The pinup is alive and well

By Lori Morrison

This article was previously published in

The Pinup Girl… These words immediately evoke one of two images: the wispy brushstrokes of a Gil Elvgren illustration or a sassy war-time photo usually kept in a garage. Contrary to what you may think, the pinup isn’t a thing of the past. Oh no, she is alive, well, and thriving online now.

Bettie Page is by far and wide the most recognizable name in the genre, however many more have come to take her place. Will they ever have the coveted title of Pinup Queen? Quebec’s  very own HellCath does. With more than a quarter million fans on Facebook alone, she’s a gal who has taken the classic pinup style and modernized it with her own twist. It isn’t even just a photo genre anymore—it’s become a lifestyle.

With stores, both online and brick and mortar, catering to this group, and more opening monthly, it has become a booming business. Magazines, websites, pageants, events, etc.—it’s nothing to ignore. Viva Las Vegas (VLV) holds its annual event in early April, drawing tens of thousands to the City of Sin for a weekend of fun, burlesque shows, concerts, car shows, and the Miss Viva Las Vegas pinup contest.

Locally, the Montreal pinup scene (and its dancing cousin, burlesque), has blossomed into a beautiful bouquet of diversity. It’s not only for the long and lithe, you’ll find all shapes, sizes, looks, and they are all equally stunning. Montreal’s Wiggle Room (3874 Boul St Laurent) is a place that can seamlessly merge the two with shows such as Miss Ginger’s Burlesque Bingo and Bake Sale.

There, too, is no set shape in burlesque, and here’s a surprise to some: there is even a male version, known as boylesque.

Shopping for the perfect outfit, accessories, and unmentionables has become so much easier—no need to necessarily buy online in hopes your choices meld your skin like coulis on ice cream, tsk tsk heavens no. You can stroll up Boulevard St-Laurent and pop into Boutique Kitsch n Swell (3972 Boul St Laurent), where you’ll first spot award-winning window displays that at any given time can showcase taxidermy squirrels dressed up in suits, a tiki party, or some of the most gorgeous clothes around. Owner Karine Gauthier carries popular lines such as VoodooVixen, Sourpuss, and Lindy Bop, as well as local designers’ works, including handmade hair clips adorned with feathers, faux gems, and flowers. When you’re done picking out the perfect ensemble for a swanky night out (The Wiggle Room has some of the city’s best cocktails, and a lush decor, just saying…), browse the tiki section in case you broke your last volcano cocktail vessel, or need the right lanterns for your party. Turn to your left and take your pick of a wild assortment of antlers, too, you can never have too many of those. Hang one in your bedroom to use as a scarf/jewelry hanger.

If you happen to be in the east end of the city while on your trek, check out Marina Vintage at 1331 Ontario East. They carry a large assortment of clothing, shoes, and the best petticoats I’ve ever worn.

Now that you’ve gotten dressed, chosen some items for an upcoming ’60s tiki-themed party, and are heading up for some drinks and a burlesque show (you don’t stay home dressed to the nines, honey), your thoughts turn to “How can I perfect this look of mine?” Of course they do, they always do.

I’m glad you asked.

After watching video after video on YouTube, trying to get that cat eye liner to be even, or how to effortlessly apply false eyelashes, you feel you’ll never get it right, there is a brand-spanking new solution in our sexy city. The Montreal Pinup Academy has just launched, as a partnership with the hugely successful Toronto Pinup Academy. It’s a collective of experts in the pinup field, including some of our burlesque sisters as teachers. The six-hour workshops will cover vintage makeup styles, hair styles (Victory Rolls and Veronica Lake-like waves), how to dress for your  body size/shape, creating a pinup persona, and how to pose for the camera. The whole day culminates in your very own pinup photo shoot, with pics to take home. Guidance will be provided by some of the biggest names in the Montreal pinup and burlesque scene: Audrey Ivory, Alexandra Apple, Lavender May, HellCath, and Marisa Parisella.

At this point, you should be rarin’ to go out, now come up with a pinup name. You don’t think “Miss Ginger” is my real name now, do you? Find something on you or about you that stands out, and run with it. The names run the gamut from the potentially real to the absolutely ridiculous. The one thing they all have in common is they’re perfect for the person they belong to.

Looks to me like you’re all set. Although we may not all become an inspiration for an Elvgren-style piece, or win big at the next Viva Las Vegas, the important thing is to make yourself happy.

Have fun, make heads turn, and send in some photo updates!

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Image: Marisa Parisella


Lori Morrison is a pinup gal-about-town, lifelong Montrealer, voiceover artist, and Habs fan. Photo courtesy of Andrea Hausmann.

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  1. france

    Hello im a huge fan of the vintage years 🙂 i would like to join a groupe of pin up in mtl so please let me know if there’s some events soon 😉
    Thank you

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