The Evolution of Pin-Up Girls

Pin-up girls have been used as a clever marketing technique for over a century, where pictures of beautiful, voluptuous women could be “pinned” up for viewing pleasures while promoting a product. This trend can be traced back to the 1890s, and caught on in the United States about a decade later when Christian Dior used pretty ladies in his ad campaigns. The pin-ups were meant to be all-American good girls up until WWII.

A Vivacious 1940s Pin-up Girl
A Vivacious 1940s Pin-up Girl Poses in A 2 Piece Bathing Costume. Photo By Historia/Shutterstock

Alberto Vargas started painting modest, yet sexy images of women for Esquire magazine in the 1930s. Soldiers kept the images as a token of good luck when they went to war. It was believed that soldiers would have better morale if they were motivated to fight for something, like the gorgeous women back home. The pin-up evolved from women in lingerie to badass sexy women wearing a soldier’s uniform.

Let’s face it, sex sells. Here is the evolution of pin-up girls.


Unsurprisingly, Playboy Magazine plays a significant role in the popularity of pin-up girls. The magazine is entirely focused on the images of sexy women. I mean, the first Playboy cover girl was one of the most iconic pin-up girls in history, Marilyn Monroe. The model and upcoming actress posed nude with a red velvet background and set the stage for the Playboy Empire that Hugh Hefner was able to create.

woman lolling on a sofa, the 1920s, exact place unknown, Germany
Photo By Our-Planet Berlin/imageBROKER/Shutterstock

After Monroe’s iconic cover and centerfold, many more high profile celebrities joined the pin-up world, including Bettie Page, Jayne Mansfield, and Rita Hayworth. Not all of them were successful in the pin-up realm of modeling, but being a pin-up became a desirable option for any woman in the 1950s.

Pin-Up Girls in 2020

A popular inspiration for pin-up models is the “Varga Girl” version. However, the style has evolved quite a bit since the 1930s. The classic pin-up imagine is a sexy woman with curled hair, red lips, not wearing much clothes, and posing seductively. Another version of the pin-up has the same signature makeup and hairstyle, just wearing casual everyday clothes.

Clare Morgan
Clare Morgan. Photo By Teamcamera/Shutterstock

Add tattoos to this version, and you got a “rockabilly” pin-up. These pictures are highly inspired by 40’s fashion and style, just with a modern twist. Pin-ups are still used in advertisements today. Any magazine you open up will include girls with the classic pin-up look. As we mentioned, sex sells, so models and photographers use this style to promote themselves.

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