A British-American bluestocking living in the UK writes about politics, pop culture, and emerging new paradigms as they unfold on both sides of the Atlantic. (New content.)

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Oh...no...she can't possibly be....60?!

Twiggy in Her Teens Circa 1968--->

This is how I know time is passing.....and much too quickly.

I picked up a copy of "The Lady" which is one of the longest published magazines for in England. "The Lady" has been known to be a magazine for the "older settled set" and that would mean pensioners and ladies avec cheveaux bleu. It used to cost under a pound and would have interesting articles on museums and recipes and places to go in your orthopedic shoes. Ads in it would be for stairlifts and cushions for bunions. It also had short stories, most of which told of rural life and always had a happy ending. Not that I wear orthopedic shoes or have blue hair, but I would often pick it up because it was like reading a magazine that reminded me of  1950's Great Britain, the Great Wars and marmite. It was staid and solid and well....predictable. But the face of "old ladies" in Great Britain is changing...and it looks like "The Lady" is following suit.

The magazine has been taken over by Rachel Johnson  who is Boris Johnson's sister (that would be the current unorthodox and outspoken mayor of London.)  Gone are the short stories with happy endings and the ads for vinyl mattress covers. She has hired her London literati friends to write for the magazine and I am not exactly sure now what little old ladies on zimmer frames will read. Most of the models in the pages are now doing yoga, look about 30 and there isn't a bunion brace in sight. There are articles on mobile phone safety and keeping fit. Not that the old magazine didn't do that. Except that "keeping fit" usually meant walking to the pub at a brisk pace not putting on meditation music and doing the "downward dog" pose.  And mobile phone safety? Most of the readers of the magazine before this re-vamp didn't even own a cell phone....never mind....on to the matter at hand...

When I spotted the current magazine yesterday at my local newsagent, I was shocked to see the cover model. It was Twiggy....and Twiggy was turning....gulp...60!  My Twigs, my childhood idol was going to be the big 6-0. It was more than I could bear, The icon of 60's fashion was turning 60 herself.

Twiggy Lawson was a waif-like teen when she was photographed and became the the "New Face of 1966" by the Daily Mail of London.&nsp; Called "Twigs" by a friend of her brothers, the name stuck and morphed into "Twiggy" who became, the poster child of the Carnaby Street fashion scene...that scene that took in Biba, Mary Quant and the psychedelic colours of Peter Max. Twiggy was the first "supermodel". Her image was marketed and shuffled about onto everything possible from lunchboxes to labels. She was on hundreds of fashion magazine covers and everyone wanted to have that "Twiggy" look. That usually meant eating absolutely nothing and wearing two pairs of false eyelashes (on top) and then applying bottom lashes one by one. After that, you had to heap on gobs of mascara. I could read about it, but you couldn't wear mascara to Catholic school., though I did experiment at home.  Most girls ended up looking like badgers, not beauty queens. Twiggy, however, did not diet nor was she anorexic (like most fashion models of today). She was just scrawny and could actually eat like a horse and not gain weight. (Yes, the kind of girl we really, really loved, huh?) 

Nevertheless, I was in mad friend love with the Twigster. I knew that we could be the best of buddies, if I could just somehow meet her. Of course, that would be next to impossible since I lived in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere and she lived...well...in London. My dad was hard-pressed to be convinced to drive me to my best friend's house, and that was just across town...he was not driving me to London. So, instead I gobbled up anything the teen mags had to say and clipped photos of her and studied her looks so that I could shop for patterns and fabrics that a local seamstress could sew up for me. That's right, from age 10 through 12, I could be found with my nose in Seventeen magazine, checking out Twiggy's new styles so I could reproduce them. I was hardly a "waif", my Latin genes would have to be spliced and diced to have had any protruding bones except for my knuckles, but I was still attempting to fool myself and be fairly groovy.  So, I wore my Texan-made faux Carnaby clothes and carried my Twiggy lunchbox and played with my Twiggy doll by Mattel.  When Twiggy wore a lime green and sunburst orange block print dress with tights that had one orange leg and one lime green one then so did I. I'm sure the nuns wanted to expel me when they saw that, but they pretended not to notice.  I even carried a photo of Twiggy in my wallet. When one of my friends saw it and asked who the girl was, I said, "Why...that's my sister...." I so wanted to have a sister and I thought she would be perfect...but most of all, I was too embarrassed to say that I had clipped it off a Mattel box. That was soooo not groovy

Twiggy wasn't a flash in the pan. She moved on from fashion modelling to movies and musicals. She was very successful on the stage, winning two Golden Globes and even a Tony nomination and starred with a fellow Texan, Tommy Tune. Eventually, she settled down into family life and in the last few years emerged as a spokesperson for Marks and Spencer as well as selling books on fashion.  She has just been hired as the "Face of Olay" beauty products in the UK and is currently a subject for a retrospective on her life at the National Portrait Gallery in London. She is well-spoken, gracious, and still delightfully unpretentious.

To me, there has never been and never will be a "supermodel" like Twiggy. Why? Because she was a pixie. She was young and unaffected and just charming. She sort of fell into modelling serendipitously and realized that it was all one big game and she played it well but most importantly, she never took herself too seriously. She wasn't snobbish and never got into any of the drug scene that is was (and is still) prevalent in the fashion world. She stayed true to herself.  She was also bright and knew that she would have to broaden her horizons and eventually move on. And she did so quite successfully.

I cannot believe how quickly the years have passed. But the Twigster is in very good form and not looking like a pretty pixie anymore. She's become a beautiful woman and is aging with grace as we all should. No longer a waif, but still someone to emulate.

"The Lady" mag is certainly undergoing a face-lift and the next generation of "aging sages" are not going to be sporting blue hair, unless it's spiked or in a mohawk. They aren't going to play canasta and queue for the blue plate specials. And Twiggy still a cover girl at 60? There is hope for all of us. And let's not forget our contemporary, Madonna, who is dancing the nights away with her post-divorce boyfriend and he's young enough to be her son. Oh, don't go dismissing us and relegating us to the punch bowl table,yet. It's a different era and we are very different women than our mothers.


Happy Birthday, Twiggy! To me you will always be Sweet Sixteen!

Twiggy at 60