Monday, July 27, 2020

Pin Ups in WWII Reenacting . . .My Thoughts

A few months back I saw a lot of posts here and there about pin ups in the WWII reenacting community. Naturally I had to read them but I did not comment. All I wanted to do was soak up what I was reading.  You see WWII reenacting to me is kind of new and I am still learning all the ins and outs of its own cultures and sub cultures.  Wearing 40s clothes, however, is not new. I have been wearing vintage and vintage style for longer than I have been WWII reenacting. With that said, I was kind of familiar with the pin up culture as vintage style/ clothing kind of go hand in hand with pin up contests, culture, etc. But pin up culture in WWII reenacting? To me that was kind of a new thing . . Seeing the two blended together.   . . Or trying to blend together. 

As a whole I have been reenacting since 2011 or so but the majority of that was American Civil War. As you can guess, Civil War and WWII are quite different. In fact, they are very different. Heck, there is not even a   "pin up" culture in Civil War reenacting at all . ….Unless you consider Mary Margaret flashing some ankle under all those petticoats (sexy eh?). So yeah, Civil War does not have anything close to the Pin Up scene which can be spotted at WWII events. If I had to pick something even remotely close maybe a fashion show as it seems the Pin Up contests at WWII events seem to be opportunities  to show off 40s fashion  (and yes, I know these Pin Up contests are often rich with gross historical inaccuracies in terms of fashion but so are the Civil War ones at times). 

Reading the opinions of those in the reenacting community about the Pin Up culture at events really got me wondering . . . How on Earth did this even get started? How did Pin Ups become a thing??  Did Pin Ups even exist in WWII? One thing that I saw as a common thread between all the discussions was that the Pin Ups who come to events seem to touch on a sore spot . . Maybe two. That sore spot being not wearing period correct attire (clothes, hair, nails, shoes, makeup, etc) and pretending to be civilians and then those who are overly sexualizing those women who wore the uniform. 

 Is it possible that these "pin ups" are just poorly created civilian or military impressions? If that is the case then I think we are looking at not Pin Ups but those who are lacking in guidance on what is and is not correct attire for the impression they may have wanted. I imagine these ladies are attempting a civilian or military impression but are falling short (which happens. We all start somewhere and to cut down these gals for trying does not help anyone nor the reenacting community). I put emphasis on impression because pin ups were a thing in WWII as were plain civilians and military women. . ..

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These Pin Ups were just as real . . But in a different way. Doubt me? Then check out this article from War Bird Digest. What this article touches on is the amazing nose art from WWII that featured beautiful half dressed women (Pin Ups )and other characters. Pin Ups were even featured on calendars, advertising, and more. If you are really interested then I highly recommend this source on Facebook, The American Pin Up.  These illustrated women were created in 40s and the clothes they wear, if recreated, would be considered period correct. A little racy? Sure, you bet. But still period correct. But are the women we are seeing at these events accurately representing these particular women? These illustrated pin ups? I think not because the pin ups that I have managed to find from WWII were fantasy. Almost like our air brushed and photo shopped swim suit angles we see in magazines and online. In short, Pin Ups did exist in WWII but they were largely a part of illustration history and were not the average flesh and blood women that reenactors try to represent. 
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Moving on now to the other kind of Pin Up . . .So what if a lady is not owning a civilian impression nor a military impression but is going for something else. Well I guess that brings us to our Pin Up lady. Often seen with wild hair colors , numerous tattoos, mini skirts, hair flowers, you name it. I am sure you know what I am talking about and no description need to go further. These women pose with motorcycles, jeeps, and tanks. They ooze a confidence very few other women have. They attract attention from the public and are magnets for the camera. Personally I am not a pin up but I do, kind of ,  appreciate the style. It is not for the faint of heart for sure and it does take some level of confidence to rock. Maybe that is why they are unpopular among some? A jealously of confidence? Who knows . . .Maybe ask Dr. Phil? 

But anyways . . .Do these kinds of intentional Pin Ups belong at WWII reenactments? Personally I don't think they belong at a WWII reenactment because they offer an inaccurate impression of clothing and beauty culture of the 40s. Most people do not know the difference between what is period and what is not so when  the intentional pin up shows up I think it can generate confusion. As a reenactor I think it is my duty to be as authentic as possible. To represent the civilian as she was.  . .Not as I want her to be. Do these intentional pin ups do the civilian of the 40s justice? I don't think so. 

At the same time I think they , the intentional pin ups, could be integrated into a 40s fashion presentation because this intentional pin up's fashion is a result of the fashion from the 40s and the 50s. She has a modern day look inspired by the past which I think is very interesting. Much of the fashions of the 80s were inspired by the 40s and even the 70s saw a Victorian revival. Is the Pin Up style of today a sub culture fashion inspired by the past? Yes, it is. Does it bring up its own intellectual discussion that could be brought up at events? In a certain setting, absolutely, because it shows how the events, cultures, etc of the 40s still surface today.  

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