, civilians have all agreed on the modern pillars of pretty:

Thou shalt not pore.

Thou shalt only glow in areas of the face not including the T-zone.

Thou shalt worship before the altar of the YouTube beauty guru. Even the major brands are doing it (we’re looking at you, Morphe).

Thou shalt insist that thou woke up like this and be sure to take a selfie for proof.

Photography was more novel in the pin-ups’ days. Not only was the technology more slow and deliberate, it was also more expensive. Each print was precious, therefore deserving of being “pinned up” on a wall for hourly enjoyment. (Fun fact: Pin-up photos were sometimes called “cheesecake” photos, a feminine compliment to the masculine “beefcake.” They were two sides of the same sex toy.)

It was scandalous for a woman to pose provocatively in front of a camera at that time, and all of these infamous photos are more complex because of this. These aren’t just the beauties of an era–they’re documentation of women calculatedly exercising their own power.

Women are engaged in a centuries-long game of striptease, and too many men have won at our expense. But today, we are inspired by these unfiltered mid-century goddesses, and invite you to think about how you might make your next move.


Rita Hayworth sexy pinup lounging in hay
Rita Hayworth


Vivian Leigh
Vivian Leigh.


Sophia Loren
Sophia Loren.


Veronica Lake
Veronica Lake.


Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe.


Rita Hayworth.
Rita Hayworth.


Jayne Mansfield.
Jayne Mansfield.


Vintage photo of Bettie Page
Bettie Page.