List of Illustrations ix
1 Introduction 1
Joanne Entwistle and Elizabeth Wissinger
2 Models as Brands: Critical Thinking
about Bodies and Images 15
Joanne Entwistle and Don Slater
3 From Artist’s Model to the ‘Natural Girl’: Containing Sexuality
in Early-Twentieth-Century Modelling 37
Elspeth H. Brown
4 ‘Giving Coloured Sisters a Superficial Equality’: Re-Modelling
African American Womanhood in Early Postwar America 56
5 Fashion Modelling in Australia 80
6 Performing Dreams: A Counter-History of Models as
Glamour’s Embodiment 97
7 The Figure of the Model and Reality TV 119
8 Made in Japan: Fashion Modelling in Tokyo 134
9 Modelling Consumption: Fashion Modelling Work in
Contemporary Society 157
10 Fashion Modelling: The Industry Perspective 174
List of Illustrations
Figure 3.1 Duff Gordon brought her six living ‘mannequins’ to display her work in New York. 45
Figure 3.2 Dolores: born Kathleen Mary Rose. 47
Figure 3.3 Powers as model. 52
Figure 4.1 Cunningham, Olden etc. 57
Figure 4.2 Barbara Watson and model Sylvia Fitt. 58
Figure 4.3 Barbara Watson, seated with models, 1951. 66
Figure 4.4 Brandford model Barbara Sampson’s portfolio. 69
Figure 4.5 Two young black models check their make-up. 71
Figure 4.6 Models in preparation for a cover shot. 73
Figure 4.7 The most energetic of Brandford’s original
models is petite dancer Billie Allen. 74
Figure 6.1 Vogue cover. 104
Figure 6.2 Soley photograph. 113
Joanne Entwistle and Elizabeth Wissinger
Why an academic book on fashion models? What can we learn from scholarly analysis of such cultural ephemera? Indeed, what, if anything, can we say about fashion models beyond the obvious and oft-made tabloid/newspaper points about their supposedly ‘unhealthy’ size or decidedly problematic status as iconic female role models? This book, we hope, answers some of these questions by analysing the cultural appeal and significance of models. While we cannot dismiss the column inches models now command in newspapers and magazines, there is more to fashion models and modelling than the sensational stories we read about in the popular press. Moreover, it is this very fascination with models as popular cultural entities that demands a more thorough, scholarly analysis because, despite their apparent triviality, models actually occupy an interesting and influential place within the social world. By examining the fashion model as contemporary figure, and the practices of fashion modelling as contemporary image industry, there is much to be discovered.
This collection explores how models have been integral to the development of modern consumer culture, and as such, have become a barometer of the current state of attitudes towards women, race and consumerism. From the ‘long-stemmed American beauties’ celebrated in the 1920s by the first American model agent John Robert Powers selling soap to the masses, to the hyper-marketing campaigns fronted by the supermodels of the 1980s, models have played a critical role in shaping how commodities are sold to us. Captivated by images and lifestyles of fashion models in sleek and glossy photographs and on the runways and catwalks of the fashion capitals, on the one hand, we are simultaneously repelled by images of the often extreme aesthetics of jumbled limbs and gaunt faces embodied by super-skinny ‘waif-like’ models. Consequently, models have become antagonistic and even repellent or at least uneasy characters in a moral drama about modern womanhood. Despite (or perhaps because of ) these mixed messages, fashion models have an enduring appeal in contemporary visual culture.
The voracious consumption of stories and images of models thus articulate not only a fascination with the seemingly glamorous lifestyle of models, but also the apparent dark underside of the industry. When Kate Moss was caught on a mobile camera allegedly snorting cocaine, the images flashed around the world and caused widespread debate and controversy about models’ behaviour and lifestyle. Models have also been at the centre of controversies concerning the female body, such as the outcry against the ‘size zero’ aesthetic, which has been condemned and vilified in the world’s press in recent years. When a twenty-two-year-old model died after stepping off a runway during a fashion week in Montevideo, South America, in 2006, countless press conferences, and everyone from media pundits, bloggers and international newspapers, jumped at the chance to cover a story that not only stirred outrage, but also afforded the opportunity to display provocative pictures of suffering young women. The vitriolic rhetoric surrounding the tragedy, coupled with the deaths of two other models (Hennigan 2007), spurred the organizers of Madrid’s Fashion Week to ban models with a height-to-weight ratio—or BMI—below 18 (Klonick 2006).
Milan quickly followed suit, with a code of conduct ‘to protect young models vulnerable to anorexia and exploitation’ (Duff 2006). While the UK and USA did not exactly ban skinny models, the amount of controversy demanded action, and head fashion organizations in both countries issued guidelines and called for training industry personnel to recognize signs of bulimia and anorexia (Wilson 2007; Thorpe and Campbell 2007). There were even two ‘body image summits’ in the UK. As these examples demonstrate, images and stories of fashion models consist of moral dramas that focus attention on their bodies as in some way excessive, abject, as well as desirable. These fixations have produced wave after wave of ‘moral panics’ about models’ ‘effects’, from fears about their supposed influence on the rise in eating disorders among young women, to concerns as to the possible promotion of a hedonistic, drug-taking lifestyle.
To situate models within modern-day dramas of femininity also requires us to consider how modelling has become an idealized occupation for girls and young women; the new ‘Cinderella’ offering the promise of a fairytale fantasy life of glamour and adoration. One way in which this lifestyle is sold to young girls is through the ‘reality TV’ formats that flood the international TV channels and which promote the modelling life. Whereas once girls and women could only consume images that models produced—in advertisements and fashion editorials—they are now in a position to consume the lifestyle ‘backstage’ through such formats as America’s Next Top Model .
For all these reasons, fashion models have become the focus of a number of popular, often quite sensational books, such as Model: The Ugly Business of BeautifulWomen (Gross 1995), and Catwalking: A History of the Fashion Model (Quick 1997), a grand retrospective museum exhibition ( Model as Muse at the NYC Metropolitan Museum of Art), and recent filmic exposés, as well, such as the film Picture Me directed by fashion photographer Ole Schell and former fashion model Sarah Ziff (2009). This interest has been met, in recent years, by growing scholarly interest. Academic work in this area explores the complex nature of models and modelling from a range of disciplinary perspectives and examining an ever-widening spectrum of issues including representation, labour, gender, race and ethnicity. It is worth revisiting some of this work in this Introduction, as it is the intellectual context within which our book is embedded and responding to.