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WHEN considering who to focus on as my ’60s fashion icon, I had a hard time choosing. Kennedy? Hepburn? Bardot? Then I realised, you can not write about the sixties without writing about Twiggy. Simple.

Lesley Hornby was an ordinary girl. Born in North London in September 1949, to parents Helen and William Hornby, she lived a normal life being the daughter of a factory worker and a carpenter. She had two older sisters, Shirley and Vivien, and enjoyed sewing, which her mother taught her. Nothing extraordinary, right?

When Lesley walked into The House of Leonard, Mayfair, she was going to model for celebrity hairdresser Leonard, who was looking to try out his new crop cut. After taking and framing several head shots, they were eventually spotted by Deirdre McSharry, a fashion journalist from The Daily Express. After several more photographs and an article naming her ‘The Face of ’66’, Lesley changed her name to Twiggy, and that was it. The wide eyed teen rocketed to fame, taking the world by storm.

Before she could bat those long, dark lashes, Twiggy was splashed on the cover of every leading fashion magazine, including Vogue, as well as launching her own clothes line in 1967, ‘Twiggy Dresses’. She simply embodied the spirit of the sixties in her look; she was youthful, radiant and liberated. Although Twiggy retired from modelling in 1970, claiming ‘You can’t be a clothes hanger for your entire life!’, she went on to have a successful career on the stage, TV and on the silver screen, as well as becoming a singing sensation.

As well as the thin, boyish physique, it was the clothing that she modelling that turned heads. Her slim frame was perfect for the styles that the sixties brought forward, such as cute A Line dresses that tended to hide any sign of curves or shape, and masculine shirts with collars and a neck tie. However, it was the wearing of the mini skirt that really caught the world’s attention.

The mini skirt was popularised by a designer called Mary Quant. Quant was born in February 1934 in London to Welsh parents. After gaining a Diploma in Art Education and landing an apprenticeship as a couture milliner, Quant, her future husband and a former solicitor opened their own clothes shop called Bazaar in 1955 on King’s Road, London. Here she sold her own outlandish designs, ranging from the balloon style dresses to dresses with plastic collars. But it was her design of the mini skirt that boosted her to fame, causing other, more conservative designers to follow suit. It was working closely with Twiggy modelling the skirt that really made women all over want to take the mini for a test drive. Twiggy was at the forefront of women’s liberation in the sixties, often not wearing a bra or garters, and showing off those long legs in a perilously short skirt.

When Twiggy first started out, many thought that she wouldn’t be around for long. But here we are, forty five years later, and she’s still modelling, now for Marks Spencer and looking as fabulous as ever. She is often referred to as the ‘first supermodel’; I’m inclined to agree.
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