The world is composed of billions of people with each individual having various characteristics and qualities. The uniqueness of every individual could be seen in their physical appearances, personalities, and the ways they interact with each other. Despite the fact that almost everyone in the world has his or her respective potentials to make it famous in the world, there are only some people who managed to reach that stage.
These people have the exemplary skills and traits that make others look up to them. Their influence does not merely involve the admiration of people but rather they tend to represent a certain area of their chosen profession. The impact that they can establish could also go as far as symbolizing the popular culture at large.
In this sense, those individuals who are considered to fall under these descriptions are regarded as icons. The fashion industry also has personalities who created a meaningful and substantial contribution to this particular field. One of the most notable fashion icons who greatly exemplify this idea is Twiggy.
In line with these, it is the main objective of this paper to discuss the status of Twiggy as a fashion icon. In order to do so, four images of Twiggy will be used in order to analyze her iconic status in the fashion industry. The succeeding paragraphs will give a short biography of her life and how her experiences paved the way for her success. In relation to this, the unique skills and characteristics that make Twiggy reach her present status in the fashion world will be given due consideration. Moreover, the way by which the media represented Twiggy will also be elaborated on. Lastly, an analysis of the way Twiggy produce popular culture and the means popular culture simultaneously produces Twiggy will be conducted.
Biography of Twiggy
Lesley Hornby or more popularly known as “Twiggy” was born on 19 September 1949 in North London. She hailed as “The Face of ‘66” by the Daily Express. During the mid 60’s, when she was at the age of 16, Twiggy became internationally popular as the world’s first supermodel. Her success in photographic modeling epitomizes that certain age (Lawson).
Later on, Twiggy became a thriving and lucrative actress in film, stage, and television. Her career in the film industry took off when by starring in Ken Russell’s “The Boyfriend.” She was able to won two Golden Globe awards for the category of most promising newcomer and best actress in a musical. Twiggy also entered the music scene wherein she recorded many albums that include various genres like pop, rock, disco, country and show tunes. She was able to obtain two silver discs, two chart albums, and hit singles in the span of her music career.
Moreover, Twiggy also excelled in starring with her own variety series for the BBC. She was critically acclaimed in her portrayal of Eliza Doolittle in the television series entitled “Pygmalion.” Afterwards, she was included in the Tony Award winning Gershwin musical “My One and Only.” Twiggy had an outstanding success for this production wherein she was nominated for a Tony Award (Lawson).
Twiggy further pursue her acting skills by getting roles in film and television shows both in the United States and the United Kingdom. She was able to become a cast member of famous shows, some of these are: “The Doctor and the Devils”, “Club Paradise”, “The Blues Brothers”, “The Little Match Girl”, and “Young Charlie Chaplin.” In 1988, Twiggy experienced an important part of her life when got married with British Actor and Director Leigh Lawson who is her co-star in “Madame Sousatzka” (Lawson).
During the 1990s, Twiggy was launched in the career of a television presenter and interviewer. She had her own ITV series entitled “Twiggy’s People.” This gave her the opportunity to interview famous people such as: Dustin Hoffman, Lauren Bacall, Tom Jones, Joan Rivers, Eric Idle, and Tim Curry. In the year 2001, Twiggy had her second television series with the name “Take Time With Twiggy”, which she interviewed famous personalities with the likes of Lulu, Ken Russell and Frederick Forsyth (Lawson).
Twiggy also made known her interest in the entertainment production when she co-produced and starred in the highly praised “If Love Were All” in New York that was directed by her husband Leigh Lawson. She also ventured her way into writing when she created her autobiography entitled “Twiggy in Black and White” that was included in the bestseller list. Twiggy did not forget her passion for music because she released a new album the “Midnight Blues”, which received good review from the music press (Lawson).
Twiggy indeed has a timeless beauty that goes beyond the decades. This is clearly observable in the fact that she continues to model for famous brands like Marks and Spencer wherein she has been a part of their 2005 phenomenal advertising campaign. She has also been featured on the cover of numerous magazines like “Vogue” and “Tatler” despite her age. Recently, Twiggy had also been part of the reality show “America’s Next Top Model” as a guest judge opposite another model and creator of the show, Tyra Banks (Lawson).
Lastly, Twiggy has other advocacies and interests that she is very passionate about. She is an active supporter of animal welfare. She actively contributes and participates in various societies that advocate animal rights as she is a self-proclaimed anti fur campaigner. Another cause that she is an ardent supporter of is the breast cancer research groups. Twiggy’s interest in fashion goes a long way as she now has her own clothing line and range of bed linen (Lawson).
Twiggy as a Fashion Icon
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “fashion” as “the prevailing style during a particular time” and a “social standing or prominence especially as signalized by dress or conduct” (Merriam-Webster Online). The term “icon” is also defined by the same dictionary as “a usually pictorial representation” and “an object of uncritical devotion” (Merriam-Webster Online). In this sense, a fashion icon could refer to an individual that has established a certain trend during a particular period of time, which makes other people, idolized him or her.
