The term supermodel has always been synonymous throughout history with glamour, beauty and prestige, and by today’s standards, this is certainly no exception – but without a doubt what has changed is the how we define the beauty standard, as well as model behaviour.
Because models have always graced the covers or front pages of whatever media platforms are popular at the time, models have always been looked up to as the current standard of beauty. Their images, when shared with the public, quickly become an ideal that many want to achieve and throughout history we have cycled through a variety of fads and eras.
In the 1950’s supermodels finally passed through this threshold and were distinguishing themselves in the industry. One of the biggest names of the time was none other than Bettina Graziani. The French-born fashion beauty reached the pinnacle of her success by the early ’50s and well represented the beauty standard of the decade. With her beautiful soft features, she oozed timelessness and grace, and by the early fifties she was said to be “the most photographed woman in France” by Paris Match Magazine. During the ’50s obsession of curvy girl Marilyn Monroe, we saw models of this age mirroring this ideal. Graziani was reported to say “my round county-girl’s cheeks and healthy appearance made me look quite unlike all the mannequins.” Being coined as one of the first major supermodels, Graziani, who recently passed away at the age of 89, was the first to allow her iconic look to create her notable legacy.
By the ’60s a new trend was emerging; one that maybe wasn’t the most savoury. One of the most iconic names of the ’60s and in the fashion world in general is Leslie Hornby – but you’ll better know her as Twiggy. This nickname says it all. The new decade would idolize fragile framed females and Twiggy would be at the forefront of them all as the central poster child for the look. With saucer-sized blue eyes and large lashes and iconic blonde pixie cut, her look and her frame would sweep the world in popularity. Hailing from London, a global fashion powerhouse then and now, Twiggy took the fashion world by storm with her fresh-faced look and slim stature and wildly appealed to the youth as an icon. She is still iconic today for managing to make the swinging sixties her own.
Sexy seemed to be the new appeal by the seventies and Cheryl Tiegs was the newest thing. By this decade the women of the ’70s were taking more risks with fashion by mirroring these objectives with empowering women in the workplace, so naturally we saw more skin – like in the case of her steamy Sports Illustrated photoshoot. The golden haired all-American girl exuded everything that it meant to be gorgeous during this decade. What seemed to be all the rage was blonde feathered hair and glowing skin and she pulled off the look flawlessly. Being one of the first to breakthrough and make a career for herself in not only the modelling world, but the fashion world as well by creating a clothing line for the department store, Sears, meant that Tiegs was at the forefront of models doing more than just being coat hangers for fashions.
The 1980’s was a bigger year yet, and not simply because of the hairstyles – modelling was gaining more momentum still. Who other than Cindy Crawford to celebrate this decade (and later we would actualize her true stardom and be classified as one of the ‘Big 6’ in the supermodel world) with? This decade, similar to the decade before glorified an all-American look and really sought out models who possessed this spirit. She was discovered in 1982 upon entering and winning Elite Model Management’s ‘Look of the Year’ contest. It took a mere three months for the U.S. to “fall in love with her all-American look” and the rest of the world would soon be head over heels as well. Unlike the typical blonde bombshell hotness that was what many models seemingly possessed, Crawford had warm brown eyes and luscious locks to match. While she was an obvious stunner, she had the sweetheart look down pat and went on to have quite a few roles as an actress. During this decade, Crawford and many other models were keeping busy as their careers were branching out in many directions other than modelling… such as endorsements and acting.
When we entered the 1990’s modelling finally hit its well-deserved level of stardom. This was, after all the decade of the creation of “The Big 6” , where a group of women seriously defined the age and any model worth her test shot had the prefix ‘-super’ added on. One of our favourites is none other than megastar, Kate Moss. With her long legs and strong bone structure she ruled the runways with her pack and worked with the biggest names the world had. With the invention of the Big 6, the models were able to really amplify how they were marketing themselves and this is why they reached the ultimate fandom and fame that they did. By the mid-nines all the rage was a look referred to as Heroin Chic. As the name somewhat suggests, it turned out to be a look quite opposite of the healthy and glowing girls of the previous decade. Though we may not agree with the sunken eyes and washed out skin… it was a fad that shaped the era.
By the turn of the century the world had their eyes set on one young beauty from Brazil, Miss Gisele Bündchen. The golden girl quickly became a household name as her success skyrocketed her to the top of the game. With golden glowing skin, natural beachy blonde hair and blue eyes Bündchen proved to the world that she was a celestial being created in heaven. (Eds note: Obviously she wasn’t created in heaven. But she is celestially gorgeous.) By this decade she singlehandedly ended the Heroin Chic era and brought life back to the runways. During this decade sexy came back in full force and she reached the ultimate pinnacle of modelling success when she landed a job with the global giant Victoria’s Secret. Projected by Forbes to be the first ever billionaire model, as well as just recently quitting the runway on her own terms (something typically unheard of in this industry), the 2000’s prove to be a decade for powerful and sexy models – and one billion dollars can’t be wrong.
With 60 years of modelling history behind us, many of the women of today are empowered, confident, self-made megastars. While the Internet by this year isn’t anything new, taking advantage of self-marketing is all the rage. One of the biggest names in the industry today is the gorgeous Kendall Jenner. While she may have had a head start being born into fame, she pulled herself up by her bootstraps and made a modelling career for herself. Her lovely complexion and Middle Eastern appearance was always a given but in the digital age she was able to increase her exposure to stay relevant. All of the models today are replicating a similar look that was popular in the 2000’s but are more… online. Jenner has mastered this with each and every one of her social platforms, especially Twitter and Instagram, and arguably many models would fall off the radar without their followings now.
Although the purpose behind modelling is essentially the same thing, showcasing a product or service, each decade the popular girls of the industry were able to distinguish themselves and make the business their own.
We can’t predict what fashion fad will be all the rage next decade, and let’s be honest, it could change next week, but at some point we have to draw inspiration from somewhere, and we think that any of these decades have memorable moments. What (literally) brings life to the goods and services that we purchase is in fact a product of these models mastering what the public wants to see. From their personalities to their notable physiques they sell the things we buy better than any salesperson. They have managed to make themselves icons, stay relevant for years on end, and are simply not praised enough on their business tactics. We probably will never grow tired of looking at these beautiful models, and one thing is for certain, we will never grow tired of looking back on them either.