In photos: Bottom left, last year’s McLemon’s charity Pin-Up Pageant winner Sammy Dee, 1st runner up Lucky Mae Savage, McLemon’s owner Jessica Henry McClements, 2nd runner up Alli Cat and People’s Choice Winner Jessabel Delight. Top left and at right, photos from last year’s Valentine’s Pin-Up photo shoot.
Jessica Henry McClemments is a matchmaker of sorts.
She spends hours each week at McLemon’s, her shop on West Main Street in Johnstown, helping women find their ideal outfit.
“I always tell people ‘Let’s find your match.’ I may not always have it right away . . . but I’ve made some good matches,” McClemments said.
Soon, she’s doing a different kind of matching. She’s teaming up with photographer Samantha Martens to hold Valentine’s pin-up photo shoots.
Starting at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 24, women can come in, get an outfit at McLemon’s, get their hair and makeup done by a professional and then have their portraits taken by Martens. The photo shoots will resume on Sunday, Jan. 26 at 9:30 a.m. Martens will send between 10 and 15 digital photos that can be used as Valentine’s Day gifts.
“There’s a lot of . . . photographers that cater to photoshoots for women [that are] body positive. There’s a huge pin-up culture throughout the United States and there [are] women who do these pictures all the time. It’s wonderful,” McClemments said.
She’s a supporter of the body positive movement and in some ways, those sentiments are part of the reason she opened her shop three years ago.
Her style is eclectic, mixing time periods and attitudes, and there weren’t any stores in the area that catered to both her size and her style. The only other option was to shop online, which McClements was not fond of.
“It’s important for me to try things on and I didn’t have that,” McClements said. “This provides a service that’s not accessible in person anywhere in this area. Even in Albany, [they] don’t have stores dedicated to this style.”
The store’s racks are full of new dresses and bathing suits that echo mid-century styles, with a-line cuts and cinched waists. Funky accessories from near and far are scattered throughout and there’s a growing selection of vintage clothing, from cocktail dresses to skirts and accessories.
“I love fashion and I love history so this is where those two things meet,” McClements said.
Next week’s pin-up photo shoot isn’t the first that McClements’ has organized. Last year, she hosted a Valentine’s Day photo shoot, as well as a charity Pin-up Pageant, and she’s already planning to host another pageant this year.
Pin-up style illustrations have been around for more than a century and in the past were used by the United States government to create propaganda posters and messaging. They also ran in men’s magazines, showcasing celebrities and sex symbols of the time.
Today, especially with the upcoming event at McLemon’s, pin-up photoshoots are more about building women up. Pin-up photo shoots cater to all body types and can be a way for women to embrace their bodies and identities. According to McClements pin-up-style photo shoots work well for a variety of people in part because the vintage clothing styles inspire confidence.
“They’re styles that are flattering on many different body types [with] where the waist [falls], where the bust sits on you. It’s easy to get into some of these things and say ‘Oh my god, I feel so good in this,’ compared to modern things. Not everyone is comfortable in their own skin, so if you get the right dress with the right person, there’s a whole new world of confidence that comes with that,” McClements said.
Still, before women go into Martens’ studio, McClements will give them a pep talk, to build upon that confidence.
“You need a little pep talk to get the right attitude for it and I think Sam’s really good at guiding you through it,” McClements said.
Martens’ specializes in portraits and wedding photography, so she’s used to making people feel at ease in front of a camera. With the pin-up photo shoots, it’s no different.
“If I suggest a pose and the person seems to be a little out of sorts, then we just start fresh. We do something different. I don’t want them to look or feel uncomfortable. If the person isn’t comfortable, it’s going to show through in the photos,” Martens said.
Martens’ studio, which is connected to McLemon’s, is equipped with props and backdrops for the photo shoot as well, including a bed and a settee.
While the event is rooted in the classic pin-up style, both Martens and McClements are open to different styles. One woman who is attending the event is planning to bring a more bohemian look to the event.
“If you have a slightly different style, you can do that. . . . We’re open to creative ideas and making it more about you. It’s not about us, it’s about you,” McClements said.
To attend, people can sign up for a one-hour time slot on Facebook by contacting McLemon’s. The cost is $155 and includes a McLemon’s store credit, a makeover and the photo session. The shop is located at 31-35 West Main Street, Johnstown.