The 1910s were an awkward period. Notably, we had two major events happen in this single decade – both of which helped shape the face of pin-up as we know it.
The first is the death of King Edward, thus ending the Edwardian era and all the influences that he brought around. Some of the styles still held over, including the dress and clothing styles popularized during that time period. We can see residuals of the period, like the ever popular French postcards and cigarette cards. But this stylistic period soon got trumped by an even larger event: World War I.
Beginning in 1914, the war came and changed the face of the world. There wasn’t the romance of pretty girls and national pride (like we’ll come to see in WWII) – but rather a repressed look at Kaiser’s war. At that point, we see a huge fall off of the “pin-ups” as all efforts went towards the war.
The Edwardian style still held true, featuring long gowns, elaborate hair, full women, and exquisite accessories. However, a more conservative approach overtook the genre. Instead of baring it all with artistic interpretations of the previous decade, we see a need for being classy, conservative, and modest.
The photographic style turned towards a popular illustrated pin-up style – the Gibson Girl. These girls were modestly dressed, and respectable looking. They often featured larger hips and busts, but were far for a vulgar look in the previous decades. They were classy. And although the pen and ink drawings had been around since the 1890s, the photograph form was just starting to catch up.
Women were photographed in this modest appeal and presented in a soft and flattering way. The photographs weren’t distributed in as large of a way as previous decades – afterall, there was a big war happening and the world’s mind was focused on other things.
For the sake of contrast, its important to recognize a couple the reoccurring trend to bounce between controversial and conservative presentations of the pin-ups. The previous decade had pushed the boundaries of the local morals. The 1910s responded by being conservative to an equal degree. We should also note the full bodied preference of our female models.
The war is about to change everything.