Why Girls Want to be Stick Thin
Tuesday, 10 February 2004
Before we go on, let me be clear: I am NOT blaming Twiggy for a terrible situation. Not at all; have I passed a single word of judgement upon the bulimic or anorexic? Have I suggested for a minute that being thin is a bad thing (or a good thing)? Have I said I LIKE or DISLIKE Twiggy?
No, I have certainly passed neither opinion nor judgement. I merely state that Twiggy is responsible; she embodied a body type, a look, and I suppose events conspired to focus the lot on her waifish frame.
It’s hard to say exactly which events conspired to make Twiggy; it was a crazy time. Post-WW-2 Britain was told that it “never had it so good”. There was much rebuilding– of houses and families — a great optimistic building the future… the teenager invented in the 50s was developed in the 1960s. New ideas, new markets, new inventions. No-one wanted old-fashioned. There was a need for thin and light, for colourful and shallow.
This was the time where the media was born — pulp fiction books, magazines, television, pirate pop radio, along with electric guitars, cameras, records and record players… it was a new world filled with new things. We have all heard about sexual liberation and Playboy Magazine and the USA’s “Summer of Love”.
In Britain, there was a genuine dislike for anything old-fashioned and stuffy. It was not-so-much an emancipation for women as a liberation for the working classes; there was a lot of employment about (for boys and girls), so the balance of power due to labour supply and demand shifted away from the old industries and strict bosses.
The Conservatives were ousted by the new ideas of a young new political force: the Labour Party and the Unions. This heralded in regional dialects to replace the plummy RP accent of the Queen.
Casual was the keynote.
In came pantyhose tights instead of stockings and suspender belts or garters, and this allowed mini-skirts… and this was photographed by David Bailey and made the cover of the new magazines for the new girl teen market. The contraceptive pill arrived and suddenly we got SWINGING LONDON.
- Awkward-looking, gangly-legged girls who had never been to finishing school, who had neither poise nor RP accent, suddenly found themselves in vogue. Literally.
Make no mistake, the girl next door wanted to know Twiggy’s diet, and what to do to get to look like a twig. This was a brand new thing, a brand new look. Branding… Not just a dress, but a whole “scene”. Not content with ousting some politician or sporting hero from the cover of ‘Newsweek’, Twiggy was not just a girl, she was a single name, she had her own magazine — she was a MAGAZINE.
This was the first time a lifestyle was being marketed at females — diet, make-up, clothes, where to go and what to do. This went far beyond anything that Playboy magazine had aspired to do with men.
Is it possible that the Twiggy “Look”, and indeed the whole MOD (modern, not old and stuffy) scene, came from the streets and was followed or reflected by magazines? No; I honestly think it is far more likely that people were following the magazine covers — that Twiggy led the way for the newly fledged magazine, boutique and fashion industry.
I have tried to engender something of an idea of the period above — just enough to jog the memory of the middle aged and older, but also to give a flavour to the younger generation who may be reading this. It is a mammoth task to do this accurately or well, this material is merely here to support my statement that Twiggy is the starting point. If you want to you can quite easily study the history of the period elsewhere.
If you do go away and study the period, then I cordially invite you to then disprove my theory that Twiggy is responsible for thin catwalk clothes models, the thin modeling industry, and why girls all want to look stick or twiggy thin.