Syracuse Pin-up Girls

Pin-up girls bring nostalgia to Syracuse

The growing pin-up subculture in Syracuse celebrate the 1950s and comforts veterans with a sense of nostalgia.

Dolled up in her signature blood-red lipstick, Marilyn Monroe style waves and bold polka-dotted swing dress, Melody Wilkinson, a vintage consultant and makeup artist, is used to attracting attention in Syracuse.

Wilkinson, also known as Miss Lizzie DeVille, dresses as a pin-up girl daily, and has been fond of the 1940s and 1950s since the age of five. As she got older, she says that she resonated with the body positivity associated with the pin-up girl look.

Photo: Shuran Huang
Melody Wilkinson, who’s also known as Miss Lizzie DeVille, dresses as a pin-up girl every day, matching her vintage living room.

Wilkinson is not alone in her appreciation for the pin-up girl aesthetic. Many Syracuse women are channeling the feminine image of the 1950s pin-up girls through their daily attire as well as embracing their body confidence and uniqueness. United in their interests in vintage and retro fashion, these pin-up enthusiasts have created organizations such as The Salt City Belles and Beaus and Vintage for Veterans, which are helping to bring some nostalgia to the area. 

“It’s a style that is flattering for all women,” Wilkinson said. “It’s something that, as a bigger girl, was really beneficial to me because I was able to bring that style into my wardrobe and feel beautiful and glamorous which is something that bigger girls can’t often feel.”

For many of the women involved in Syracuse’s pin-up community, their love affair with 1950s fashion began at a young age.

Sarah Dehaba, who works at Syracuse Antiques Exchange, became hooked on the vintage style after receiving silk nightgowns and a matching suit from her grandmothers at the age of six.

The appeal of pin-up style is the hourglass silhouette that can turn an ordinary form into something spectacular, Dehaba said.

“Women appreciate the style, men seem to appreciate the effort, but my favorite reactions are older people that lived in the decade because they appreciate the nostalgia,” she said.

Jamie Ann Owens, known for her signature big red hair, documents her travels and love of vintage on her blog, The Society Gurl. Owens said she appreciates a time when women were more put together in their attire and had a sophistication about them.

“I think it’s kind of a lost art in today’s society,” Owens said.

Owens is the unofficial head of The Salt City Belles and Beaus, a Syracuse-based group of pin-up enthusiasts who appreciate vintage fashion.

Owens said that the social club started last winter as a group of friends who enjoyed getting dressed up and going out together, but as the club’s membership has grown, they have taken to hosting retro-themed events in the Syracuse community.

“We had maybe five girls at our first event and we’ve grown to having around 20 ladies and I think we have six gentleman,” Owen said.

Joelynn Avery, designer and owner of Avery Vintage, has worked with The Salt City Belles and Beaus on various pin-up events in the community such as the Nostalgia at The Yard event in late July.

“The Salt City Belles and Beaus have definitely had a hand in creating actual events to bring together people that are interested in the pin-up community and to celebrate those kinds of people,” Avery said.

In addition to The Salt City Belles and Beaus, Vintage for Veterans is another organization for pin-up enthusiasts, particulary for those looking to honor the men and women who served in the military.

“We dress up really pretty and we go into the Veterans Administration hospitals and visit and sit with the men and women that have served our country,” said Wilkinson.

Through their love of pin-up culture, these Syracuse vintage enthusiasts also promote body confidence and individuality.

Harlow Holiday, a burlesque dancer who co-founded the Salt City Burlesque and is a founding member of The Salt City Belles and Beaus, said she values the positive impact that pin-up style has on an individual.

“It does tremendous things for your self-confidence and changes how other people see you as well,” Holiday said via email.

Marissa Perkins, who specializes in vintage makeup artistry and photography, said that dressing in pin-up style can have positive effects on body positivity. Perkins regularly does vintage, pin-up transformations at her studio in Herkimer, New York, and says that the change in their appearance causes girls to light up.

“I’ve been told that the feeling lasts for days,” Perkins said.

Owens says that the Syracuse pin-up community is welcoming and inclusive.

“I think that one of the good things about the pin-up community is that you’re of all shapes, sizes and colors,” Owens said. “I’m an African-American woman that is a plus-size woman, so for me, I get to express myself and people see the pin-up society girl before they would see anything else.”

Wilkinson says that the pin-up community has given women in Syracuse the courage to defy stereotypical beauty standards.

“I can’t tell you how many times people say to me, ‘I have always wanted to look like this but I have never wanted to stick out or never thought that I could pull it off,’” Wilkinson said.

Dehaba said that the pin-up community supports each other in standing up to society’s beauty ideals and encouraging others to be uniquely themselves.

“We like to look and live different and we’re proud of it,” Dehaba said.

Post new comment

* Field must be completed for your comment to appear on The NewsHouse
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.