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Top fashion models – 1920s – 1990s

April 19, 2017

Fashion models became an iconic part of the fashion industry long before the days of social media and the 90s supermodel. In the early 1850s one of the first ever fashion models, Marie Augustine Vernet, wife of Charles Frederick Worth considered by most as the ‘father of haute couture’ modelled his collections instead of using the traditional mannequin.

Top fashion models from the  – 1920s – 1990s

Vernet paved the way for the ‘live model’ and the evolution of this iconic figure in the industry started to evolve. Well-known and acclaimed models span many decades. There are several fashion models – 1920s – 1990s that have influenced generations whilst as astounding the profession with their success.


In modern society, fashion models do not just stand around looking pretty. They represent a lucrative advertising opportunity. Showcasing everything from clothing to perfume to what you eat. Fashion models showcase a lifestyle, offering inspiration and influence. Take a look at some of the top fashion models from the roaring twenties all the way to the supermodel era of the 1990s.

Fashion models of the 1920s – film star inspirations

The twenties represent a time of ultra-glam flapper girls and the beginnings of cool androgynous styling. At this point in time ladies in film generally represented iconic figures in fashion. Screen stars gave people inspiration in a time of uncertainty and offered a glimmer into the life of the Hollywood starlet. During this decade, the beauty of Greta Garbo and her exquisite style fascinated women. Her favourite designer was Valentina Schlee who exuded glamour and sophistication in each piece.


The actress Dorothy Mackaill catapulted the popularity of androgynous style. Her cool full tuxedo on the set of The Crystal Cup created a statement style that women were eager to copy. Alongside Jean Arthur’s crisp white shirts and tailored trousers, they took 1920s fashion to the masses and inspired a generation.

1930s – iconic beauties

This decade was heavily influenced by Hollywood glamour. Carrying from the previous decade, film stars reigned supreme in the fashion stakes. There were several fashion icons that have to be applauded for influence in the industry. Bette Davis, the first feminist icon famously fought for unconventional beauty in the industry. Her courage and signature style rocked the 1930s with her hairstyle inspiring women locks throughout the decade.


Socialites during this decade included Daisy Fellowes, Paris editor of Harpar’s Bazaar and Mona von Bismark. Their love of beautiful fashion and designers, earmarked them both in the fashion archives. As both ladies loved exquisite style and indulgence.

1940s – screen stars

Even during times of hardship, fashion in the 40s still created waves. With women wanting inspiration from the war-torn times, fashion models created an alluring escape. There were many starlets from this time including Rita Hayworth, Doris Day and Katherine Hepburn.


Rita was the epitome of glamour showcasing a provocative and confident approach to fashion. Designer Christian Dior also offered a groundbreaking new look. The famous Dior silhouette revived the French fashion industry and showcased a beautiful clinched waist and full skirt. Stars such as Ava Gardner, Katherine Hepburn and Grace Kelly were often seen in Dior inspired looks.

1950s – modelling as a profession

This decade saw fashion models become superstars in their own right. The profession turned a corner, with the industry acknowledging the need for models in regular advertisements.


One of the most popular names and face of Revlon, was Suzy Parker. She was one of the highest grossing fashion models during the 50s. Famed for her beauty spot, Jean Patchett modelled throughout the decade, covering over 40 magazine covers with her exquisite beauty. Known as Dovima, Dorothy Virginia Margaret Juba was spotted by the editor of Vogue. Her sophisticated and aristocratic style was loved by several brands looking to showcase their pieces.

1960s – swinging sisters

This decade sparked a major change in social standings, fashion trends and redefined the term ‘beauty’. Fashion was the perfect way to express yourself and the popularity of emerging designers showcased a new style of fashion model. As huge musical influences changed the way people looked at life, so too did fashion. The two mixed famously offering an escape from the humdrum of reality. There were several big names during this time. You’ll have heard of many of them with some still actively involved in the industry.


To many people, the queen of Mod was the fresh-faced teenager Twiggy. Her signature cropped cut, boyish frame and spider lashes earned her the cover of several magazines throughout her career. Blending the connections between fashion and music, Patti Boyd also became a sensation as the muse of two famous songs ‘Something’ by The Beatles and ‘Layla’ by Eric Clapton.

