Carrie Vondrus was born in the 1960s, but she always preferred the style of the 1940s and 1950s.
“Whenever I was out in the workforce, you would always see me in silk blouses and wool pencil skirts — just very classic pieces,” she said.
Vondrus is a big fan of Audrey Hepburn, Rita Hayworth and Marilyn Monroe, and dressing in clothing like they might have worn during the height of their careers came naturally — but at a cost.
“For a lot of years, I stopped dressing the way I like to dress because I got looked at sideways,” she said. “People always thought I looked a little strange, and it’s tough to be judged all the time.”
But about three years ago the North Ogden woman was injured when a dump truck ran into her car.
“I just went, ‘You know what? I’m done. Life is too short, and I’m going to do what I want to do,’ ” she remembers.
Opening a shop was on her bucket list, and she decided she couldn’t be the only woman who wanted to buy 1940s- and 1950s-style clothing.
“It’s been apparent that I’m not,” she said.
Her boutique, Endless Indulgence, at 105 Historic 25th St. in Ogden, has a growing clientele.
“I call them ‘my gals’ — I can’t call them my customers or my clients,” she said. “They turn into our friends.”
Based on styles of the 1940s and 1950s, “pinup culture” is a national phenomenon that’s catching on in Utah. Women dress in retro or vintage clothing, with accessories, hair and makeup to match.
“A lot of them live the lifestyle, and what I mean by that is for them to have the Victory Rolls in their hair, and red lips and all that, that’s how they live day in and day out,” said Vondrus.
The pinup culture has a couple of subcultures.
“Some of them have the tattoos,” Vondrus said of the retro women. “We call them more of a ‘Rockabilly.’ ”
Vondrus calls her own look “Mad Men,” after the cable television show set in the past.
“I don’t have the tattoos,” she said. “I’m much more reserved in my style — much more classic.”
Alex Hanson, of Clinton, started dressing pinup style about six or seven years ago. Her husband was into antique and classic cars, and cars and pinups tend to go hand in hand, she said. But now it’s not just for shows.
“I tend to live more like this, or try to bring pieces of it into my everyday attire,” she said. “This is more than just dress-up for me.”
One of Hanson’s favorite articles of clothing is a 1938 Girl Scout uniform, found at a vintage store.
“It looks kind of like an old military dress,” she said.
Finding vintage and retro clothes hasn’t been easy.
“We had to go online for everything,” Hanson said.
Vondrus and her husband, Richard Vondrus, started Endless Indulgence as a home business. They sold retro-style clothing at classic car shows until they had enough customers to open a store.
“Last year, we did over $23,000 wholesale with Bettie Page, in six months,” she said.
Seeing those numbers, pinup clothing chain Bettie Page opened a shop at The Gateway in Salt Lake City. Vondrus still has a working relationship with Bettie Page, but chose not to be a franchise.
“I wanted to be able to carry anything I wanted — the snoods, the makeup, the Pan Am bags,” she said, adding that she also has vintage jewelry and sunglasses made from 1950s frames. There are also leather accessories by Jason Kendall of South Ogden, and retro-style jewelry by Dawn Harlow of Ogden.
In addition to fashions from Bettie Page, Vondrus sells clothing by Audrey*k of Burbank, Calif., and Oregon designer Bernie Dexter. She even has vintage-style tea-length wedding dresses.
For men who dress to match their pinup gals, she has a few shirts and hats.
Women’s clothing in the 1940s and 1950s was designed to show off curves.
“Everything here is made to enhance the bustline, the waistline and the hips,” said Vondrus. “They really bring you to an hourglass figure.”
And you don’t have to be a supermodel to pull off the look.
“The gals that come in here are kind of tired of the fashion industry telling them they should be a size 2,” she said.
Modesty is also, for some women, part of the appeal of retro clothing.
“They’re loving the vintage-inspired bathing suits,” said Vondrus. “They cover everything.”
Hanson says it’s the innocence of class of the 1940s and 1950s that she really likes.
“It was a time when girls were ladies, and men were gentlemen,” she said. “The men wore hats, and you got dressed up to go to dinner.”
Dawn Harlow says she always felt like she was a little different.
“I really like old movies,” she said, and watching the glamorous women in black and white films made her want to be a lady. “I think I was a closet pinup girl. I wanted to be that person, but I felt like nobody would accept me.”
Moving around because of her husband’s Air Force career made it even more difficult to be herself — until she came to Utah and found the local group of pinup gals and guys.
“It was like I was accepted immediately, without any questions,” she said. “It was really cool.”
Not everyone is immediately accepting of pinup culture, and Vondrus says she and her “gals” still get odd looks.
“I always tell my gals, then you do what the girls did in the past — you show class, and you smile and you say hello,” she said. “That’s all it takes, and that wall will come down.”
Taste in clothing may vary, but as Vondrus says, “Class never goes out of style.”