Thursday, April 1, 2010

History of the Fashion Model

by Ariane Ankarcrona

This history summary below appears in full here.

Christy Turlington, Chloe, 2006

1391: Queen Isabella of Bavaria gives a life-size doll to Queen Ann of Bohemia to show clothes on a human form. Later called “model dolls,” they became popular gifts among aristocracy and are used as tools for designers.
1852: Wife of dressmaker Charles Worth sported his designs amongst Paris aristocracy
Early 1900s: Lady Duff Gordon of Lucille's grooms young women. Models not received in polite society. Mannequins considered menials.
1924: New selection methods of models by nationality. Opening of first modeling agencies followed.

Top models for Vogue, Irving Penn, 1947

Late 1940s: Dior’s New Look. Top 12 models all resemble this aesthetic eg. sophisticated, mid-thirties.
1950s: Chanel’s Total Look. Chanel uses herself and family members as models or young aristocrats styled on the designer’s looks and attitudes.

The images featured are combined historic photos of the actual models accompanied by Natalia Vodianova portraying the models for Vogue, May 2009. Above Jean Patchett.

Late 1950s: ready-to-wear (prêt-à-porter)industry begins. New class of clients means models no longer corresponded to high society looks. Mass produced clothes of prêt-a-porter lines homogenizes ideal body type thanks to ready-made patterns.


1960s: Models/photographers are new elite of beautiful people. “natural” models ie. sexy, friendly and relaxed. Opposite to earlier “haughty” unrealness of couture models. Exotic models used.

Donyale Luna, Read V Magazine's take on diverse muses

1970s: Tougher looks due to economic recession. Model fees incorporated into advertising product they were endorsing.


Penelope Tree

Early 1980s: demand for models with energy and “sense of fun” due to economic buoyancy. Increase in American consumers of European fashion brought Californian look ie. tanned, “natural” , healthy.
Mid/late 80s: Supermodels. Huge fees but safe-bet as represented global ideals of beauty. Surge in media attention of fashion industry.

Lauren Hutton

The supermodels posing for Peter Lindbergh 1990, and Kate Moss, 1993

1990s: Displacement of natural, healthy looks. Grunge style, waif, blasé attitude= Anti-fashion statement. Girls not women became ideal, modeling careers started much earlier.
Late 1990s: Trend of modeling with “real people” , those with interesting lives or “unusual “ features.
2010: Revisionist aesthetics, return of the natural

Lara Stone above is larger than sample size and represents a possible shift in type. At a 2010 conference Anna Wintour said: "Each and every one of us needs to realise we are all responsible for models' health," Wintour said, via WWD - adding that designers will have to help end the "tyranny of [sample] clothes that just barely fit a 13-year-old on the edge of puberty.” Wintour went on to say that unhealthy body standards have meant that the past decade couldn't create supermodels, like the kind we saw in the '90s. And so: "Most [models] work only when they have the uberslim physique of the very young, stop getting jobs when they fill out and hence don’t last long enough to develop public personalities, like the '90s supermodels did. As a result, more magazine covers and lucrative beauty contracts have gone to singers and actresses," she observed.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Very beautiful piece :)
    Loved your blog so much
    I always wanted to study art & fashion history but I never had the chance :)

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