The Face of Rising Fashionism
In 1966 Leslie Hornby, daughter of a cabinet-maker, was an average suburban high school girl of 16 who worked on Saturdays shampooing customers' hair at a neighborhood beauty parlor. Her friends at school called her "Sticks" because at 5' 4" and 90 lbs. she was waifishly thin. By the end of the year Leslie had been transformed into the so-called "face of 1966." Her slight frame, short hair, pale lips and dark eyes became a dominant image on the covers of fashion magazines.
The origins of this transformation can be found in a number of places. One Saturday while shampooing hair, Hornby caught the eye of Nigel Davies. Davies has been described as a "young dandy" and impresario. (He would later change his name to the more elegant Justin de Villenueve.) Davies took Hornby under his wing, so to speak. He had Leslie's hair cut short by Vidal Sassoon; he dressed her in the popular London mod style: mini-skirts of bold brash colors and stripes. Davies was able to generate a lot of publicity for his young new model, now called "Twiggy." The 17 year old Leslie Hornby was on the verge of making $200 an hour for fashion photography sessions.
Twiggy's elfin look was hardly the traditional model of femininity. Her flat-chested, waifish appearance was more boyish or androgynous then the customary image of women. But the times and the fashions were non-traditional. It has been pointed out that in the 1960s, for the first time ever, young people had a specific fashion designed for them. Historically, children's fashions were simply scaled-down versions of what their parents' were wearing. The 1960s saw the emergence of the "youth culture" and fashion designers identified it as an important new and profitable market. Nigel Davies' creation, Twiggy, became a strong and popular symbol for this newly created market.
Mini-skirts, hip huggers, go-go boots, hot pants, pantsuits were all conceived by their designers to be clothes for young people. Fashion designer Mary Quant, who opened up her first London boutique in 1955, had been consistently creating a style that reflected the unconventional spirit of the time. Quant recognized that the traditionally upscale and exclusive fashion economy no longer worked. As the hemlines inched up, the prices came down. By 1960 the hem on dresses was just above the knee. By 1962 J.C. Penney, a U.S. clothing store that catered to the general middle-class suburban population was selling Mary Quant dresses for $20.
In 1965 the hemlines had moved up enough so that the name "mini-skirt" was used to describe the piece of clothing. History reveals a debate over who gets credit for the first mini-skirt. Both Quant and French designer Andre Courreges were close at the finish line. In 1966 when Twiggy appeared the so-called "mod" style had already vectored throughout Europe and the United States. The baby boomers now had their own unique costume. And for the next four years, Twiggy was the female paradigm for the uniform designers.
In 1971 Twiggy gave up the modeling career. Her primary role as a fashion symbol used by the marketeers of youth was over. She and the industry she represented had made a lot of money. She is today known as Twiggy Lawson and she has pursued work in the acting field. She appeared in several films including The Boyfriend and Club Paradise.
It just goes to show you that in this crazy mixed-up modern world you never can know where the right place to be is: is it at a drugstore counter, a beauty shop, or a dance hall? Maybe it's not so much where you are but what you look like that matters. One day it's the busty Jayne Mansfield then on another day it's flat-chested Edie Sedgwick (who was the underground Twiggy for a few moments). It makes you think that it is the fashion designers and not the novelists, politicians, filmmakers, musicians, teachers, journalists, earnest social commentators and pompous pundits, who are really calling the shots.