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The Good Pin-Up Guide: Part 1

So, you’ve read Helen Highwater’s excellent article, How Do I Get into Pinup Modelling?, and fancy having a go yourself.

You’ve thrown yourself in the deep end and managed to secure your very first photoshoot. Perhaps you’ve already paid for a professional shoot (which I, as Helen, would advise as it is the best thing to pick up hair, makeup and posing tips and tricks first hand), but the day when you have to Do It Yourself is drawing ever closer and you’ve realised that you need a bit of a helping hand to make sure you’re going to look your very best. What does one do in such a situation? Panic?


As an experienced vintage model, I thought I would put together a mini guide to all the things that I do when I’m preparing for a shoot, in the hope that it will be useful to all the aspiring pin-ups out there. I do not in any way consider myself an expert on either pin-up or on modelling, but people have asked my advice in the past and have told me afterwards that they found it useful. So, without further ado, here goes!

Me, by Tony Rusecki!

Fleur de Guerre’s Good Pin-Up Guide, Part 1: Preparation


From in curlers
If you, like me, wear vintage hair on a daily basis, much of this preparation work is already done. But if you don’t, or if you want to try something a bit different for your shoot, make sure you spend the couple of weeks before the shoot practicing, practicing, practicing. Do some overnight sponge roller sets, experimenting with a couple of setting patterns, and see how it turns out in the morning. Scour YouTube for tutorials, perfect your victory rolls, get a rat and test it out, buy strong hairspray and smoothing serums. And buy lots and lots of bobby pins, to replace the 14,000 you’ve lost over the years. When you’ve got your chosen set down pat, you can be sure that you’ll have a consistent result and no nasty surprises the morning of your shoot. Of course, hair emergencies do happen, and I would advise any potential pin-up to have a set of Hot Sticks at the ready, because although a roller set will hold better for your shoot, they are just the thing for creating vintage styles in a flash (as seen on my shamelessly plugged video tutorial), or rescuing damp curls from oblivion. But do practice sleeping in rollers too, as you want to get used it it, instead of waking up on the morning of your shoot without a wink of sleep!


Me in WKD undies & stockings, by Tony again!

Make sure you have everything you need for the shoot, two to three (or more, if it’s an entire day) outfits, undies, swimwear and vintage or repro clothing. I like to take a complete set of matching, faux vintage underwear from either What Katie Did, Kiss Me Deadly, or Rago, or a mixture of all different brands. If you concentrate on one particular fabric or colourway, black satin for instance, you can mix and match, and this can often mean a more unique ‘outfit’ than if you bought everything from one place. Take at least one packet of fresh, unopened stockings, especially if they are black ones. Nude ones are more resilient, or rather snags don’t show up, whereas even worn once, black ones are likely to have snags that don’t look so good on camera. Bulldog clips are a good thing to take to shoots, especially if you borrow clothing. Even clothing that’s yours can look even better when clipped in a bit – for a shoot it can be much tighter on the waist than you need for every day wear!

Beauty sleep!

Try to eat well, get enough sleep, and generally look after yourself; which you should be doing anyway! But if you’re feeling happy and healthy, it makes for a much better shoot than if you’re tired and run down. Whatever you do, definitely don’t go experimenting with new cosmetics or beauty products just before a shoot, or you run the risk of having a breakout. We can never predict these things, of course, and they can be disguised with makeup, which I’ll come to shortly. But if you do want to try new things, do so at least a fortnight before.


A few days before a big shoot, I give up eating bread. I can’t bear to all the time, but cutting it out temporarily leaves me with a much trimmer waist. Another good thing to do is to cut out carbohydrates in your evening meal. I do not advocate carb-free diets, in fact I think they’re bonkers, but cutting them out after 6pm is a really good way to lose a few pounds. It’s good all the time of course, not just before a shoot!


Jean Patchett, from here.

Something very important for a budding model is to research your poses! Are you going for cheesecake pinup or vintage glamour? If the former, study pictures by Elvgren and Vargas, photos of Bettie Page, and the work of modern pin-ups like Bernie Dexter, and photographers like Viva Van Story. The latter are better in a way, as some of the poses found in pin-up illustrations aren’t actually possible when you’re a real person! But they are fantastic for inspiration. If you’re going for Hollywood glamour or fashion, say, then turn to a site like Vintage Vogue, and study the poses of the Golden Era movie stars and the 50s fashion models like Dovima and Jean Patchett. Practice your pouts and facial expressions in the mirror. You might feel a trifle silly, but practice does make perfect!

Beauty regime!

If you can, don’t wash your hair for up to two days before. Slightly dirty hair is so much better to curl and style. If you’re prone to greasiness, wash it the morning of the day before, but do try to avoid washing it the night before as it’ll be all smooth and slippery, and thus harder to style. Definitely don’t dye it so close to your shoot for the same reasons. Have a long bath in the evening, exfoliate your body all over, shave everything you want shaved (or do this in the morning if you’re shoot isn’t until the afternoon) and moisturise. Pluck your eyebrows! Bleach bits if you need to! This preparation will make the editing easier for the photographer, and you’ll look your best.


Pack your suitcase or bag the day before your shoot. You may need some of your items in the morning, so don’t forget them! I once managed to forget my entire makeup bag… let me tell you, I was mortified. Luckily we were right by a mall, but don’t let this happen to you! Pack a snack and bottle of water, just in case there’s nothing provided. Plan your route if you’re driving, and work out how much time you should allow, then add on extra just to be safe. If you’re going by train, buy your ticket early, if you can (as Brits probably know, it’s best to do this weeks before if you’re going quite far). Put the photographer’s phone number into your phone. Charge said phone! Call or email them just to confirm it’s all still on. I have never had a photographer not show, since I am usually going to their studio or home, but it has been known to happen to others.


