Although this 1944 article sums up the bygone world of the New York fashion model, the terms "heroin chic" and "bulimia" are not found on any of its five pages (an over site, no doubt). The Forties were a time when a model would be just as likely to get a booking from a commercial artist as she would a photographer, and, unlike the Twenties and the earliest days of the Thirties, it was a time when a standardized image of beauty was well-established.
"five feet nine inches in height, weight 110 pounds, bust 33, waist 24, hips 34, blonde or a light shade of brown hair. She will have quick, clever eyes and a very expressive face."
"Many of the models are bitter, unhappy girls inside. They soon grow disillusioned with their dream of modeling as a gateway to theatrical glory; they learn that their height is against them."
Click here to read articles about fashions during World War Two.
In the Sixties the most popular fashion model was Twiggy (né Lesley Hornby, b. 1949), and in the Fifties the top model was Suzy Parker (1932 – 2003: truly the first "Super Model"). But in the 1940s the honor went to Jinx Falkenburg (1919 - 2003).
The Forties was the decade in which the advertising world began to gaze more favorably upon photographers rather than illustrators, who had long held the prominent place since printers ink was first invented; during the earliest days of her career Falkenburg's likeness was often painted until the her bookings with photographers quickly picked up. She was the first"Miss Rheingold" (appointed, not elected), she appeared in movies, entertained the troops and when she stood before the cameras she was paid all of $25.00 an hour (the term "super Model" wouldn't come about until the Seventies).
The attached photo essay will give you some more information.
For further reading:
JINX by Jinx Falkenburg
For a time, Jinx Falknenburg shared the high ground as the best-paid fashion model with a lass named Anita Colby (1914 - 1992). She was restless and highly ambitious beauty who recognized that her exulted position in the fashion world was only a temporary one - and by the time that the clock ran out on her, Colby's resume would boast of numerous high-profile positions such as publicist, syndicated columnist, movie studio executive and T.V. talk show hostess.
The article posted here reports on her job at the Selznick Studios in Hollywood - a position that was created just for her (and one that has never been duplicated there or at any other studio since) - and vaguely titled "Feminine Director" (sounds like a hygiene product). She was essentially a fashion stylist; riding herd on every Selznick hair dresser, costume designer, make-up artist and photographer while schmoozing the stars in the process. Stepping on all those toes must have been exhausting; Colby held this position for only three years before signing on as a public relations executive at Paramount.
Her book, Anita Colby's Beauty Book, has become a classic on 1950s style.
"They sip your favorite coffee, drive your dream car, display the latest fashions, show you how to cook a waffle: they are potent forces in the scheme of American advertising. Their faces and figures adorn the covers of countless magazines...often they develop into stars of the cinema. They come from all over America to an office on Park Avenue, New York, where a quiet, discerning man named John Robert Powers appraises their charms and schools them for the job of selling sables to society or groceries to the great American housewife."
Beginning in the mid-Twenties and spanning the years leading up to the late Forties, John Robert Powers (1892 - 1977) created and maintained the first modeling agency in New York City (if not the world) and during the Forties, the Powers Agency grossed over five million dollars a year. Attached are nine photos of the most popular fashion models he represented in 1941; a unique breed of woman known at the time as "Powers girls".
By 1948 the business of fashion modeling had developed into a $15,000,000-a-year industry. This article examines just how such changes evolved in just a ten year span of time:
"American advertising struck pay dirt when it discovered the super salesgirls whose irresistible allure will sell anything from a bar of soap to a seagoing yacht...Always there was the secret whisper of sex. For women it was, 'Be lovely, be loved, don't grow old, be exciting'...For men it was, 'Be successful, make everyone know that your successful, how can you get women if your not successful?'"
"The importance of attractive girls in our economy was stressed by John McPartland when he discussed modern advertising in his recent best seller, Sex in Our Changing World (1947).
Legendary fashion designer Christian Dior had a good deal of trouble with people who would illegally copy his designs; click here to read about that part of fashion history.
The children whose pictures you see on the advertising pages of national magazines often launch their careers when they are scarcely larger than their social security numbers. Blonde or brunette, freckled or glamorous, these famous boys and girls help sell you everything from automobiles to safety pins. As accustomed to to a camera as a top-flight movie star, they enjoy their work partly because it satisfies their fondness for 'make-believe'.
Nice work if you can get it. But the maestros of the modeling agencies, John Robert Powers and Harry Conover, emphasize the fact that finding juvenile models is a difficult assignment. They are found, however and their services are paid for at a rate of about twenty or thirty dollars a day.