The New Generation of Models of the 1960s Essay
“Jean Shrimpton was the first iconic model of the 1960s. The photos she and Bailey took in New York broke the mould and still inspire fashion today. ” (We’ll Take Manhattan, 2012) This essay will consider how the ‘supermodels’ of the 1960s, concentrating on Jean Shrimpton and Leslie Hornby (Twiggy) helped to change the style of fashion and photography at this time. The essay will discuss the intimacy in the photographs of Jean Shrimpton by David Bailey and how their relationship, very much in the public eye, helped to create intrigue around the photographs and made them celebrities.It will also discuss the wider themes of the decade, such as the effect ‘Youthquake’ had on the designs of the 60s and the change in photography because of this. It could be argued that ‘Youthquake’ had a direct impact on the style of fashion photography; the models were now shot on locations, in less static poses, sometimes undertaking activities, such as running or jumping.
Also to be considered, is the way women were perceived in this time, gone were the 1950s ideals of the ‘sex bomb’ model, youth was the important factor, and with revolutionary ideas such as the contraceptive pill being widely available, women were much more liberated in the 60s. ‘Jean Shrimpton at 91 Heigham Road’ by David Bailey; this black and white photograph, taken in 1961 starts to show how fashion photography was becoming more sexualised at this time. Shrimpton is leaning seductively against the wall with one hand up, over her head and the other, suggestively pulling the neck of her cream jumper down.She is looking directly in to the camera lens and because of this it appears as if she is looking straight at you.
At this point in time, Jean Shrimpton and David Bailey were in a relationship together and, as he is the photographer and the photograph was taken inside David Bailey’s parents’ house, it would be safe to assume that the oversized jumper was his and the look on her face and the directness of her gaze were aimed at him. According to Richard Lester, “Bailey had begun photographing Shrimpton standing, walking and sitting in direct poses …
The directness of the confrontation and the fascination of Shrimpton and Bailey’s … relationship] gave these pictures amazingly wide appeal. ” (Lester, 2009:161)The jumper Shrimpton is wearing is very casual for a typical fashion shot of the era; it could be for either men or women, which shows the change going on around this time in society. Images of women in the 1950s had been, for the most part, very stereotypical; it showed women in two average roles; the sex bomb or the perfect housewife.
The fashion industry had had a big part in revolutionising the way women and young people were portrayed by the media. “It was in the 1960s that there was a re-emphasis on the imperative of youth as an ideal for femininity. (Buckley, 2002:40) This photograph is much more casual and intimate; it is like you are seeing the model as she is, as opposed to seeing someone’s, the photographer’s perceived view of how a model should be. Shrimpton could also be wearing jeans, which at the time were very much a symbol of youth. The fact that the photo is black and white, when there was colour photography available at this time, only makes it feel more personal. The picture is quite dark in the background which makes Jean Shrimpton, and especially the cream jumper she is wearing, really stand out.
The focus of the lens is the front door in the background, which is the centre of the image. The model is to the right of the shot and appears diagonally top right to bottom left. This contrasts with the door, which is parallel to the edges of the shot. The interior of the location is greatly different to the typical in-studio shoot. The busy backdrop of patterned wallpaper and stained glass panelled door makes the viewers feel more at home and creates an accessibility about the photograph. The pattern of the busy wallpaper contrasted with the textured knitted jumper creates a strong image.This photograph is a portrait of Jean Shrimpton. It was not intended for use as a fashion image.
It works as fuel for the interest around the Shrimpton/Bailey relationship, the personal and private location and the casual, unassuming clothing, makes you believe you are seeing a snapshot from their lives. It also helps to enhance the idea and image of the model as a celebrity as, if you knew nothing about the photo you could believe that it is a celebrity portrait, someone who is at leisure in the home and does not model clothing for a living.The models of this time, the ‘supermodels’ were the first models to be considered as celebrity, earning well above the average rate for models previously. In addition, the photograph shows what the new ideal for women was; youthful, thin and doll like.
The casual clothing worn by Shrimpton shows the changing fashions of the time. Whereas a decade earlier young women were formally dressed and would have been seen as improper with the ‘mini’ skirt fashions of the 60s, the unisex clothing and jeans reflects the social change of the decade. Sally Tuffin said, “There weren’t any clothes for young people at all.One just looked like one’s mother. ” (Steele, 1997) In the 1960s a wide range of industries, particularly fashion, started to recognise teenagers as their own market. There was a growth of youth culture from America which quickly spread to the UK, London especially. The term ‘Youthquake’ was coined by Vogue editor of the time Diana Vreeland in 1963.
