Pin-up model Jessica Woods, aka Peggy Bright, may dress like the 1950s, but she’s a very modern woman.
“A common slogan you’ll hear in the community is ‘vintage vibes, not vintage values,'” she said.
“We’re trying to focus on bringing our love of vintage fashion to 2023, where we have respect for everyone.
“We have our pick of all the fashion eras, but also to be able to have a bank account, buy a house without being married and have the career we aspire to.”
Pin-up models like Mrs. Woods represent a growing community that embraces the style and nostalgia of yesteryear while reversing many of its patriarchal views.
“Overwhelming” Modern Expectations
Ms Woods is one of 12 finalists in the country’s cutting-edge pin-up competition at Cooly Rocks On on the Gold Coast this weekend, an annual four-day festival celebrating retro culture which attracts around 150,000 visitors.
“It can be quite overwhelming now in modern times. Now you have social media, cellphones where you can be contacted in the blink of an eye,” she said.
“Modern day expectations are completely different.”
Ms Woods took her stage name from the Mad Men character Peggy Olson, a secretary-turned-advertising boss who prevailed in the chauvinistic professional world of the 1960s, while joking to her male colleagues: “Am I the only one to be able to work and drink at the same time?
“He’s an amazing character,” Ms. Woods said.
“On the show, she paved the way for women in advertising and as a career woman in general.
Sim Lovett, who goes by Bunny Boulevard, says people assume pin-up models want to live in the 1940s and 50s.
“That’s not true,” she said.
“We love style. We love music. We love cars, but as we say in our community, ‘Vintage vibes, not values.'”
So what about the vibe?
Ms Lovett said her love for the style of 1940s fashion was inspired by her childhood.
“We grew up listening to music from the 50s and 60s, and we watched a lot of film noir [a black and white film genre] like a family,” she said.
“It’s about family, very much related to my father, and it feels very familiar to me.
“It’s like home.”
According to her, the pin-ups were also a way to distance herself from her experience growing up in Hong Kong, where the culture was “a little more conservative”.
“You don’t really want to dress outside the norm,” Ms Lovett said.
“But when I went to New Orleans about four years ago, everyone was shameless themselves, and no one was ordinary.
“They dressed how they wanted, and that inspired me.”
“Held and Lift”
But for Catalina McCaw, who started 23 years ago as “a pin-up fairy godmother who recruited girls to do pageants,” community has an intimately personal meaning.
“I got married and my handsome husband passed away shortly after,” she said.
“I was out of the world, but the pin-ups and the guys stayed with me, I felt like I lost who I was.
“They were there at two in the morning, making sure I was going to get through.”
She said her first pin-up competition after her husband’s death was at Coolangatta on the Gold Coast in 2015, where she was “held and lifted”.
“It stimulated my mind,” Ms. McCaw said.
“That’s when I decided to turn things around and make something positive out of it. [of] such negativity.”
“I still mentored girls.”
Lisa Wanderess, who has autism and post-traumatic stress disorder, said the pin-up had been a “confidence booster”.
“When you have autism and PTSD, you tend to hide a lot from the world because everything gets a little overwhelming,” she said.
“It took me until I was 50 to have the confidence to say, ‘I can get up there and do that too.’
“When you have the courage to do it yourself, it encourages other women.”
Miss Congeniality, the flagship title
Laura Wallman, whose stage name is Miss Cherree Velvet, says that in the pin-up community, the most important title you can ever win is Miss Congeniality.
She says it’s because it’s something “your pin-up sisters voted for”.
“If you get this title, it means the people you’re with on stage and the people you’re with in the community chose you,” she said.
“My son likes to cross-dress, and he also did pin-up contests, and all the girls included him and accepted him.”
Ms Wanderess said she hoped pin-up culture could grow to celebrate vintage menswear more.
“Where are the guys? I want to see some boys too,” she said.
“Any gender, non-binary, bring it all.
“If we want to make it truly inclusive, which it has been so far, it should be for everyone.”
Bunny Boulevard was named the winner of the Pin-Up Cooly Rocks On 2023 contest on Friday night.
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