The ideal woman’s body – Exposure through models.

A silent instruction that revealed the woman’s image today.

The tiny frame, the large eyes, and even larger eyelashes, the face of the 1960’s in the modeling world. Her resurrection to fame gave a new face to the models in the 1960’s till today and has also impacted how people view themselves in regards to size. Before her time, size, especially in women models, was not a big deal. But this impact was not only just in models. Sypeck and the others from fashion magazine say, “Particularly striking is the finding that not only are the models becoming thinner but that the public has also been increasingly exposed to depictions of their bodies”. It is not until the 1980’s that her impact begins to be fully noticed twenty years after her rise in the modeling world. This is none other than Lesley Hornby popularly known as Twiggy.

Twiggy was born in the 1940’s named as Lesley Hornby. She stood 5’6″ tall and weighed barely 90 pounds (Twiggy, “biography”). Her lack of curves made waves throughout the fashion industry and even forty years later, many models strive to be like her. She came to fame as a teenager at the age of sixteen during a period of time when the curvy size 14 body was considered a desirable shape by most women. It was during the time of Marilyn Monroe who was a size 16 with a curved body was being seen as the icon of the time. This served as a benchmark for good body image at the time. Then came Twiggy, a teenager who was so tiny with a thin body of about size 12. The hourglass curves of the fifties were no longer as fashionable. Women began to be aware of their sizes and particularly models that were trying to make it to the helm of the modeling world were even of smaller sizes. This did not only stop in the modeling world though. In general, women began to try to get smaller in size so that they could look like Twiggy or if not as close to her size as they could get.

In doing all this, the one thing that seems to have been forgotten was that Twiggy was just sixteen or seventeen years of age. She was just a teenager and still developing. At the same time, her physical nature was naturally a thin/ tiny person. She did not have to take medicine or not eat food to keep her size. Basically, she did nothing to achieve or maintain her size. “I appear to be the epitome of the first skinny teenager,” she says in her autobiography. “But that is exactly what I was. A naturally skinny teenager.” This was her natural state of being, a size of a teenage child. But at the time, she had become the face of the 1960’s and a lot of people looked up to her.

To date, we can see the impact in our culture. It has become almost a belief that in order to be happy, healthy, and beautiful one must be remarkably thin. Women are trying to keep their sizes down and some going through a lot to do so. The beauty of a woman has now been lost in the idea of keeping a small size. This is what beauty has or is coming to these days. The media does not do any more justice in regards to how portrays this issue as stipulated by this quote from fashion magazine;

“One strong message communicated by the print media over the last 40 years regarding female beauty seems to have changed from one espousing the importance of a pretty face to one that additionally emphasized an extremely thin figure, as women have been increasingly exposed to models’ bodies and as these bodies have become progressively thinner.”

What is being depicted to women with this is an increasingly thin feminine ideal. In many ways, this has caused some insecurity for those women who are not naturally thin. Hence some try to find ways of keeping up with this notion of beauty.

In the schooling system, we see this effect come to play in with many female students. With this, development of eating disorders, starvation or medications begin to take effect. Strange diseases like anorexia and bulimia have cropped up into our societies. For anyone who takes care of themselves like they have too would not even have an idea of what these diseases are. But for women who are trying to remain skinny, have found themselves at risk of attaining these diseases.  Even at a young age, we see girls not wanting to eat and, a lot of medical implications are being observed. Most girls are turning out to be anorexic. If keeping within a particular size or weight is taking us to the point where we are intentionally starving ourselves, then where is this world taking us? It is even sad when someone as young as ten years old is finding themselves in such a situation. “Studies show that as many as 80% of ten-year-old girls have dieted, and the same percentage of women in their mid-fifties express a desire to be thinner.” For those in the modeling world, it is even worse for some. Triggs expresses, “I suffered from anorexia and bulimia-I was 5’9″ and between 103 and 117 lbs. “I never want anyone to tell me how I should look ever again.” The beauty of a female in its natural being has been lost to this feminine ideal of a thin body image that has been created. People should appreciate their bodies and take care of themselves in the best way possible.