It must be noted that an icon is not merely an object because even individuals can represent a particular idea or concept through inanimate objects such as a picture. Being a fashion icon does not entail the mere admiration of people because they also have to make their trends popular and widely-accepted by the people. Moreover, a fashion icon’s influence is not only limited to the public but they also have their way of establishing their own inputs to the development of the fashion industry.
Putting these meanings in mind, being a fashion icon is indeed applicable to Twiggy. Twiggy was able to influence the fashion of the 1960s. During this time, fashion editors were looking for a new face or something different that will emphasize a certain or pervasive image of girlishness. Twiggy was referred as the “elfin’ with her 5 ft. 6 ins. height, and measured ’31, 22, ’32 at the time of her frame.
She was regarded as one of the members of the “youthquake” that revolutionized the previous perspective of fashion and modeling. Twiggy was recognized as the new fashion icon of the 60s because her look began challenging the reign of studio imperialism with regards to star fashion successes.
This youth culture that has emerged, which includes Twiggy, has been a formidable fashion force that gives a new approach to the face of popular taste by means of emphasizing fine and performing arts. Twiggy also contributes to the greater complexity of the fashion world as a stick-thin teenage English model. Furthermore, Twiggy was among the fashion icons that were able to reach such status without the aid of Hollywood (Craats 24-25).
Twiggy was recognized as the world’s first supermodel because of her unique style that epitomizes an era. She introduced a new style that veers away from the traditional looks of women that aided her in influencing the new images of female fashionability. Twiggy’s waif like figure, boyish hair cut and striking eye lashes created a new image the embodies the 1960s.
Her uncanny fashion sense of appealing to be boyish with her thin figure and short hair but at the same time still looking girly with the clothes she wears resonated. She immediately became popular not only in the United Kingdom but also in America (Craats 24-25). She took New York by storm, which includes the admiration of the may people. Million of teenage girls from the sixties idolized her as she became one of the most famous faces on the planet.
Twiggy’s picture was everywhere, in fashion magazines like Vogue, Tatler, and even at her own American publication “Her Mod, Mod Teen World”. The popularity of Twiggy even reached a point where her photograph was even encased in a time capsule and sent into space (Lawson).
The physical appearance and fashion style of Twiggy symbolize the era of the 60s but more than that she also stands for the idea of innocence and youth. She was just a 17 years old teenager when she captured the attention of the fashion industry. She possesses a body of a skinny kid with the face of an angel that makes her look very naïve.
Her look and fashion style are both similar and different. It is similar because of the fact that she fashioned colorful tops and skirts that clearly exemplifies the pop-culture of her time. On the other hand, it is different because of her boyish physical features and girly fashion sense that tends to contradict with each other. As a result, the irony of her physical appearance as a model and the fashion sense that she popularized only contributed more to her popularity that can even be compared for the clamor of the people for the British boy band “The Beatles” (Craats 24-25).
The qualities and contribution that Twiggy made during her career in the fashion industry as well as in the other fields of artistry like music and acting made Twiggy stand out from the other popular figures during her time. She is considered as different from the others because she was able to symbolize an era, which other famous personalities cannot do.
When people think or remember the 60s, Twiggy is always one of the people they identified with when it comes to the fashion scene. Her contributions were really substantive because she was able to aid in changing the perspective of the people during her time. She was able to further promote the “youthquake” that give the female fashion a different flair. More than that, Twiggy has this exceptional charisma to the public that make her instantly popular to millions of people.
Her popularity does not merely stop in mere modeling but it also extended in other areas of artistry like designing, music, and acting. These only prove that Twiggy became part of the lives of the people because she very much accepted and recognized in all her areas of endeavor (Desser and Jowett 184-185).
The Social Historical Context
Twiggy rose to prominence during the 1960s decade. This period is often characterized by the inter-related cultural and political trends in the west especially in the United States of America and Britain. It is also known in popular culture as “The Sixties” to describe the counter-culture and social revolution that takes place at the end of the decade. In relation to this, the era is referred to as one of irresponsible excess and flamboyance. The decade is also regarded as the “Swinging Sixties” because of the liberalist attitude that people have during that time which gives importance to individual freedom (Craats 24-25).
The fashion style that Twiggy popularized during the 1960s shows the very idea of liberalism that was very wide spread at that time. The clothes that she wears are usually composed of short skirts or mini skirts that shows more skin. Being the case, the female identity of becoming more liberated is seen in the clothes that they wear (Moseley 38-19). During this time dressing less really was more. Twiggy was able to stand for the change that mirrors for the sentiment of the most females during that era. As Twiggy said so herself “The sixties were a time when ordinary people could do extraordinary thing . . .” (Lawson).
Twiggy and Popular Culture
The iconic status that Twiggy has in the fashion industry can be regarded as transitory rather than permanent. This is due to the fact that her influence in the fashion world as well as in other areas of the arts still exists up to this present time. Contrary to the common fear of most models of the fashion industry that are regarded as “has-been” when they no longer comprehend with the certain style or look of the time, Twiggy transcends this limitation to a model (Craik 282-285).
She was able to revolutionize the fashion industry once again when she paved the way for models in their forties to still be profitable in the industry during her commercial campaign when Marks and Spencer. Most importantly, she is the embodiment of the idea that models are not all beauty because they also have the brains due to the various advocacies that she has.