“In the mid-1960s British teenagers had money to spend on entertainment, clothes and cosmetics. ” (Mendes, 1999:179) Mary Quant’s shop on King’s Road in London was one of the first places to cater to young people.Quant helped to develop a new style of shopping for teenagers; her boutique sold much simpler clothing, casual tunics in bright colours that were much easier to wear. In Fig 1 you can see a model wearing a Mary Quant design, the PVC look of the coat is obviously for the younger generation as is the carefree, animated posing of the model in the advert, in a very urban location. It could be argued that fashion photography was becoming more relaxed in the 1960s. Growing awareness of feminism also paved the way for the different fashions for women.
For example, in 1963, Betty Friedman wrote the book ‘The Feminine Mystique’ that criticised the ‘happy housewife’ role and voiced that women wanted to explore other roles. In addition, the 1960s saw a big increase in women attending universities and entering the work place, especially as there was greater flexibility in when and where a woman wanted to work, although generally women in the workplace were treated second class to men. Men were chosen first in hiring and women were passed over for promotions. If they did manage to be hired for a ‘man’s job’ they were paid only a fraction of a man’s wages.
This decade also saw laws passed that helped protect married women, and help divorced women have rights, such as custody of their children, which previously men had had automatic rights to. Possibly the most important change for women was the availability of the contraceptive pill, which removed fears of falling pregnant and helped women become more empowered. The image of women began to change, from being a wife and mother who stayed at home, to a young, single, carefree girl proud of her sexuality and confident in her choices of clothing.The miniskirt was the unofficial symbol for this growing revolution and it helped women all over the UK to express their new found power.
The 1960s are sometimes referred to as the “bra burning” generation because women used the bra as a tool to protest for equality. They threw away or burned their bras opposing the restrictive rule’s governing a woman’s appearance. In Fig 2 Jean Shrimpton caused an uproar when she appeared at the Melbourne Races in this white mini dress with bare legs and no hat or gloves in 1965.The photo from that day showed a dramatic contrast; behind the young and beautiful Shrimpton was a group of disapproving middle-aged women dressed in their very formal twin sets with hats and gloves. The fact that this caused such a scandal shows how well known Shrimpton was worldwide. Valerie Mendes says, “Shrimpton had a chameleon-like quality that rendered her the perfect model for a wide range of 1960s styles. ” (Mendes, 1999:188) Her high profile relationship with David Bailey also created an intrigue around their photographs.Twiggy is another model that was very famous in the 60s, another ‘celebrity model’ who is known for being in the public eye alongside her modelling career.
Her childlike image suited the fashions of the time and her boyish frame became widely sought after. Models in the 1950s had been styled for photographs to look sophisticated and elegant, this complemented the fashions of the time, but in the 60s this drastically changed. Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton were the two of the first models to be shot outside, on location, but most importantly they were two of the first models to be shot while undertaking activities.Most of Twiggy’s photographs place emphasis on her size; for example, Helmut Newton placed her on a pedestal as if she were a doll. In Figure 3, Twiggy, photographed by Ronald Traeger can be seen riding a ‘mini’ bike in knee high socks. This emphasises her childlike and tomboyish appearance.
The expression on her face was a great change from the photo shoots of the decade so far. She is not pouting or looking particularly sophisticated, it is an adrenaline fuelled, in-the-moment shot, which is reflective of the decade of youth and fun.To conclude, the new generation of models in the 1960s, definitely had an impact on the way we perceive women, fashion and photography today. Jean Shrimpton and Leslie Hornby helped to change the style of fashion and photography in the 1960s. The original photograph of Jean Shrimpton shows how fashion photography was becoming more sexualised at the time.
Jean Shrimpton and David Bailey’s relationship helped develop an interest in their photographs, creating a wider interest of fashion photography in general.Both Jean Shrimpton and Leslie Hornby changed the ideal of a fashion model, gone were the regal, static models of the 1950s, here were the youthful, doll like and active models of the 60s. Youth was the inspiration for many fashion designs, women everywhere wanted to emulate the ‘Youthquake’ look In addition the feminist movement of the 1960s made women feel empowered and not scared to wear the latest fashions; the short skirts and the see-through clothing.
As Michael Levin says “Feminism speaks the language of liberation, self fulfilment, options and the removal of barriers” and it was exactly the same for the fashions of the 1960s.Image Reference Fig 1. Photographer unknown, (1963) Mary Quant PVC Coat [Photograph] At:http://fashionmanisfesto.
blogspot. co. uk/2011/01/handbags-1960s-history-of-fashion.
html Accessed on 08. 05. 2012 Fig 2. Photographer unknown, (1965) Jean Shrimpton in the white mini dress [Photograph] At: http://www. dailytelegraph. com. au/sport/racing/model-jean-shrimpton-recollects-the-stir-she-caused-on-victoria-derby-day-in-1965/story-fn4cyin0-1225792393451 Accessed on 08. 05.
2012 Fig 3. Richard Traeger, (1965) Twiggy on a bike [Photograph] At:http://adelineadeline. tumblr. com/post/3332134979/twiggy-on-a-bike-sort-of Accessed on 09. 05.