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Suzy Menkes

Vogue International Editor Suzy Menkes is the best-known fashion journalist in the world. After 25 years commenting on fashion for the International Herald Tribune (rebranded recently as The International New York Times), Suzy Menkes now writes exclusively for Vogue online, covering fashion worldwide.

Pin-ups: should Miley and Kim build on sexual titillation?

As Christie’s auctions pin-up posters online, Suzy Menkes asks if they can be rebooted after a feminist revolution

25 Ноября 2014

Left — Lot 42 (two in the lot). Pierre-Laurent Brenot (1913-1998). Gone Fishing. Starting bid: £700 © Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd. 2014. Right — Kim Kardashian on the front of the Winter 2014 Paper magazine © Jean-Paul Goude for Paper Magazine
Left — Lot 42 (two in the lot). Pierre-Laurent Brenot (1913-1998). Gone Fishing. Starting bid: £700 © Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd. 2014. Right — Kim Kardashian on the front of the Winter 2014 Paper magazine © Jean-Paul Goude for Paper Magazine

On a wet weekend, the picture made me smile: blonde curls, white teeth and curvy bodies in jaunty swimsuits. 
 
“The Most Beautiful Women in the World”, announced a poster for “Summer in Monte Carlo”.

Lot 76. René Gruau (Renato de Zavagli, 1909-2004). Lido Prestige. Starting bid: £5,500 © Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd. 2014
Lot 76. René Gruau (Renato de Zavagli, 1909-2004). Lido Prestige. Starting bid: £5,500 © Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd. 2014
 
The next image on the screen was Marilyn Monroe in her early days. She was a curvy young thing on the beach, using her parasol as a support for her pose — bottoms up!

Bernard of Hollywood (1912-1987). Norma Jean, “Classic Pin-Up”. Starting bid: £4,000 © Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd. 2014
Bernard of Hollywood (1912-1987). Norma Jean, “Classic Pin-Up”. Starting bid: £4,000 © Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd. 2014
 
I scrolled through the other poster-girl looks as Christie’s kicked off its online sale on The Art of the Pin-Up (until December 3, at www.Christies.com/PinUps)

Lot 41. Pierre-Laurent Brenot (1913-1998). Golfing Pin-Up. Starting bid: £500 © Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd. 2014
Lot 41. Pierre-Laurent Brenot (1913-1998). Golfing Pin-Up. Starting bid: £500 © Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd. 2014
 
I liked the Bally duo with their toes meeting in pastel shoes as they curled up naked; and another Perrier duo who were locked in each other’s arms. I can imagine that in the wartime period of hard times, advertising posters with sex appeal brightened the dim streets.

Bernard Villemot (1911-1989). Bally (Le Lotus). Starting bid: £800 © Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd. 2014
Bernard Villemot (1911-1989). Bally (Le Lotus). Starting bid: £800 © Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd. 2014
 
But suddenly, my smile was wiped out by this thought: the cheeky and cheerful images, from an era of playful innocence, looked alarmingly like Miley Cyrus doing her twerking, Beyoncé performing in barely-there outfits of sexual titillation, Kim Kardashian revealing her ever famous posterior and Britney Spears sexing up her once teen-girl appearance.

Left — Lot 31. André de Dienes (1913-1985). Marilyn Monroe, Tobey Beach, 1949. Starting bid: £1,400 © Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd. 2014.  Right — Miley Cyrus performs her notorious twerking moves
Left — Lot 31. André de Dienes (1913-1985). Marilyn Monroe, Tobey Beach, 1949. Starting bid: £1,400 © Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd. 2014. Right — Miley Cyrus performs her notorious twerking moves
 
The last three are mothers — and what a sexist image their stage looks send out to their kids, let alone their fans.
 
I have no problem with the pin-ups from the past, especially as Christie’s have included posters of men in the sale. Risqué Dior ads from the Seventies show a naked man through a half-open bathroom door.

Anonymous, Canada Dry. Starting bid: £1,000 © Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd. 2014
Anonymous, Canada Dry. Starting bid: £1,000 © Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd. 2014
 
Would I ever buy a pin-up picture? Marilyn in 1949, snapped by Andre de Dienes, might be a cute purchase to enliven my study wall. Although bids can start at £300, Christie’s is putting a starting bid of £1,400 on Marilyn Monroe.

Stan (Stanley Walter) Galli (1912-2009). Los Angeles, United Air Lines. Starting bid: £1,500 © Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd. 2014
Stan (Stanley Walter) Galli (1912-2009). Los Angeles, United Air Lines. Starting bid: £1,500 © Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd. 2014
 
But there is something dispiriting about the idea of Miley and co continuing to distort their bodies as sexual titillation 80 years after Marilyn stepped out on that sandy beach. A century, a millennium and a feminist revolution have happened since then.

G. Garry. Maillot Lavog. Starting bid: £600 © Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd. 2014
G. Garry. Maillot Lavog. Starting bid: £600 © Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd. 2014
 
I have seen sexually charged fashion postcards from Hawaii and Japan. And those prissy Victorians were first out with naughty seaside pictures. But I like to think that pin-ups are in the past. And I am going to dedicate my posts this week to powerful women who send out strong, personal, woman-friendly messages in how they look.

Left — Lot 13. René Gruau (Renato de Zavagli, 1909-2004). Bal du Moulin Rouge. Femmes, Femmes, Femmes… Starting bid: £600 © Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd. 2014 Right — Beyoncé performs during the Super Bowl XLVII in an outfit by Rubin Singer
Left — Lot 13. René Gruau (Renato de Zavagli, 1909-2004). Bal du Moulin Rouge. Femmes, Femmes, Femmes… Starting bid: £600 © Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd. 2014 Right — Beyoncé performs during the Super Bowl XLVII in an outfit by Rubin Singer
 
First out: Loulou de la Falaise — and how her role was so much more dynamic than being a mere muse to Yves Saint Laurent.
 
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