In our too-cynical age, there may be nothing more hopeful than the idea of a man in love with a photo of his wife.

"Oh, I was blown away," said Bob Blew, a 26-year-old Bridgeton, N.J., nursery owner still happy to be married to Lara Hauger. "I was kind of bragging to the people I work with. It's tasteful, clean and sexy."

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A fan of retro chic, Hauger, 25, had a 1940s-style pinup shot of herself by Philadelphia photographer Celeste Giuliano. Hauger, who is an elementary schoolteacher in Bridgeton, posed in a red dress and black shoes, lying on her back with her legs in the air.

"The photo embodies the spirit of a woman," Hauger said. "It's just fun and classic. It makes me feel good about myself, and my mom loves it."

Giuliano creates cheesecake even a mother could be proud of.

Inspired by the pinup photos of actress Betty Grable that her grandfather displayed during World War II, Giuliano, 29, fell in love with the genre at a young age. She said she is also influenced by the paintings of Gil Elvgren, who did pinups from the 1930s until the early 1970s.

"The images are playful and have a sense of humor," said Giuliano, a graduate of the University of the Arts. "And you don't have to be a model to pose. I've had women size 0 and size 4X."

Giuliano is part of growing trend of so-called boudoir photography. These days, many young women feel it's empowering to show off their sexuality in photos either for themselves or for loved ones, cultural observers say. Often, engaged women use the photos as gifts for their fiances.

An energetic woman with bright brown eyes and a sweet manner that could calm even the most jittery photo model, Giuliano shoots her subjects in a cavernous Overbrook loft.

A 10-foot-wide closet holds dozens of outfits that a woman can change into, transforming herself into vixen or temptress.

There also are quite a number of uniforms. Paying homage to the pinup's linkage to military history, Giuliano makes these costumes available for the wives and girlfriends of men in the armed forces.

"I had a patriotic look," said Amanda Fravel, 33, a real estate agent in Medford whose husband, Pete, 34, was in the Air Force in Iraq. "It was a see-through blue dress and red lingerie underneath. And I held a flag."

Fravel said that although the photo was "provocative," it did not upset Arab monitors who check mail going into Iraq for sexual content. "They would have confiscated a Playboy magazine if I'd sent it," Fravel said, "but they let my photo go through."

Thank goodness, said Pete, who has since returned home. He has been a longtime admirer of the art style, since his father collected photos of the pinups that fliers painted on their planes during World War II.

"I keep the photos of Amanda on my nightstand in our bedroom," he said. "They are the classiest photos I've ever seen."

Sometimes, military wives decide against uniforms and go with the traditional type of attention-getting garb your typical American woman would wear for her husband.

"When I did the photo, my husband was deployed in the United Arab Emirates, and I thought he'd like me in Victoria's Secret stuff," said Amanda Strong, 25, who lives at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey. Strong posed ironing her husband's camouflage shirt, a nod to older pinup art that portrayed sexy women doing "traditional" women's chores. "At first, Brad didn't realize it was me."

Before taking the shots, Giuliano has a makeup artist and hair stylist on hand, dolling up the models, often in retro style.

"It's like a day at the spa, along with playing dress-up," Giuliano said.

Sessions aren't cheap. A half-day, with two different looks, costs $550; a full day, with three looks, is $750.

But women say the photos are worth it.

Not everyone gets them for guys, though. Dana Smitka, a 25-year-old sales and marketing executive in Yardley, said she went to Giuliano for herself. "I'm in my 20s, and it's my time to do it," Smitka said. "Pretty soon I'll be 45, looking at my body and asking, 'What happened?' "

So Smitka picked out a black corset and created a memory for herself. "I love the confidence evoked in that photography," she said.

After Smitka's session with Giuliano, a boyfriend saw Smitka still dressed for the shoot.

"He told me I looked awesome," Smitka recalled, laughing. "Then he said, 'Let's go somewhere. I want to to walk around with you.'

"And I said, 'Yeah, that's right.' Celeste made me feel amazing. She's awesome."

Want to Pose?

Celeste Giuliano is offering a discounted pinup package on June 3 for $275 (includes hair, makeup, wardrobe and props). For information, check her Web site, www.lunarlightstudios.com, call 610-220-7707.EndText

Contact staff writer Alfred Lubrano at 215-854-4969 or alubrano@phillynews.com.