Jun 27, 2011
Friends, I'm back and ready to take on the world. Of modeling.
Suzy Parker. Dovima. Jean Patchett. Lisa Fonssagrives.
These are just a few of the most famous models of the 1950s and early 60s. Like today's models, they were beautiful. They were young. And they were ballerina-skinny.
In those days, models modeled and that's about it. They didn't star in reality shows (though Suzy Parker did have a role in The Best of Everything and a few other films) and they weren't seen much outside of magazine layouts and ads. But they were recognizable and certainly embodied a standard of beauty and glamour (maybe more the latter than the former) few non-models could ever match.
Readers, what's different about models then and now? Why do so many people focus on models today and critique their (genetically) tall, thin bodies?
Haven't models always merely represented a highly art-directed ideal, human clothes hangers that showed off a dress to its best effect?
When I was looking at photos of models then and models now, the greatest difference I noticed was the amount of skin models are expected to display today. Skimpy underwear, bikinis, nude shots -- almost nothing is left to the imagination.
Though Fifties models appeared in swimsuits, these tended to be modest one-piece numbers, as was the style back then, and the images were never sexually provocative, but rather, wholesome.
Direct sexuality was the stuff of pin-ups and other "adult" material (think Betty Page). Today there's very little difference, aesthetically. And this isn't just true of female models -- men are also expected to pose provocatively in underwear or nothing at all.
In the Fifties, women's clothes may have been restrictive and demanded corsets and cinchers, but the models bodies were covered. Nudity was rare.
It's as if today, when so much of fashion is standardized, we're more interested in the hanger than the clothes.
Wise readers, your thoughts.
Just so we're on the same page, I'm operating under the assumptions that 1) models are more visible today, thanks to television and the Internet; 2) modeling itself is much more mainstream and often seen as a springboard to an acting or business career; 3) models -- their weight and how they are represented -- are more a focus of women than they were in generations past. You may or may not agree with these.
Does the increase in nudity reflect our more body-conscious, sexually liberated times? Does the constant exposure to models' (photoshopped always) bodies create more self-image problems for women than the more covered-up, highly stylized models of generations ago?
I'll have more to say about this later in the week, but why do these Banana Republic ads look like children playing dress-up...
...compared to the real thing?
Is it the makeup, or is it a life spent wearing corsets, heels, and gloves, that make the original models look mature and comfortable and the 2011 models look synthetic, derivative, and awkward?