Men wanted them, women dared to be them, they were the 1950s thrill, and still turn heads today. We remember the original pin-ups as innocent, fragile and almost mythical beauties who dared to bare. They were women of statement. But what does it mean to be a pin-up in 2015, during the public times of today, as we watch the world transform from tangible to touchscreen? We sat down with pin-up professors and founders of the Brooklyn Pin-Up School Renee Didio and Anna Patin to discuss the class agenda, pin-ups of the past and present, and how social media plays a part in a successful start-up. The 2015 pin-up is all that Bettie Page, Marilyn Monroe, and Sophia Loren worked for.
The female entrepreneurs have built a home for the Brooklyn pin-up community, but their dreams are bigger than the city. Didio, owner of the neo-vintage boutique Slap Back, and Patin, owner of pin-up photography studio Lucy La Riot, have plans to take the Brooklyn Pin-Up School on the road. We took a peek at their holiday class and got the exclusive must-haves to achieve the fool-proof look. Didio says the modern pin-up is “the 1950s made better,” and we couldn’t agree more. Good things take time.
How did the Brooklyn Pin-Up School begin?
Anna Patin: My clients are very normal people and when I do their hair and makeup, they always want me to explain what I am doing as I go. I figured, we need to teach this on a larger scale.
Renee Didio: For the longest time I was the only one in the area that catered to pin-up style. When Anna opened up the studio, it was kind of natural that we just connected.
What goes on at the Pin-Up School?
Patin: It very much feels like actual school.
Didio: We start with the essentials of pin-up style makeup. We focus on eyebrows, eyes, and lips.
Patin: Then they’ll do it on themselves, which is fun because we have them pair up and it becomes very hands on.
Didio: The whole concept was to give these girls an eye into how we look and dress every day. They see it on Instagram and they want to do it—they’re beginners. It’s an introduction into the pin-up world on a visual level. We are going to be moving into the history of the pin-up as well.
Patin: Brands, too, are helpful for them to know. As for the hair, I come in rollers and take them out in front of them. It’s hard when you’re at home and you take them out and you look like Shirley Temple!
Didio: Or you have an afro!
Patin: There is all sorts of tricky stuff that we help them with.
Didio: We go over the essentials of pin-up clothing. From the basic pencil skirts, wiggle dresses and silhouettes.
You guys are helping them feel glamorous.
Didio: That’s the other thing! After the class a couple of the girls walked over to my store [Slap Back] and then went shopping, which was cool because they felt like ‘I can wear this!’ One of the big misconceptions about this clothing is that you have to be thin or that you have to have some perfect body, and you don’t. This type of lifestyle and clothing is catered to women of all sizes. The class is a really nice confidence booster.
Patin: We give them a place to mess up and it’s okay, because it’s funny. We all have some trial and error together.
Didio: Girls gravitate to pin-up because it gives the feeling of old school glamour. There’s a few different genres of girls: the rockabilly chicks, the vintage chicks, the pin-up girls, and the burlesque girls. It’s so cool to help students find their niche. And our classes are always open for discussion. We answer any questions. There is nothing secretive about it.
Patin: People may look scary like you (nods to Renee) but everybody is rooting for each other.
Didio: I never think I am that scary looking.
Patin: A lot of people tell me they’re scared of you.
Didio: Who is everybody? I have like a chronic bitchface. It’s crazy. I'm smiling inside.
Pin-up girls always look like they’ve got it together. I think that draws people in.
Didio: That comes with the confidence after you put that dress or skirt on or your red lipstick.
Patin: Everybody looks good with a cat eye and red lip. It gives you that feeling of looking like a million bucks. You get that clothing that cinches everything in the right places.
Didio: And you don't have to spend a million dollars to look like this. We touch on makeup that is drugstore brand that costs two dollars as opposed to Nars or Tarte that costs over $30 dollars.
Patin: You can get pretty far with a black pencil skirt and a little leopard sweater.
Didio: A pencil skirt at Forever 21 is $12 dollars. For something a little more refined, like the Tatianna skirt, you can spend $94 dollars. You can put a look together with very little funds.
Patin: That’s why it is almost foolproof!
How does the 1950s classic pin-up differ from today’s modern pin-up?
Patin: It’s certainly broader now. With the tattoos and everything, it is just more welcoming.
Didio: It’s also more modernized. If this was 1950, you wouldn't see a girl walking around in these [pointing to her silver Julie Mollo Retroversible circle skirt and royal blue leather jacket], but from the neck up everything looks similar. You see a lot of over exaggeration of ‘50s style hair, makeup, and tattoos. It’s 1950s made better to be honest with you.
What initially sparked your interest in pin-up?
Didio: My style has always been ‘30s through ‘50s. I was the black sheep growing up in Dix Hills, Long Island. It started with the music; my dad always had CBS-FM on the radio and they only played oldies. My grandmother was a packrat; she never got rid of anything. I’d get lost playing in her clothes. I only wore vintage. Then repro came on the scene, which was a Godsend because you didn't have to put the money into repro like you do into vintage. I’ve always been into it; my first tattoo is from when I was 16 years old.
What was your first tattoo?
