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Pretty As A Pin-Up

DSC_0052Meredith Hoffman Writer Laurie Kamens gets make-up advice.

It felt unnatural. I arched my foot backwards, gracefully pointing my toes, pushed out my chest, and forced a cheesy grin. Posing as a pin-up model was proving harder work than the smiling, curly-headed girls of the 1940’s and 50’s made it look.

“If it feels comfortable, you’re doing it wrong,” Bettina May said as we started mugging for the camera.

A professional pin-up model and burlesque dancer, Ms. May has been teaching her Pin-Up Class for the past five years, giving contemporary women a tutorial in vintage make up and hair, complete with a personalized photo shoot at the end.

DSC_0006Bettina May removes curlers.

Popularized by movie stars such as Marilyn Monroe, Bettie Page, and Rita Hayworth, the classic pin-up look, defined by Ms. May as, “red lips, black eyeliner and a big smile,” is now an iconic image of feminine beauty and sex appeal.

Held at Beauty Bar on 14th Street, the class I attended was intimate, six women including myself. A perfect setting, the converted beauty parlor is decorated with swiveling chairs and display cases holding dusty hairbrushes and expired beauty products. As we settled into the vinyl salon chairs, Buddy Holly playing softly in the background, Ms. May asked why we had signed up for the class and what we hoped to take away from it.

There was Kim, 47, a mother of two, who became interested in pin-up culture through themed events she helped organize. Her enthusiasm reached so far that she brought along a friend, Marcela, 36. Also recommended by a friend was Margaret, 27. Swing dancing since high school, she was looking for a vintage hair and make up style to match her dance moves.

Hailing from Texas, Lorraine, 30, was a one-time hairstylist who was looking to fill a gap in her professional knowledge, as well as make a personal connection; “I’ve recently been looking at pictures of my grandmother and I kind of resemble her,” she said. “I remembered seeing some of her outfits in my dad’s closet. I just want to start presenting myself in a glamorous way.”

Then there was Amy who, though 37, looked as if she was in her early 20’s with a pixie haircut and a bubbly personality to match. After a long-standing fascination with vintage glamour, she was excited to resemble the pin-up girls she had plastered on the walls of her apartment. Read more…