When Twiggy came to fame as this skinny young teenage beautiful girl, she had no idea of how her image to the public would be of great impact in years to come. In short article ‘coming of age’, Maclean quotes Twiggy “Added Lawson: That Sixties thing was as much a shock to me as it was to everyone else.” This statement seemed to be referring to Twiggy’s coming to fame but it is this same fame that paints the picture that we are now seeing today. In her situation, this was her natural state; being thin. She was just a teenage girl which is a part that most people who look up to her forget. I believe she was a healthy teenager who ate normally did not have to take her body into any stress to keep her size.

Twiggy’s having a thin body and her existence was not all detrimental to society; she has also had a positive impact on society. Twiggy was a young teenager who went through hoops to become who she is now. To most especially in the female world, this was a boost up on feminism, building of self-esteem and an encouragement to be able to make it in this world today. Before Twiggy there were not many teenagers who were known to have risen to fame like she did. With her success in the end after going through a vulnerable/ innocent teenage age, she still did portray a woman who could achieve their goals. This might not be profound as much in the woman in public but to those young girls trying to make it to the modeling world; she is like diamonds to them. Just as White points out to us, “I’ve always admired the grace and beauty of the iconic women of the sixties”. Twiggy was known to be the face of 1960’s definitely one of the inspirational women to White. Even today in her sixties, she is highly looked upon by a lot of women. Take for example the popular American Top Model in which she has participated. This has been an inspirational show for those striving to be models, but also for the general women public that like to hear her views and intake on beauty.

Those who have had a chance to see her in these recent times can acclaim to her impact on our society today. This can be both in a positive or negative way. Sometimes it depends on what side of the coin that you view. But in relation to the body size, we even see it in our media today in shows like Americas Top model and also in movie stars and how they like to portray themselves. These are the images that are being viewed by our young generation today. Not very many people live long enough to see their impact on society, for example, Marilyn Monroe. However, Twiggy and some others have. At the moment, the world sees more of her achievements than her impact mostly because she is still alive. You can imagine even after she is long gone, we will continue to see this trend of thin bodies continuing. More legacies will be unveiled before us.

Twiggy’s true talent was exploited and many long to be who she is. As a teenager, she was opened to a new world and despite her trial and tribulations, she made through this times. Times when women were trying to make their voice heard. She was almost a total opposite of Marilyn Monroe in terms of how she expressed her body. Even though both portrayed the image of beauty in the world, but the meaning for both was different when viewed by the world. The great thing about both Twiggy and Marilyn, even if viewed at different times of the century, both expressed their beauty in the true nature of who they were created to be. Yet when we focus on Twiggy, we have the image of a thin woman. This image still holds to date and it changed the woman of today.

From the 1960’s till now, the power struggle for women has been their size.  Yet this is what Twiggy held when she came to fame in the 1960’s and some women have struggled and still struggling. One ought to remember that Twiggy did not have to take any extra measures to be who she was size wise because the real Twiggy Lawson says; “I was very skinny, but that was just my natural build,’ she said, “I always ate sensibly – being thin was in my genes.” We are now in the 21st century almost sixty years after the revealing of Lesley Hornby (Twiggy) and we can see the impact of her existence. As much as her impact has related to women in the modeling world, but we see how it has also trickled down to the public woman and has redefined what beauty in the feminine world is.

Till to date, several ladies are inspiring to be who Twiggy is. Her impact is still living on in our society and we continue to observe it. Her success as a model, singer, and an actor is a driving factor for most people who idolize her. For those who think they are struggling in life, this is an eye-opener that the possibilities out there are not bounded. If one embraces themselves, accepting who they are and striving to achieve their goals, all is possible.

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  1. De moderne val van het zelfbeeld – Cato Verhoeven

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