The Truth About Caroline: From Leggings to Stockings, or My Transformation Into a Pinup Girl

Caroline Ellis
by Caroline Ellis

Upon my introduction on these pages several months ago, many commenters took it upon themselves to make some suppositions about my personality based on the photos that accompanied my first article. Some of them were funny, some were downright insulting, and then there was this one:

“You gotta look at the whole ensemble. Short-hair, skinny jeans, t-shirt, flip-flops = uninhibited.”

You might be surprised by this, but that commenter got it pretty close to being right.

Despite the bikini pic that JB stole from my Facebook, I’m pretty much a hoodie and jeans kind of girl. You’re much more likely to find me attired in Old Navy than Donna Karan. Most of my heels and dresses come from Goodwill, just because I can’t imagine spending a whole lot of money on that sort of thing.

Deep inside, however, every girl loves to feel beautiful. Desirable. Maybe even glamorous. And what could be considered more glamorous than a pinup girl?

Like many women my age, I’ve always had a certain fascination with Pinup photography. After all, there’s an entire subculture devoted to the Suicide Girls and the SG “hopefuls” who post their tattooed bodies on their Instagram accounts religiously every Sunday (if you don’t know what I mean by this, simply search the hashtag “Sundies” on IG. Men, thank me later). However, I’m not really the Suicide Girls type—I’m blonde, petitie, and largely ink-free. Plus, the overt sexuality of that culture doesn’t appeal to me. I prefer classy over trashy.

As such, I’m much more interested in the classic pin-up girl artwork from the Forties and Fifties, and of course, how it relates to Cars. Cars and pretty girls have been joined at the fender since the beginning. Boys headed to war overseas often fantasized about their girls back home and the cars they would buy when their tours of duty were over. Pinup photography was often an inspiration to our GIs, combining the best of both worlds. As I researched more and more about the connection between the two, it hit me—I wonder what it would like to be a car pinup girl?

My first idea was to take some pictures with the resident muscle car at TTAC—Bark M’s Boss 302 Mustang. Since my preference for Mustangs is well known around these parts, it seemed like a natural fit. However, Bark had another idea.

“What if we could find some classic cars for you to pose with?” he pondered. “Like some genuine American Muscle?”

So I posted up on the TTAC Forum, looking for a reader with a muscle car, but nobody with a classic ride was within driving distance of my hometown. Oh well, maybe we’d have better luck finding a photographer first.

I struck gold with my first Google search. Coastal Expressions Photography, headed up by Kevin Myers, specializes in pinup and boudoir photography. After reviewing his work on his website, I was impressed with the quality of his work. Plus, they were located in Myrtle Beach, which was within driving distance for me.

I gave Kevin a call and explained what I was looking to do. I let him know that I wanted to do some pinup-style photography with some vintage cars, and, most importantly, that I was a complete rookie at all of this. I told him that I wasn’t looking to do anything over-the-top or risqué, that I just wanted to have some fun with it. Kevin immediately put my mind at ease. He assured me that he frequently works with newbies, and that he even had an idea about where we might be able to find cars for the shoot. By the end of the call, I was incredibly excited about the fact that my dream of becoming a pinup girl was about to become reality—but I also got incredibly nervous. I really hoped that the pictures would turn out the way I always dreamed they would.

I booked my appointment with Kevin for Tuesday morning at 9:30 AM. He sent a list of suggested outfits that he thought would work nicely for my concept, and I rummaged through my closet (and the local Goodwill) to find the closest matches that I could. He also asked me to send a picture of my current hairstyle. When I arrived at his office in my normal t-shirt and jeans, I was greeted by his hair and makeup artist, Amanda Short. She took one look at me and realized that she had a big job ahead of her to make me into a glamorous pinup girl. She got out her makeup bag, her curling iron, and her hairspray, and went to work.

Amanda used every trick in the bag to glam me up. The biggest challenge was getting the fake eyelashes to stick to my eyelids. After a couple of touch-and-go moments, including some scary applications of extremely adhesive glue quite close to my eyeball, we got them to stay put. After some serious hairspray and a flower tucked behind my ear, this was the final result.

I could barely believe that the girl in the mirror was me! I was still nervous about being photographed, but the confidence that the makeover gave me was pretty amazing. Luckily, Amanda agreed to be my role model for the day, as well. As a veteran of several photo shoots, Amanda would go first and demonstrate the types of poses that I would be attempting to mimic, and then I would do my best to simulate them. I changed into my first outfit, which was a very pretty brown and white polkadot dress that I found at Goodwill for five bucks along with some brown and white spectator heels. I then followed Kevin over to the location for the shoot, which was the amazing Wheels of Yesteryear Museum, right by Myrtle Beach Speedway.

