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A sly* wink** of the past

L'estètica de les pin-ups dels anys 50 i 60 torna amb força entre les adolescents, que la veuen com una manera de tenir una imatge glamurosa i sexual però sense perdre un cert toc d'innocència

She is a child of the 1990s, that decade of Starbucks, Nirvana and heroin chic with its wraithlike queen Kate Moss. But Jolie Clifford is having none of it.

Clifford, 21, a recent college graduate and an art photographer, recalled that as far back as high school she was keen to trade the wan (3) aesthetic that defined her crowd for something with a bit more ... oomph.

She found it one day while sifting through a trash container, where she unearthed (4) a dog-eared 1950s Playboy . Inside were photographs of Bettie Page showing off the trademark cherry-tone lips and little-girl bangs (5) that made her the most popular pin-up of her day.

In deference to her new idol, she promptly trimmed (6) her bangs and painted on winged eyeliner. She was quick to adopt the high-waist (7) capri pants, swing skirts and halter tops that signaled her membership in a subculture composed mostly of women, mostly young, who like their cocktails sour, their music with rockabilly twang, and their personal contours on the shapely (8) side.

More siren than sylph, those women derive a sense of chic, and an unexpected emotional comfort, from reinventing themselves as contemporary incarnations of Page, or as modern-day retro-vixens like Katy Perry or Lana Del Rey, who have elevated the all-American calendar girl to an emblem of hip femininity.

Once fodder (9) for magazines with evocative titles like Eyeful and Wink, the pi-nup has evolved as "a woman-friendly adaptation of what was once not a woman-friendly thing," said Jim Linderman, a pop-culture writer whose blog, Vintage Sleaze, examines that culture's less savory (10) side. Admirers, he said, "have taken a negative and made it a positive and built some kind of commodity around it."

Staples of the pin-up wardrobe have gained a surprising cachet on college campuses. "Pin-up-inspired style is a trend that's only growing," said Zephyr Basine, the editor of Collegefashion.net, a blog written by undergraduate women, which recently highlighted tie-front shirts, polka-dot bikinis and sailor pants. "To women who have grown up with the spray-tanned, skinny (11) models as their beauty ideal, this look is new and refreshing, and even groundbreaking."

Nostalgia driven, they are drawing inspiration from a trend that is only now hitting its stride (12) , gaining currency through a recent spate of television period dramas like "Pan Am" and "Magic City," movies ("My Week With Marilyn"), websites, photography shows, advertising campaigns and fashion features revisiting the era of tail-fin sedans and voluptuous babes in skimpy (13) lingerie.

Devotees of the trend can dip into a cultural well that includes coffee-table books showcasing illustrations by midcentury masters like Alberto Vargas or George Petty and photographs by Irving Klaw and Bunny Yeager, whose self-portraits and pictures of Page are now coveted collectibles.

Fascination

"Campy interest in the soft-core photography of the '50s and '60s is on the rise," said Brian Wallis, the chief curator for the International Center of Photography in New York. Pin-up photographs like those by Lawrence Schiller of Marilyn Monroe in the June issue of Vanity Fair and a coming show at the Steven Kasher Gallery in Chelsea have become a common reference point for marketing campaigns by Guess, with its still shots and video clips of Monroe look-alikes, photographed by Ellen von Unwerth; by Louis Vuitton and Ugg, with its demiclad (14) beauties on the beach; and by Coca-Cola, which has commissioned Jean Paul Gaultier to enhance the iconic curves of its Diet Coke bottle with a lacy corset design.

The fascination with calendar girls has spawned (15) a handful of workshops instructing members in the art of the steamy (16) pose.

Bettina May, a burlesque performer who offers one such course in New York, said her classes tend to attract young mothers who want to pamper (17) themselves, as well as female professionals: lawyers, fund managers and the like. They regard posing for cheesecake photographs as a form of role play, May said, typically telling themselves: "Look at me in these cute (18) pictures. I may be playing a submissive role, but the joke's on you, because really I'm the boss."

The same infatuation has given rise to a proliferation of Web retailers selling vintage photos, vinyl records and midcentury fashions with a modern spin. Pin-upLifestyle, an online aggregator of cheesecake-inspired apparel stores, claims some 14,000 monthly subscribers, many in their late teens and early 20s.

Bettie Page Clothing, a Web-based retailer with brick and mortar outlets from Miami to Santa Barbara, Calif., generated $15 million this year selling va-voom cocktail frocks, shorts and swimwear mainly to women under 35, said Jan Glaser, an owner. "It's a niche, but it's a good-sized niche," Glaser said. "If it becomes too mainstream, it will turn off a lot of people. These young ladies want to think of themselves as free spirits."

Natasha Vargas-Cooper, a cultural critic and the author of "Mad Men Unbuttoned: A Romp Through 1960s America," suggests that in reasserting their femininity, albeit with a wink, devotees of the bombshell look may wear wasp-waist (19) dresses and elevator pumps to signal "I'm sexy" in quotation marks. Emulating the archetypal calendar girl, Vargas-Cooper said, "is a way of being feminine without looking like a little girl in pigtails (20) and ruffles (21). Wearing stockings and high heels, there's something fundamentally adult about that."

Or fundamentally demure, at least by contemporary standards. On their spring runways (22), Jason Wu, Anna Sui and Dolce & Gabbana paraded high-waist swimsuits, tap pants and sundresses so modestly cut that they seemed prim. Recent issues of Vogue, Allure and W highlighted similar looks: sunnily updated, hypercolorized pin-up shots that are the fashion equivalent of comfort food.

They draw on a pervasive nostalgia for "more innocent days when sexuality wasn't portrayed as so hard core and in your face," said Edward Enninful, the fashion and style director of W. "People kind of miss that today."

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GLOSSARY

*. sly: murri

**. wink: picar l'ullet

3. wan: exhaust

4. to unearth: desenterrar

5. bangs: serrell

6. to trim: tallar

7. high-waist: de cintura alta

8. shapely: amb corbes

9. fodder: pinso (en sentit figurat)

10. savory: atractiu

11. skinny: prim

12. to hit one's stride: agafar el ritme

13. skimpy: que ho ensenya gairebé tot

14. demiclad: seminu

15. to spawn: engendrar

16. steamy: pujat de to

17. to pamper: permetre's un caprici

18. cute: bufó

19. wasp-waist: de cintura de vespa

20. pigtails: trenes

21. ruffles: volants

22. runway: passarel·la

EXERCISE 1

Find the following words in the text.

1. Looking like a ghost.

2. Enthusiastic or determined.

3. With damaged corners.

4. Fashionable.

5. Innovative and pioneering.

6. In an effeminate way or style.

7. Real (i.e. not virtual) shops.

8. Belonging to the dominant culture.

EXERCISE 2

Complete the following sentences with the correct preposition.

1. She found it one day while sifting_______ a trash container.

2. Inside were photos of Bettie Page showing _______ the trademark cherry-tone lips.

3. If it becomes too mainstream, it will turn _______ a lot of people.

4. They draw_______ a pervasive nostalgia for "more innocent days.

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ANSWERS: CLICK HERE

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