Thursday, July 1, 2010

Sun on your skin

Most modern-day retro pin-up models - presumably following the standard set by Dita von Teese - seem to cultivate a milky white complexion. Not that that's a bad thing, but I just wonder what's the aversion to developing a tan? With Dita I would assume it stems from her goth tendencies, but why does everyone else feel the need to emulate this look? After all, at the height of pin-up and cheesecake - the 40s-to-early-60s period on which most modern 'retro pin-up' photos are based - a tan was desirable. My vintage magazines from the 1940s and 50s carry articles on successful sunbathing, and Bettie Page and Marilyn Monroe (among others) show a healthy golden glow in the beach photo shoots above. Again, I'm not saying that pale skin is bad, I'm just wondering at the perception that it is somehow retro, or the only 'correct' skintone for pin-up modelling.

Advice on "how to tan beautifully", from Everywoman magazine, July 1946.

Summertime skincare for all ages, from Everywoman, July 1949

** Edited to re-iterate: I did NOT want to start a discussion about whether pale or tanned is better or worse - that wasn't my point. My point was that it seems to me that pale is considered more 'RETRO', and wondering whether others agreed or saw it differently.


  1. Dita von Teese was not the first pale beautie! :)
    Some girls look gorgeous with a golden tan, i prefer pale skin, suits me better.

  2. Dita certainly wasn't the first pale beauty, but she does seem to have set the pale standard for MODERN RETRO pin-ups. At least that's the way it looks to me. And again, I'm NOT saying pale is bad (just to make that point clear lol!).

  3. I would say it comes down to a few things - the photos a lot of girls try to emulate are black and white, and pale skin offsets red lipstick and black hair in a really striking way. But I think probably the biggest factor is that retro/alternative modeling presents itself as a kind of 'backlash' to the blonde and tanned norm in the modeling world. You'll notice that they are basically the opposite of each other! The need to be seen as 'different' is, I think, more important than emulating women of the past or even Dita.

    That said, I think even the 'normal' modeling world is turning away from really tanned skin, and I think a lot of that is to do with skin cancer being seen as a huge threat (a young woman died recently of it and made it her mission to speak out against tanning - I think her campaign really shattered that whole 'invincible' attitude a lot of young people have regarding their health).

  4. Reading this made me realise that people do think pale skin looks more retro. Even subconsciously I think I look more 'authentically' vintage in the winter than when I have my summer tan, but I don't know why. It might be to do with photograph quality; when I use a lower quality camera, any pictures of me taken in the sun seem to come up white, so perhaps when people see old photographs they assume everyone was paler, but it's actually just less sophisticated cameras (and obviously no photo-editing software to correct the exposure). It's an interesting question, this post made me think!
    From Carys of La Ville Inconnue

  5. I think most retro people do see being pale as being more retro. I don't think anything is wrong with that, heck I tried the dark hair and tried lighter foundation to get the 'retro look.' I think that Dita has inspired or influenced most of the retro people I see on the internet (especially younger ones). Now I am not saying that every retro gal I see on the internet is due to Dita, but I definately see a pattern...

  6. Pin ups may have been tanned but fashion models weren't. ;]
    -Andi x

  7. Ooh now that IS an interesting point, Andi - I hadn't thought about that aspect (I suppose because I had Dita von Teese and pin-up in my head). Thanks for that!


I'd love to hear your thoughts!


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