Women's 1950s fashion included such conservative and traditional staples as full circle skirts, stockings, and gloves. When Twiggy fashion appeared - seemingly out of nowhere in 1966 - the entire industry got tossed on its bouffant-styled head.
As the face and thin frame associated with some of the best fashions from the '60s, Twiggy sported a pixie haircut, applied several pairs of false eyelashes at once, and wore a miniskirt like no one else. Despite the fact she was only 16 when discovered, the fashion world couldn't get enough of Twiggy. She appeared in magazines all over the world, eventually taking a promotional tour in the US and starting a line of merchandise that plastered her likeness on bags, lunchboxes, and dolls.
Born Lesley Hornby, Twiggy was very different from the models who appeared in magazines at the time. While most models were curvaceous and promoted glamorous clothes for wealthy consumers, Twiggy was from a working-class family, spoke with a rough Cockney accent, and promoted accessible, everyday clothing on her extremely thin frame. She played a big role in London's ascension to a hub of art and fashion. As young women adopted playful clothing and hairstyles in order to break away from their mothers' traditional looks, Twiggy helped popularize short hemlines, loud prints, and acid colors.
Although her career only lasted four years before she retired to pursue other interests, the Twiggy 1960s revolution changed everything. Long after the model appeared on the cover of Vogue, her slender frame - promoted by the media as the female ideal - is still under fire for being unrealistic. Although the blame for this lies with many, it was a 16-year-old girl who didn't consider herself beautiful that changed women's fashion forever.
Twiggy Ushered In An Era Of Impossibly Low BMI Being Considered The Ideal
In the late 1800s, fashion designers employed the first models to wear clothing in their shops so women could see them on a real person. The most successful designers hired women in a variety of shapes and sizes to appeal to a large number of customers, meaning up until the 1950s, many models were curvaceous and voluptuous. When Twiggy appeared with a completely different body type, ideas of what was considered beautiful began to change.
After Twiggy lit the spark, the notion of an unattainably slim female body blew up in the late 1980s, when Calvin Klein hired Kate Moss and other waif-like models exclusively. He claimed the move was a reaction to many women getting breast and butt implants. In his opinion, there was "something so distasteful about all that. I wanted someone who was natural, always thin."
The fashion industry typically blames skinny models on designers who only create their sample designs in small sizes, since they believe clothes look better on tall and thin women. This favors models who are smaller sized, and often forces those who are not to take drastic measures - including becoming anorexic or eating cotton balls in an attempt to ease their hunger.
When research showed 70% of girls from the ages of 10-18 believed women in magazines had the ideal body image, many people in the fashion industry began taking steps to make changes. Some countries like France have even gone so far as to ban models whose body fat percentage is too low.
Even Twiggy herself agrees that changes need to be made, saying:
The way I looked when I started modeling - I was a skinny schoolgirl, stuffing tissues into my little 32A bra. I wasn't trying to be that thin, I was perfectly healthy, but still - that look is a total impossibility for women over the age of 20. Fashion has a lot to answer for, doesn't it?
Twiggy Didn’t Think She Was Beautiful, And Still Believes She Was ‘Much Too Thin’
Despite becoming famous for her looks, Twiggy wasn't a fan of herself. "I was this funny, skinny little thing with eyelashes and long legs, who had grown up hating how I looked," she claims.
In fact, throughout her modeling career, she found it hard to come to terms with her appeal. As she remembers:
I didn't understand the fuss over me. I was being whisked around the world, put in beautiful clothes, told I was gorgeous and earning lots of money. I just remember thinking: "God, they're all mad!" I hated being skinny and funny looking and desperately wanted a bosom.
Eventually, Twiggy realized many people loved her simply because she was something different. "I had a look - I can see that now - but I don't think I was beautiful," she says.
Yet Twiggy has also criticized her past self, describing her former look as "much too thin."
The ‘Daily Express’ Ran An Exposé On Twiggy, Calling Her ‘The Face Of ‘66’ At Just 16 Years Old
Twiggy became interested in fashion at an early age and aspired to become a designer. "At school I was terribly insecure," she recalls. "I was very thin and flat-chested. I wasn't good at anything but I did love fashion."
When she tried to break into the modeling world in 1966, however, she was continually rejected for being too short (she was 5'6"). Refusing to give up, Twiggy decided to create some head shots and went to London's House of Leonard to have her shoulder-length hair cut and styled.
"Her hair was long, untidy, and ratty when Justin brought her in," a hairdresser remembers. "We had a long discussion on what to do with her."
Leonard, the salon's owner, just happened to be there that day, noticed Twiggy, and asked to let him try a new cropped style on her. She agreed, and they took photos of the end result to display on the wall. Since Twiggy was only 16, she returned to school and her everyday life, thinking nothing of the photos. Little did she know Deirdre McSharry, a fashion editor at the Daily Express, would see the photo and change her life.
McSharry immediately asked to meet Twiggy. She took more pictures and printed them in the paper three weeks later with the caption: "The Face of '66." Only one month later, Twiggy found herself in front of a camera again, this time for Vogue.
Twiggy Appeared In 13 Separate Fashion Shoots Within The First Year Of Her Discovery In ‘66
One month after her first picture appeared in the Daily Express, Vogue hired Twiggy for her first photo shoot. Over the next year, the young model took part in 13 fashion shoots for the magazine. Twiggy also modeled for Tatler and Elle, and traveled all over the world to pose for famous fashion photographers like Richard Avedon and Terence Donovan. "Today I've met the icon of the future," one photographer allegedly said after taking her photo.
Twiggy's image was so ubiquitous, it even found its way into space aboard a craft carrying a time capsule. Merchandising swiftly followed, featuring Twiggy's image on lunchboxes and recreating her look in doll form. She even became the first wax figure of a model at Madame Tussauds.
As Twiggy remembers, her fame "was global, almost immediately - being discovered and having that 'look' ricocheting around the world - and it's still out there. Wherever I go in the world, I encounter what I call 'my little friend who sits on my shoulder.'"