Wheels of Yesteryear is a rotating display of the wondrous car collection of Paul Cummings and his wife, Carol. Although there are typically about fifty cars on display, Paul freely admits that he has “no idea” how many cars he actually owns. The museum is worthy of its own article (keep an eye out for the next installment of The Truth About Caroline), but for now it’s barely sufficient to say that Paul’s collection is both impressive and astounding.

When we first walked into the museum, the first problem was selecting what cars we wanted to shoot. Paul is largely a Mopar man, and the vast majority of his collection consists of Superbirds, Challengers, Chargers, Cudas, and Darts. The problem wasn’t picking a cool car, it was picking a car that had enough space for Kevin to set up his photography equipment. The cars were parked nose to rear throughout much of the building, leaving little room for photography.

I took a quick lap through the museum and, as a car fan, I immediately targeted a few cars I wanted to feature. The first was a 1963 Corvette Stingray, remarkable for a few reasons. The first of which is, of course, the split “stingray” rear windshield, discontinued because of limited visibility. The second was a 1969 Mach 1 Mustang…you guys know how I love Mustangs, and this beauty was no exception. The third was a gorgeous silver 1957 Corvette convertible that belonged to Paul’s wife. The last one was a brown turbocharged 1962 Corvair Monza Spyder, partially because I know how much you guys love brown cars, but mostly just because I had a pretty brown dress that matched beautifully.

Kevin set up his lighting equipment to photgraph the Stingray first. Amanda had selected a pretty, vintage flowery dress for her first outfit, and she was the first up with the all-orginal Vette, scratches and all. I watched as Amanda transformed from a sweet, somewhat shy Southern girl into a sultry seductress, her eyes penetrating the lens of Kevin’s camera. I felt the butterflies in my stomach again as I wondered if I would be able to replicate the mood that Amanda was portraying.

After a few different angles and poses, Kevin said, “You’re up, Caroline.” I swallowed hard and got in front of the camera. I had no idea how to pose, what to do with my face—I felt like Ricky Bobby during his first interview. Kevin was incredibly helpful, suggesting poses that were well within my range of comfort. The first shot was me sitting next the the front wheel, pretending like i was changing the tire. I then moved to the front of the car, and finally, I wanted to make sure that we got a shot of me with the iconic split rear windshield. I tried smiling, pouting, laughing…none of it felt natural, but it wasn’t unnatural, either.

Kevin showed me a couple of the shots on the preview pane of his camera. “You’re a natural, Caroline.” Whether or not he was telling the truth, it did help me relax to see some of the pics and to get such positive feedback. I began to loosen up just a little bit.

We then moved on to the Corvair Monza, just because it was adjacent to the Vette. Honestly, of the cars we picked, I was least excited about the little 150 HP Spyder. However, when I tweeted out some of the camera phone pics we took with the hashtag they were immediately retweeted in a few different languages by Monza enthusiasts around the world. I didn’t realize until I researched it that this was the Corvair Monza Sypder was the first factory turbocharged model in the world. I felt confident enough at this point to join Amanda for some “Thelma and Louise” style photos, as well as some solo shots.

Next up was the Mach One. Even though it had a sign that said “Under Construction” on it, with some clear exterior and interior work still needing to be done, THIS was the one I had been really excited about the whole day. What can I say? I’m a Mustang girl at heart. I switched into a new outfit for this one, more of a “Rosie the Riveter” kind of look. It was at this point that Paul, the owner, poked his head out to join us. I asked him several questions about the museum, including about the Mustang I had been leaning against for the last few minutes.

“Well, I’m not a money man,” he said in his classic Southern gentleman drawl. “I’m a car man. I didn’t go out and just buy cars that I wanted in my museum. Every single car in this museum is something I bought to drag race, pretty much. These things weren’t worth anything. We used to buy ’em for 300-400 bucks, race ’em until they blew up, and then buy another one.”

The Mach One had been sitting in his barn, untouched, for twenty years. “People used to come in here and say I needed a Mustang. I never was a Mustang man, but I knew that I had one in the barn. I just didn’t know what to do with it. Finally, a little while ago, I decided to clean it up and put it out for display.” I knew then that we needed to get a picture with him and his barn queen. I also made Nancy, the lovely assistant at the museum and walking encyclopedia of the cars, jump in the pic with us.

