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Dave Henshaw

By Dave Henshaw, Mar 30 2016 10:31AM

It's the question a lot of people ask and non more so than in the world of modelling.

I get asked this question all of the time by mostly young girls wanting to break into the world of modelling and it's a really tricky question to answer.

A model is an individual, male or female, young or old, who takes on the role of promoting and displaying products, particularly fashion clothing, in order to serve as a walking, talking, breathing visual aide for the creative arts. Modelling as a profession was established by Charles Frederick Worth in 1853, when he had his wife model the clothing designs he had created in the category of haute couture.

Soon, it became a common practice for Parisian fashion houses and each kept their own “house mode” in order to help advertise their latest works of art. The profession began to include photo modelling as well, with one of the best-known models having been Lisa Fonssagrives from the 1930s. With over 200 Vogue covers to her name, she was one lady who would shape the careers of fashion models everywhere for years to come.

The first modelling agency was opened up in 1946 by Eileen and Gerard Ford, located in New York, and is currently the oldest one to be found in the world. The Ford Models agency would later also herald the precursor to model housing by allowing teen models from out of town to reside with the innovators from the1960s onwards, while also ensuring that their ladies were paid advances on the money they were owed.

Later in the 1970s, Ford Models would also pioneer the concept of scouting as it began bringing in Scandinavian models that were tall and leggy, with blonde hair and blue eyes. Ford would also begin supermodel competitions and bring in an exotic taste from Brazil, eventually leading to the establishment of Ford Models Brazil.

While initially models would come in all shapes and sizes and would be paid quite poorly, it was in the 1940s and 1950s that this began to change as well. Jinx Falkenburg was the first model to be paid a large sum of money, amounting to $25 an hour, a sum that would convert to about $250 in today’s currency, taking inflation into account.

That is a whopping number and one that extremely few make today as well. In the beginning, models were not known outside the fashion industry. They were also a whole lot more voluptuous, with Wilhelmina Cooper’s measurements at 38″-24″-36″ and Chanel Iman’s at 32″-23″-33” in size.

Here is where pin up models originated and the next decade would bring about a new revolution in of itself.

With London as the hub that procured the best ladies in the profession, we began to find models like Jean Shrimpton, Joanna Lumley, Tania Mallet, Celia Hammond, Twiggy, Penelope Tree, and Pauline Stone spoken about all over the place, suddenly becoming household names.

Twiggy’s figure and general silhouette actually led to a change in the modelling ideals. From thinner ladies to higher pay, it was Twiggy who set the stage for the modern modelling industry to be built upon. Add to that the fact that she earned £80 an hour when the average wage was £15 a week and you have the makings of one of the most famous petite female supermodels to reach such incredible success.

Twiggy was the one woman who changed the course of fashion history, but there are many others who were too short to make the listings but somehow grew to be superstars on that catwalk. Of course, there are different types of modelling and each has its own requirements: -

• Editorial/Fashion: This is a very tight category with strict requirements when it comes to height and weight. Models required in this category are normally featured in magazines or walk the runway shows. Here, women need to be 5’8” or over, up to 6’0” and weigh up to 120 pounds.

• Commercial: In the commercial modelling category, weight and height are certainly not as absolute and can include all types of models. Generally women are expected to be between 5’6” and 5’11” but it is not set in stone. You have plus sized models as well, who wear up to size 18 but are expected to be taller, their height reaching 6’2” even.

Sometimes, models break the mold and become a beacon of light on their own, despite the restrictions placed on success if you differ from the accepted values and for me, the greatest piece of evidence to back this up, was the fabulous Marilyn Monroe. (click to see her official website)

The american actress, singer and all time model stood at 5' 5" and is very well known as one of the most famous of the shorter supermodels in history.

She became a major sex symbol and her images still grace our memories and our walls. Born Norma Jeane Mortenson, she bleached her hair to fit the needs of the Blue Book modelling agency.

With her new name of Marilyn Monroe, she took the industry by storm. She would soon become an international success and even after death remembered rather fondly.

So, does size really matter? In my honest opinion "No it doesn't", you are who you are, play to your strenghts, not your weaknesses and prove to the world that no matter how tall you are, you have the confidence to walk with your head held high!

Dave Henshaw

Image © Google Images

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