Christy Turlington, Chloe, 2006
A version of this history has been posted for sometime at my blog for students, Fashion & Power by student Ariane Ankarcrona, but I am finally hosting an updated version here.
Early history: Artists fist began using live models for drawing the human form. Waist to hip ratio was used to determine "ideal proportions" for sculptures.
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: Charles Worth asks a shop girl to demonstrate designs and she also becomes his wife
Early 1900s: Young girls in good form are used to display clothing but not regarded as socially significant. Lady Duff Gordon of Lucille's begins to groom these girls.
1924: Opening of first modeling agencies.
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.
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: The economic recession changes model fees incorporated into the advertising budget. Naturalism and androgyny trends rise. First appearance of Californian look ie. tanned, “natural,” healthy.
Lauren Hutton and Natalia Vodianova portraying the model
Early 1980s: The economic comeback creates a demand for models with energy and “sense of fun."
Mid/late 80s: Supermodels. Huge fees but safe-bet as represented global ideals of beauty. Surge in media attention of fashion industry.
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. Adolescent body type becomes the ideal, modeling careers started much earlier.
Late 1990s: Trend of modeling with “real people,” those with interesting lives or “unusual “ features.
2010: Revisionist aesthetics, the woman's body is back.
Above the feature in US Vogue, December 2009 considered Lara Stone larger than sample size and stated that she represents a shift in model 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.
Read an excellent essay on Fashion Models as Ideal Embodiments