Didio: It’s covered up now, but it was a huge lily and I was like ‘Yeah, I’ll take that on the wall.’ I hid it until I was 22-years-old—I couldn't believe it! And then I got the shit beat out of me right after my dad saw it. Not by my dad! But my mom handled things. Always a rebel, and then I never stopped.
Tattoos have become much more of a norm, even just in the last couple of years.
Didio: Oh yeah. Years ago people would look at me in 7/11 and be like, ‘What does that mean?’ Now nobody even looks twice, unless it’s like a 70 year-old grandma with her grandkids and she’s all, ‘Stay away from that girl!’
Patin: Tattoos go hand in hand with pin-up because pin-up is so timeless. It’s not scary to get a pin-up girl tattooed on you because she’ll always be beautiful and alluring and in style.
Didio: I have a Bar Mitzvah to go to and I have to find a long sleeve dress to cover my sleeves. I keep saying ‘Why is this such a problem?’ and then I realize not everybody in this world is accepting of it.
Patin: It’s totally a generational thing. Soon we’ll have lots of grandmas and grandpas that will have tattoos and it won't be a big deal.
How many tattoos do you each have?
Patin: [Points to the black band inked around her wrist and the red infinity symbol just beside it] I only have two little guys.
Didio: I have pretty much my arms covered and a lot on my back and my legs. I would say my horseshoe is my favorite. I love how it came out; I love the look. My store logo is in the middle of it [cherry dice]. My regular tattoo artist did it for me.
Is all of your ink by the same artist?
Didio: No, the pin-up is Alex McWatt at Three Kings. Everything else is mostly by Jeb Maykut at Saved Tattoo. I forget that I have stuff on my back and sometimes people will come up to me and ask, ‘What does it say on your back?’ and I’m like ‘What?’ It’s a lyric from my favorite song by The Smiths called ‘Half A Person.’ There is still a lot of space here that I can’t wait to fill up.
Who from the past inspires you both?
Didio: Sophia Loren. I don’t think that I have ever looked at another woman and saw perfection the way she portrays. From the hair and the make up to the clothing to the body, everything about her is flawless.
Patin: I have a soft spot for Jayne Mansfield. She is so campy almost. And that is what I love—her pink palace house and the heart bathtubs. I love campy, crazy colors and she was so like bubble baths and pink hot tubs! Bettie Page, too, with the more fetish side of pin-up. So many girls are now booking appointments to do fetish shoots. People forget how taboo that was back when Bettie was shooting that stuff. Now it’s more mainstream.
Okay, five tips for the aspiring pin-up. Go!
Patin: First off, I would say that it is not physical. Embrace your personality and who you are. Ya know, I can set your hair to look just like mine and put you in this outfit but it won’t be you.
Didio: If you're not comfortable, you're not going to be wearing the outfit, the outfit is going to be wearing you. That is something that you do not want.
Patin: That’s why people love pin-ups, they’re so playful and fun. Find your look and embrace it.
Didio: Never be caught dead without a red lipstick in your bag.
Patin: I carry four in my bag at all times: red, pink, dark red, and a purple-y color.
Didio: That's really key.
Patin: It completes the look. Once you have the brows and liner on, the red finishes it off.
Didio: In terms of clothing, you don’t have to break the bank. Find your key pieces and teach yourself how to mix and match.
Patin: Accessories! Like little hair flowers or bandanas.
Didio: A bandana goes a long way.
Patin: Sheer little nylon scarves are so easy. That can totally transform an outfit. Jewelry, too.
Didio: I am big on broaches. You wear a black dress and put a broach on it, you are automatically vintage glamour.
Patin: That’s an easy way, too, to wear a little black dress during the day and pop something on it at night. Darken the lipstick and you're good to go.
Didio: The most important thing about the hair is to keep it very sleek and refined. It’s not crazy, windblown, just-getting-out-of-bed hair.
How do you get the sleek and refined hairstyle?
Patin: The best results are from a wet set. After you shower, when your hair is about 75% dry, set it in foam or little cage rollers. Sleep in them so your hair is pretty foolproof in the morning. Brush it out and pin all the pieces in place and spray the crap out of it. Try not to have an afro when you're done.
What’s next for the Brooklyn Pin-Up School?
Patin: Right now we are trying to go bimonthly. Ideally, we would love to do it as often as possible.
Didio: I'm always thinking about my next big step. Slap Back is my base store but it’s not going to be my only store. This is a partnership, like we’re co-owning a baby. My next shop, whatever state it opens up in, I'd like to take Anna along to do this class and so on.
Patin: That’s why it’s good for people to see us together, so people can start to see us as a unit. We're not competing.
Didio: There’s no unhealthy competition. It was a no brainer to carry Brooklyn-based designers in my store because it’s in Williamsburg. We’re all women, and just starting these businesses, so why not help each other?
Patin: It’s all word of mouth, too, and social media.
Didio: Social media is so important for a business. Nobody cares about websites anymore. Instagram and Facebook are your website. Everything I do is documented like a story on Instagram. There are so many posts that go up after class, even from the girls, that it gets even more people interested.
Patin: The response was huge, I was very surprised. I didn't have any expectations. I can only hope that it will get bigger and better.
Didio: Plus it is so fun, and we do get a little boozed up.
Check out the gallery below for an inside look at the Brooklyn Pin-Up School. For more on Didio's and Patin's Brooklyn Pin-Up School click here.