Why I’ll Never Really Be a Pinup

Why I’ll Never Really Be a Pinup

The dress that finally broke me.

Hi. My name is Charlotte, and I’m not a pinup. I wish I could be, but I’m not.

If you know me from anywhere else (blogs, Instagram, etc.), you may or may not have noticed that I rarely share pictures of myself. When I was preparing to give a presentation at GLAAM’s Regional Gathering a few months ago, they requested a headshot for the website. I’ve never had headshots taken. I haven’t had one picture of myself taken by a professional since my senior portrait (and I’m not going to disclose how long ago THAT was). I wound up having to scan and crop a small, black-and-white picture taken in a vintage photo booth. I just didn’t have anything else.

Real pinups are beautiful, perfectly put together even when they’re “unpinned” (i.e. dressed casually), and confident. Me? Not so much.

I am hopeless at styling my hair. I have one look with two variations: just past my shoulders, with bangs, wavy when I have a reason to fix myself up, straight the rest of the time.

It’s even worse with makeup. I use exactly three products: loose powder, lipliner, and lipstick. I cannot apply eye makeup to save my life, and blush/bronzer makes me look like a clown. (Okay, the fact that I’m really pale doesn’t help. The powder I use is the only foundation I can find that is light enough. I listed Besame Cosmetics in my Velvet Gazette article on pinup shopping in Burbank. Guess how many Besame products I own? Zero. I’m so pale even the Snow White palette is too dark.)

Retro lingerie doesn’t come in my bra size. I don’t harbor any desire to do a lingerie photo shoot (I am way too shy), but even if I did, it would be impossible. Meanwhile, I can’t get the right silhouette in ’50s styles. I gave What Katie Did a mention in my VG article even though they only go up to an F cup. Dita von Teese’s line – same thing. Secrets in Lace – not even close. I refuse to shell out for the panties, garter belt, and stockings without a matching bra. So much for celebrating curves.

Speaking of lingerie…retro designers don’t seem to take larger bras into account. It’s really, REALLY hard, if not impossible, to find a large-cup bra that holds everything in place AND doesn’t show under a cute dress. I’ve returned a lot of adorable outfits I was dying to wear (and driven a few bra fitters crazy) because I couldn’t find a bra to fit under a dress. (High necklines do not solve the problem. They’re hot, uncomfortable, unflattering, and make a large chest look even larger. And bigger bras can still peep out of a too-big armhole!)

I DO NOT WANT MY UNDERWEAR TO SHOW! Why is this so hard for everyone else to understand? The least-worst bra I tried on last summer had cutesy lace trim that stuck out from under the straps of the dress that necessitated the shopping trip in the first place. “I guess I could just take off that lace,” I commented to the fitter. She suggested I leave it and let it peek out because it’s “sexy”. Seriously? Bras in my size are way too expensive for me to justify purchasing something that shows under cute outfits (nor can I afford to sew a bra into every dress I buy – another unrealistic and completely unhelpful suggestion from the same fitter). And you can’t alter a bra the way you would alter a dress (trust me on this), especially a large-cup bra. The size I wear requires roughly the same amount of engineering as a suspension bridge. I want to look put together. Having your underwear sticking out of your clothes, even if it’s “just” some lace trim, defeats the purpose of even trying.

On a related note, what if I don’t WANT to be seen as “sexy”? I want to feel PRETTY. That’s not the same thing.

I’m tired of being forced to make my own clothes. After one too many attempts to buy clothes left me crying behind a fitting room door (again), I took a sewing class. The next thing I knew, I had a degree in fashion design. And I still wound up making my own stuff because nothing is cut for my body. The ironic thing is, ’50s styles flatter curves without showing too much skin. But I have to make things myself to get the fit right (have you ever tried pinning a dress on yourself – especially the back? It’s REALLY, REALLY HARD). Just once, I’d like to be able to try on a dress, have it actually fit me, buy it, and not have to alter it in multiple places before wearing it.

Authentic vintage, for the most part, is a pipe dream. I used to wear authentic vintage all the time. Then I had a belated growth spurt at age 23 and went up three cup sizes. I couldn’t button up my favorite shirtwaist dress or my black velvet top from Bullocks Wilshire (best vintage find ever). Most of my best vintage clothes went to new owners, and if you don’t think that broke my heart, you’re sorely mistaken. Thank God for vintage aloha wear, which tends to be cut more generously (I can always take in the waist).

My lungs keep me away from certain kinds of events and places. Rockabilly events in particular can be very smoky (even though I live in California, where smoking isn’t that common). I don’t care what other people do to themselves, but I’m very sensitive to any kind of smoke (and yes, air pollution is also a problem). Why have I never been to the Tiki-Ti, even though it’s not far from one of my favorite restaurants? Because even though they no longer allow smoking, they did for 50+ years. Old, accumulated tobacco smoke makes me wheezy, too.

I like heavy metal. I love me some Elvis…but I also love me some Scorpions.

I probably won’t ever own a vintage car. My dad is a car fanatic. I have been to numerous car shows and several automotive museums (I took Dad to the Petersen Museum’s basement vaults once, and he saves Barrett-Jackson auction highlights for me). But I can’t drive a stick shift, I have no patience for a vehicle that requires more maintenance than I do, and I take too many longer trips to justify anything that uses a lot of gas. I’m sure I look a little bit odd when I step out of my Prius wearing Stop Staring!

A few months ago, I pre-ordered a gorgeous dress from Vixen. I had pretty good luck with Micheline Pitt’s previous designs for Pinup Girl, and I honestly thought this dress would be perfect for me. I shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up again – it’s cut too low for my figure. I ripped it off in a fit of rage and cried for an hour.

That dress is So. Close. To. Perfection. But the neckline is so low I would definitely spill out of it. I’ve gotten approval to return it, but…it IS a beautiful dress and it DOES makes me look skinny. And the torso is pretty close to the right length. I’m debating just sewing a panel in the front, even though I swore I was going to just send back anything that didn’t fit me.

And there you have it. I am unworthy of the “pinup” label. Even if I had the confidence and hair/makeup skills, I don’t have the right body.

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