Twiggy (1949- ) was a British supermodel famous in the 1960s. Back then she seemed shockingly thin and boy-like, even to white people, but now most high fashion models are like that. Current ideas of thin as beautiful start with her.
Marshall McLuhan said, “Twiggy is an X-ray, not a picture.”
Diana Vreeland, the head of Vogue magazine in the 1960s said she was perfect: “the straightest legs, knees like little peaches, tiny narrow supple feet, rounded arms, and beautiful wrists and throat. She was both modern and romantic.”
When asked about her figure Twiggy said, “It’s not really what you call a figure, is it?“
But what mattered most was not what McLuhan, Twiggy or even Vreeland thought, but what the fashion designers thought. They loved her figure, or the lack of it: she made their clothes look so wonderful.
Her height was 1.69 metres (5 foot 6.5 inches), her weight, 41 kg (90 pounds) and her measurements, 81-58-81 cm (32AA-23-32). She barely had any breasts. She was anorexic-thin without being anorexic: she ate like a horse.
Growing up, Twiggy hated her figure: “You were supposed to look like Brenda Lee, very curvy and round, pointed breasts and pointed-toe shoes,” she said. She only started to like her figure once it made her rich and famous.
She was so thin that the other children called her “Twigs”. No matter how much she ate she did not gain much weight. Her mother took her to the doctor to see what was wrong. Nothing was wrong: it was just the way she was.
Born Lesley Hornby, she grew up in north London. By age 15 she had dropped out of school and worked for a hairdresser. Against her mother’s wishes she took up with a man ten years older than her, Nigel Davies.
But Davies was no ordinary man: against all common sense of the time, he thought she could become a model. He had her hair cut short and put her picture in shop windows. Her look caught on. By 1966 the Daily Express called her “The Face of 66″. In 1967 she came to America and was famous overnight.
She spoke English not in the RP of the Queen and the rich, but in the Cockney of the ordinary people of London. She wore the new mod fashions of Mary Quant, who wanted to bring high fashion to the masses.
In 1970 Twiggy left modelling to sing and act. Most of her stuff is forgettable, but she was good in “My One and Only” with Tommy Tune on Broadway in the 1980s and in the film “The Boy Friend” (1971). One of her songs reached number 1 in Japan and another reached number 35 in Britain in 1977.
In the 2000s she was a judge on Tyra Banks’s television show “America’s Next Top Model”. She also modelled for Marks & Spencer, the British department store.