From Gallia street, Sudzy’s Pinup Palace takes the onlooker back to the 1950s. Halter necklines and petticoat dresses fill the window display, a dusty pink color paints the walls, and vintage accessories fill the register counter. Formerly a bank and now a shared space with a local photography studio, the vintage store makes reference to an era of American domesticity. While Sudzy makes a bold claim to early 1950s pinup culture, she seeks to disrupt stereotypes about traditional femininity by embracing everybody and every body that enters her now 3-year-old business. Sudzy’s Pinup Palace is a space safe that promotes body positivity in downtown Portsmouth, Ohio.
“I put body positivity and acceptance outreach right on my logo so that people would know that this is a safe, accepting space. It doesn’t matter your sexuality, age, religion, color, your race, whatever it is that it is making it hard for you to walk in anywhere and get dressed, like I said, it’s an elementary concept for anyone who’s never had trouble doing it before.”
Catering especially to plus size female-identifying individuals, the pinup palace attracts customers from all over the southern and central Ohio region. The pinup palace is open weekdays, but Sudzy stays busy on the weekends traveling the greater Portsmouth area and to Columbus to host ‘pop-up’ shops. There, at street fairs and craft shows, people can shop a wide selection from Sudzy’s inventory. Not only does Sudzy make herself and her work more visible with ‘pop-up’ shops, she uses these public events to make opportunities for customers who might want to schedule a pinup photo shoot. During a photo shoot, customers are able to shop Sudzy’s collection and pose as they feel comfortable, resulting in professional photos that often empower and uplift them.
Pop-up shops, outreach via photoshoots, and transparency in conversation are all ways in which Sudzy cares for her customers and encourages people to be themselves. What’s more, however, is that Sudzy still works her 9-5 job as a nurse. Caretaking is her passion. In an interview with fieldworkers, Sudzy expressed her intent to eventually make the pinup palace and her acceptance outreach social agenda a full time endeavor.
“If I can find something where I don’t have to hide my personality, and make that part of my job, part of my income, and besides the fact that this is really what lights me up, this is really what makes me happy…I would love to eventually have this place strong enough to step away from nursing and to make it more self-sufficient so that I can focus on the social outreach part, have more time to help people.” In a more recent visit in summer of 2018, Sudzy shared how her business and its mission have grown over the past two years. She now receives many orders online, enjoys styling photo shoots, and continues to host pop-up shops. The Pinup Palace was represented at Portsmouth, Ohio’s first ever pride festival in June of 2018. According to Sudzy, the festival was well attended and supported.
While alternative voices in Appalachian spaces are often met with resistance, Sudzy’s Pinup Palace acts as a valuable resource for non-binary and nontraditional folks. As 21st century identities in Portsmouth continue to reveal themselves as progressive, creative, eclectic, and queer, the Pinup Palace boasts a safe space for all, allowing both expression of and respect for diverse identities.
Digital Gallery Editor