Models Now and Then

The appearance of the most beautiful women in the world has undoubtedly changed throughout the last century, since the „invention of the model“ in 1850. Unfortunately there is no such picture as the ones below from the 1920’s. But isn’t it interesting to see the changes in female beauty within only a hundred years? The women in the photo of Irving Penn seem more mature, or literally older, than those in the 2007 version. Is ist just the black and white photo that gives this impression? I can hardly imagine that models were cast at age 14 in 1947, so they’re probably older than today’s models. 

In 1947, the year Dior invented the New Look, Fashion’s most beautiful were portrayed as elegant, classy ladies, the poses seem almost ethereal and glorified. These women were so far higher in class, they almost seem untouchable. There are only white women, at the time, representing beauty.

The twelve most photographed models of 1947 by Irving Penn
Meg Mundy, Marilyn Ambrose, Helen Bennett, Dana Jenney, Betty McLauchlen (on ladder), Lisa Fonssagrives, Lily Carlson, Dorian Leigh (on floor), Andrea Johnson (seated), Elisabeth Gibbons, Muriel Maxwell (in black) and Kay Hernan.

1989, 40 years later, the top models look like the girls next door. If they weren’t so beautiful, you could imagine hanging out with them, drinking beer in jeans and t-shirts. Fashion has been democratized, it’s for everyone now. But then, you still have to get up in the morning for less than $10,000. They don’t.

Lindbergh’s faces of fashion: Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Tatjana Patitz, Christy Turlington, and Cindy Crawford, 1989

2007, clearly inspired by the 1947 version, women are ladylike again. I wonder what this picture would look like, if it really told the story of the 2000s, if it was not modeled after the Penn photo. The models clearly seem younger and more individual, but the poses don’t tell anything about today. Also, I’m missing Asian models.

“The World’s Next Top Models” photographed by Steven Meisel for Vogue, May 2007
Lily Donaldson, Hilary Rhoda, Sasha Pivovarova, Doutzen Kroes (on ladder), Caroline Trentini, Raquel Zimmerman, Jessica Stam, Chanel Iman (on ladder), Coco Rocha and Agyness Dean.

And look, there they are! They got their own photo in 2010. What is that supposed to tell us? Is this some weird segregation idea or are people at Vogue just telling us this is the future of fashion, the future of beauty? Is it supposed to say something about how beauty changes? Does it mean whoever has the money (to spend on luxury items) is considered beautiful? At least in the fashion industry,  it seems so. Don’t get that wrong, please. I want Asian and Black and White models and all ethnicities in fashion. In an ideal world, they’d just all be together in one picture.

Du Juan, Tao Okamoto, Lee Hyun, Hyoni Kang, Liu Wen, Bonnie Chen, So Young Kang, and Lily Zhi Photographed by Steven Meisel for US Vogue Dec 2010

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