Make sure you have the following essentials in your kit:

A good foundation – cream, mousse or liquid, NOT mineral. (Mineral is fine for everyday use, but not for using with bright studio lights. That said, if your shoot is entirely on location and natural light, then you can use it – but I’d always use a liquid one underneath.)
Blusher – a darker one than you use for every day (or add more!)
Liquid eyeliner and mascara
False lashes
Eyebrow pencil
Two complimentary shades of eyeshadow – I use a pale neutral beige and a darker brown for my 40s look, but use whatever suits you or your outfit/era
A matte red lipstick and lipliner (sharpened)
Finishing powder

This is the bare minimum you shouldn’t be without, and you may have lots more; but make sure you at least have these! I’ll do a tutorial soon of how I apply my makeup for shoots, but basically it’s the same as I do every day, just heavier. Practice applying it before the shoot. The flash will wash you out, so if you feel like a painted lady, you’re doing it right! Just don’t mind the funny looks if you forget to wipe it off go to the supermarket on your way home… pack baby or makeup remover wipes for this purpose!


Finally, this may seem obvious, but do not go out drinking! I’ve heard some stories about hung-over models turning up, looking like death. Don’t be that model! Try to have an early night, so you wake up all bright eyed, bushy tailed, and above all, enthusiastic about your shoot. It should be fun! Again, if you feel good, you will look good, and produce much better photographs. You have a reputation to build up, and make sure it’s one of reliability.

That’s it!

…For now. Part 2 of my guide will tell you what I do on the morning of the shoot, how I pose and a better insight into how I do my makeup. So until then, stay beautiful!

Fleur xx



This is good reading indeed! thanks for posting it. Not that I'm likely to be a pinup model. I've wanted to style a pinup shoot for ages though, and it's interesting to see that you do what sounds like most of the clothes styling yourself, whilst the photographer does the set.
I've not written a comment on here before but I read your blog regularly. I'm not a vintage girl in dress, necessarily, but in mind; I'm a costume student and make my own clothes including hats and 1950s dresses. The High Socie-tea event sounds absolutely amazing; I live in east London so it's technically not that far away. I'm just trying to find somebody to come with me! If only I'd been organised enough to enter your prize draw! x Anushka

Lolita Haze

Most importantly I think a newbie needs to get familiar with a model's release and add any clauses that will protect her in the future!

The Glamorous Housewife

What a fun post! How fun it must be to be a vintage or pin-up model. I have noticed from doing photos for my blog, that taking pictures of ones self can help because you really see how the camera reacts to your face and body. I hold myself MUCH straighter and position myself in ways that feel really odd, but look good and 'natural' in a photo. For example, I tried the open mouth thing that Bernie Dexter does so well and looked like a total tool. But I thought, when I was taking the photo, that I must look just as sexy as her! Then I saw the picture and laughed. So I found my own look. Practice makes perfect!

Thanks doll,
The Glamorous Housewife


Haha I couldn't agree more with The Glamourous Housewife, I'm certainly no model but always relish the tips & tricks of those who are to help me look less awkward in front of the camera! Thankyou Fleur, some wonderful advice, looking forward to the next installment!

One question thought…What on earth is a hair rat? I've heard people talk about them and think they are some kind of tube that hair wraps around but I've never actually seen one…Are they easy to use? Where do they come from?

leila wylie

This is a great guide! I don't really consider myself an aspiring model but one of my best friends is a hairdresser and he always tells me he wants to style me up and take some photos for his portfolio. I'll definitely return and read this when the time comes!


Cool post. I didn't realize how much was involved in a pinup lifestyle. As a side note, I don't know how you can give up bread. I just couldn't do it.


Great post, Fleur! I am looking for a vintage inspiration for my shoot and your blog is God sent! I wish I can get more make-up tips how-to so I can do my own make-up for the shoot. Keep it up!


Hi Fleur – just bought three tickets for the High Socie-Tea 'do' – am really looking forward to it! Haven't a clue what to wear or, most importantly, how to do my hair – will look through your blog for tips, but I have two left thumbs when it comes to styling hair. Still – if you see someone with a wonky Victory Roll, it may just be me! Cheerio – and enjoyed your pin-up guide!


This is a really good piece, because it will help girls out there get a chance to be seen.

All your preparation pays off Fleur, I look forward to dressing you!

Ha Ha! Much Love, as ever,

Miss M xx

Fleur de Guerre

So glad you all liked it!

Anushka: Ooooh come come come! 😀

Lolita: I hadn't thought of that – I don't pay much attention to releases, which is probably a bad thing from your comment! :/

Glam housewife – you're so right. Some things work so well for others and not at all for us!

Harbourmaster: It's exactly that! Mine was a bun ring thing made of plastic mesh, but I chopped it in half to make a longer rat.

Jayne: Yaaaaaay! Oh I am so pleased, you'll have a fab time. Can't wait to meet you! 🙂


What an interesting post, even though I doubt there's any photo shoots coming my way anytime soon…Thanks for the insight into your routine!


These are fantastic tips, Fleur! I really enjoyed reading through all of this. 😉 I'd love to model some day (but just haven't had the time to look too deeply into it). Though, I think many of your tips apply to other "big" events (weddings, balls, etc.) too! 😉 Definitely keeping a few in my hip pocket for a big gala my husband and I are attending in October. 😉

Rosina Lee

Thank you soo much for a very informative post! I have my first proffessional shoot in a couple of months and this definatly has me feeling a little more confident about it.


I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.




From a photographers view:
Some VERY useful information here! Great Guide Fleur 🙂

I have a piun up style shoot this weekend. I will be pointing my model to this guide!



FAB post, actually god advice, I think anti-carb diests are daft too bu its always good just before a shoot. So glad I found your blog – v cute xx


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