Pinup Imposter Syndrome

What makes you a pinup? Is it getting your photos published? Is it being paid for your photos? Is it dressing in vintage style every day? Is it how many vintage clothes you own? How do you officially become a member of the pinup community?

I still ask myself these questions all the time. Even though I run this blog, have had my pinup photos published, own an 80% vintage-inspired wardrobe, style and plan my own photoshoots, and have practiced vintage hair and makeup for 10 years, I still feel like a pinup imposter sometimes. I’ve never been paid for my modeling, I don’t dress vintage every day, and I’m not Instagram famous.

My first publication, in Vintage Boudoir Magazine Issue 11. Photos by Melissa Mullins.

In Amanda Palmer’s book The Art of Asking, Amanda talks about this same issue, which she calls “the Fraud Police.” One of my favorite anecdotes in that particular section of the book is when she writes that Neil Gaiman (her husband) mistakenly thought she was saying “the Frog Police.” Amanda talks about how the idea of feeling like a fraud, like the Fraud Police are going to come to your door and tell you you’re not a real artist/musician/writer/pinup/whatever, can happen no matter your level of success. I’m calling my version of the Fraud Police “Pinup Imposter Syndrome.”

While I’ve generally found the pinup community to be accepting, I’ve definitely witnessed some nastiness too. Pinups come in all shapes and sizes, but I’ve heard of and have seen women being harassed in the community because they are plus-sized or of color. This is absurd, and we have an obligation in the community to call out that bullshit and make it clear that everyone is welcome.

In addition, I’ve noticed an attitude over the past few years that values true vintage clothing and accessories over new clothing that is vintage-inspired, which is called reproduction or repro vintage. While I love my true vintage pieces, I understand that shopping vintage is costly and time consuming. Most of my pinup wardrobe is repro, while about half of my vintage pieces are inherited from my grandmother and great grandmother. I often can’t find vintage that fits me when I shop in antique and thrift stores; many of the pieces they sell are too small for me. I’m still learning to silence that voice in my head that tells me I can’t be a “good” or “legitimate” pinup if my wardrobe isn’t bursting with gorgeous vintage finds.

I’ve also seen blog posts disparaging pinups that love polkadots and cherries, and other supposedly “stereotypical” pinup patterns and clothes. This is also absurd, polkadot dresses and cherry print are lots of gals’ first steps into the pinup world, and there’s nothing wrong with that! I still adore cherry print! In the same breath I’ve also seen pinup bloggers slut shame other pinups for wearing lingerie as outerwear. Again, you do you! If you want to wear lingerie as outerwear, go for it! I spent a lot of my money on my vintage style bras, why not show them off!

My point is that no one gets to tell you whether you’re a real pinup or not. You get to decide for yourself. I’ve never made money from a photoshoot, I’ve never been on the cover of a magazine, and I’ve never won a pinup pageant. But that doesn’t make me a pinup imposter. Pinup modeling and style are my passions.

It’s so easy for artists to be hard on themselves. Are you a writer because you’ve been published, or because you write? Are you a painter because your painting has sold, or because you paint? If you are creating art, you are an artist! It doesn’t matter if no one is looking. You are creating! It’s challenging, but I always try to follow Neil Gaiman’s number one rule for living a creative life: Make Good Art. No matter what’s happening in your life, make good art.

At Barnes & Noble, in Cosplay Culture Magazine. Photo by Melissa Mullins.

I have so many pinup goals and dreams. I’d love to be on the cover of a pinup/vintage magazine, travel the world, and continue to push myself in my fashion knowledge and my vintage hair and makeup abilities. It would be a dream to work with brands and companies that I love, and model for them. Sometimes I’ve overwhelmed by the size and scope of these dreams, and I feel like there’s no way I’ll achieve them. But then I try an extraordinary new red lipstick, read a Diana Vreeland quote that delights me, or see a photograph of a glamorous eccentric who isn’t afraid to be bold and be true to herself. I hope I can inspire someone else that way someday.

Who inspires you? How do you keep the Fraud Police at bay?

Until next time,



  1. Kylee

    September 1, 2017 at 6:50 am

    Absolutely love this post lady! Everything rings true and it was so cool to take a look into your thoughts on what makes you a pinup model, because I’d never thought about imposter syndrome in that regard!

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