While Kevin and Amanda packed up and moved down to the silver Vette convertible, I stood and talked with Paul and Nancy for a few more minutes.

“This one is my favorite,” said Nancy, gesturing toward a black 1958 Impala, stunningly decked out with whitewalls and a gorgeous original interior. “If I could pick any of them to take home, it would be this one.” Since we had focused on muscle cars for the rest of the day, I thought that maybe we should finish up with a classic cruiser.

I went down and took a few shots with the gorgeous Vette. Paul was nice enough to let us sit inside it, a privilege that no other museum guests ever get. I felt incredibly lucky to be in the driver’s seat of such a beautiful car. I finally felt pretty comfortable in my own skin at this point, too.

The day was winding up at this point, but I wanted to get a pic or two with the Impala, mostly because I knew how much Nancy would love it. She occasionally walked by throughout the day and windexed the cars for us, remarking how she was checking out what we were doing with our feet in the poses. I wanted her to have some pics of us with her baby.

Although the exterior shots were good, the interior shots were amazing. Through a serendipitous stroke of luck, we were able to arrange Kevin’s lighting so that it looked like we were at a drive-in movie back in the day. I changed into a vintage-style black and white striped dress for this final car, and I have to say that I’m glad I did. Kevin worked magic here.

Then, Amanda had the fantastic idea of laying down on our backs so that our hair spilled out of the passenger seat.

It looked so gorgeous that I had to give it a try.

Finally, after about four hours of continuous shooting, we called it a day. Kevin showed us some of the better pics on his preview pane, and I also looked at some of the quick camera phone pics that we had taken and posted to Twitter and Instagram throughout the day. I have to say that I have never felt more beautiful or more empowered than I did that day. Kevin and Amanda definitely worked their collective magic to make this casual chick look as much like Marilyn as I possibly could have.

At the end of the day, I am incredibly glad that I had this experience. Not only did I have a chance to hang out for a day around some remarkable cars and remarkable people, I got to experience something that every woman should at least once in her life. I didn’t have to do anything that anybody would consider risqué or burlesque to feel sexy and beautiful.

I want to thank Kevin Myers and Amanda Short at Coastal Expressions and Paul and Carol Cummings from Wheels of Yesteryear for making this all possible. If you’d like to see more candid pics from the day, you can check out my Instagram at carolinettac or my Twitter @carolineTTAC. We’ll have a post with all the pics from the session later today!

Caroline Ellis
Caroline Ellis

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  • Firemachine69 Firemachine69 on Mar 06, 2014

    Wow, don't we have a bunch of haters on here! Looking great, and the deep process into transformation for someone who can word it out is phenomenal. I watch my other half doll herself up every other day, and if you asked me to spell it out, I'd still just tell you "it just happens after an hour in front of the mirror".

  • CougarXR7 CougarXR7 on Apr 06, 2014

    Hey Caroline- I own two vintage convertibles- a 1965 Buick Skylark and a 1972 Oldsmobile Delta 88. If I ever get either of the damn things running again, you're welcome to pose with them any time :) .

  • VoGhost Fantastic work by Honda design. When I first saw the pictures, I thought "Is that a second gen Acura NSX?"
  • V16 2025 VW GLI...or 2025 Honda Civic SI? Same target audience, similar price points. Both are rays of sun in the gray world of SUV'S.
  • FreedMike Said this before and I'll say it again: I'm not that exercised about this whole "pay for a subscription" thing, as long as the deal's reasonable. And here's how you make it reasonable: offer it a monthly charge. Let's say that adaptive headlights are a $500 option on this vehicle, and the subscription is $15 a month, or $540 over a three year lease. So you try the feature for a month, and if you like it, you keep it; if you don't, then you discontinue it, like a Netflix subscription. In any case, you didn't get charged $500 up front the feature. That's not a bad deal.In my case, let's say VW offers an over the air chip reflash that gives me another 25 hp. The total price of the upgrade is $1,000 (which is what a reflash would cost you in the aftermarket). If they offered me a one time monthly subscription for $50 to try it out, I'd take it. In other words, maybe the news isn't all bad.
  • 2ACL A good car, but - at least in this configuration -not one that should command a premium. Its qualities just aren't as enduring as those of Honda's contemporary sports cars. For better or worse, this is a formula they remain able to replicate.
  • Jalop1991 I just read that Tesla's profits are WAY down "as the electric vehicle company has faced both more EV competition from established automakers and a slowing of overall EV sales growth." This Cadillac wouldn't help Tesla at all, but the slowing market of EV sales overall means this should be a halo/boutique car. Regardless, yes, they should make it.