1970s – new age influences

Mirroring the models of the 1960s, this decade showcased a continuation of changing times. Many fashion models were shaking the industry up and wanted to break the barriers of this lucrative industry. A name still associated with fashion fame, comes in the form of Jerry Hall. Dreaming of big things, she left her home in Texas as a teenager to make it in the industry. Within a short time, she was gracing the covers of magazines and went on to have relationships with many high-profile names.


Another famous face and calling herself ‘the world’s first supermodel’ Janice Dickenson moved to New York where she worked alongside famous photographers and covered top fashion magazines. Other iconic fashion models of the 1970s included Renee Russo, Marisa Berenson and Iman.

80s models – the age of the cover girl

It wasn’t only the hair that was bigger in the 80s, the fashion models of the time were rocking it. American models were becoming household names with Cindy Crawford, Elle MacPherson and Brooke Shields making waves across the globe.


Fashion models – Cindy Crawford has had one of the most successful commercial modeling careers in the industry. She became of the ‘Big Six’ original supermodels with her famed ‘all American look’.


Fashion models – Brooke Shields was another American sweetheart who’s early film career made her a well-known face on the celebrity circuit. Move over Cara Delevingne, as Brooke’s strong brow was first hot property back in the 80s winning her plenty of magazine covers and the starring role in the controversial Calvin Klein jean advert.


Another of the original ‘Big Six’ and named ‘The Body’ from her famous Sports Illustrated covers. Elle MacPherson paved the way for athletic and curvaceous fashion models to break into the industry alongside the conventional runway model.

90s Fashion supermodels

The 90s was the one of the most famous and influential times for models in the industry. Taking some of the ‘Big Six’ into this decade, there were a few other high fashion models joining the ranks to stardom. You’ll certainly know the famous names in the era of ‘the supermodel’. This decade also paved the way for modern fashion models to gain incredible exposure not just on the catwalk but off too.

Top Fashion models of the 90s – Kate Moss

Possibly one of the most famous ladies of the 1990s is Kate Moss. Not the conventional model in height and appearance, according to the industry. Kate took the decade by storm. Booking everything from magazine covers, to editorial shoots and famous adverts. This British beauty is still a prominent figure in the industry today.

Top Fashion models of the 90s – Naomi Campell

Famed for her unapologetic attitude, Naomi Campbell also joined forces in the ‘Big Six’. Her beautifully slender physique, exquisite cheekbones and entrancing eyes earned her catwalk stardom from all the big names in fashion.

Top Fashion models of the 90s – Linda Evangelista

Another famous face from the 90s includes Linda Evangelista. After cutting her hair into a bob, her career in fashion modeling took off. The iconic phrase ‘I don’t wake up for less than $10,000 a day’ is also a phrase that’s she is famed for saying.

Top Fashion models of the 90s – Claudia Schiffer

The German born beauty Claudia Schiffer blossomed during the 90s. Fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld chose her to become the face of Chanel and the rest is history. She has graced over 500 magazines covers during her career, appeared in films and advertising campaigns for Yves Saint Laurent, Dolce & Gabbana and many others.

Known as a judge on America’s Next Top Model, Tyra Banks was a successful model in her own right. Her outspoken charms have led to a fruitful career and her well-known weight gain gave inspiration to women everywhere that being bigger framed isn’t less beautiful.

Future of fashion models

Fashion models – 1920s – 1990s have inspired a new generation of models in the industry. The new wave of social media fame has also shot seemingly no named people to stardom with advertisers and companies wanting to showcase their products. Fashion models in modern society have shown that amid industry standards, there are many people who do not fit the mold. This in turn has helped unconventional models gain the limelight with unique looks and inspirational style.

Fashion modeling is always evolving and like trends, what’s hot today may not be tomorrow. Some models outshine the rest and fame or not, iconic fashion models will still be making headlines for years to come.

Image credits: Flickr Creative Commons



Greta Garbo

Bette Davis

Doris Day

Suzy Parker


Andy Warhol and Jerry Hall

Cindy Crawford

Kate Moss

Claudia Schiffer