A Look Back: Pinups of Bygone Eras

Lilyan Tashman, Ziegfeld Follies publicity photo circa 1916/1917.

Lilyan Tashman, Ziegfeld Follies publicity photo circa 1916/1917.

It’s a fact that people have been taking pictures of lovely ladies for as long as there have been cameras.  There’s something about really old photos that has always seemed particularly luminous and compelling to me, some combination of the film and retouching techniques that is reminiscent of an oil painter’s brush strokes.  (And, if you look closely, you can even occasionally see where some tiny brushwork was applied for some proto-Photoshopping.)

An exotic dancer from the 1890s.  I would totally wear this outfit.

An exotic dancer from the 1890s. I would totally wear this outfit.

The public domain (in the United States) includes images from before the year 1924, which encompasses the Victorian and Edwardian eras, the Belle Epoque, WWI, and the beginning of the jazz age. Some of the photos have a timeless appeal (I often find the eyes particularly compelling in these old portraits), and some are amusingly dated.  These older pinups bridge the languidity and restfulness of the classical painted figure and the ever-so-charming (but somewhat contrived) poses of those cheerful mid-century pinups.

Vintage portrait of woman in hat and leather gloves.

Vintage portrait of woman in hat and leather gloves.

The images I’ve shown today have been sourced primarily from Wikimedia Commons or DeviantArt’s Resources & Stock Images category, where several users have uploaded brilliant galleries of these old photos.  All photos found on DeviantArt link back to the uploader, and I highly recommend you peruse their galleries for additional works. I tried to find more information about these photos via Google’s reverse image search, Wikipedia, and the like, but if anyone is able to provide any confirmed additional information about these photos, such as the year, subject, or photographer, I would love to know and add it to the caption.

Costumed dancer (?) on postcard, circa 1905. Via les2a on DeviantArt.

Costumed dancer on postcard, circa 1905.

Maria Cavalieri, vintage postcard circa 1900, Russian opera singer.  Via MementoMori on DeviantArt.

Maria Cavalieri, vintage postcard circa 1900, Russian opera singer.

Vintage boudoir scene, via MementoMori on DeviantArt.

Vintage boudoir scene.

Vintage pinup with cigarette holder and beautiful stockings and garter belt.  Via VioletIvory on DeviantArt.

Vintage pinup with cigarette holder and beautiful stockings and garter belt.

Vintage pinup in deshabille with hat.

Vintage pinup in deshabille with hat.

Vintage pinup in stockings and sheer negligee. Via candiesforeveryone on DeviantArt.

Vintage pinup in stockings and sheer negligee.

 

Marianne

Marianne

Marianne Faulkner is the designer of Pop Antique, a clothing and corsetry line specializing in sustainable materials and comfortable curves. She is based in San Francisco where she earned her MFA in fashion design at the Academy of Art University, and has been a columnist at The Lingerie Addict since 2011.

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5 Comments

  1. 27/06/14 at 0:32

    Lovely article! These images are classic examples of beautiful women in lingerie.

  2. Thursday
    27/06/14 at 3:44

    Coincidentally, that final image is used on the cover of the book French Postcards, which my partner bought me as a gift just this week! Of course I love exploring vintage lingerie, but the poses, the moods, and the features emphasised by different eras are also fascinating. The book is quite a good collection for those interested in historic erotica: http://www.amazon.com/French-Postcards-Album-Vintage-Erotica/dp/B007CUHUAO/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1403854986&sr=8-5&keywords=french+postcards.

    • 27/06/14 at 3:54

      I have this book! I picked it up years ago, and I still flip through it every few months or so. It’s a great collection…thank you for recommending it.

      • Thursday
        28/06/14 at 5:21

        I’m so glad you have it! I think it’s a great little resource – all credit to my partner for a great find :)

  3. Beverly D. Hasegawa
    29/06/14 at 3:42

    Lilyan Tashman was a very popular actress in the early decades of the 20th century. Born in poverty; made it up to the highest echelons of both Hollywood and Broadway. She was known not only for her acting but for her sumptuous clothes and jewelry. Kept undercover then, but well known now, is that she was a lesbian in a marriage of convenience (and close friendship) with Edmund Lowe, a gay actor. By all accounts she was smart, funny and one-of-a-kind.

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