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From schoolgirl to supermodel; Twiggybecame one of the world's first supermodels 50 years ago. Marion McMullen finds out about the a waif who became the face of the swinging sixties.

Byline: Marion McMullen

IT all began for Lesley Hornby when she was named the Face Of '66 in a national newspaper. She was 16 years old and so stick thin that she was promptly nicknamed TwiT ggy. "My elder sister used to get the fashion magazines and I would go through them and find things I liked and buy fabric and copy them. But I hated what I looked like. I mean, I was sooo skinny," the Londoner said later.

Her pixie-style cropped hair, large eyelashes and trim figure made her an instantly recognisable figure and within a year her features had become known around the globe.

"Back in the '60s, there was a car sticker that read, 'Forget Oxfam, Feed TwiT ggy,' but I ate like a horse," she insisted.

Her success led to a string of merchandising deals as young girls rushed to copy her distinctive look.

She had her own teen fashion clothing range called TwiT ggy Dresses, sold with their own TwiT ggy hangers, of course. One of her photographs was launched into space in a time capsule and she even had her own American magazine called TwiT ggy: Her Mod, Mod Teen T World.

Twi T ggy's face could be found on the covers of all the top fashion magazines and she was snapped by many of the world's leading photographers.

"I used to do my own make-up. I used to have this doll that had those big eyelashes on the top and bottom, and I think I copied her when I was doing my eyes, putting false eyelashes on the bottom as well as the top. So I came up with that look myself."

" At the height of her fame, there were also TwT ggy lunch boxes, pens, bags, board games and tights. She was even photographed when she fell ill at 17. She was supposed to be a guest of honour at the Women Of The Year luncheon at the Savoy Hotel in London, but was confined to bed instead on doctor's orders because of a nervous rash on her hands and feet.

Yardley sold Twi T ggy-branded false eyelashes and toy company Mattel even produced a TwiT ggy Barbie doll in 1967. It was the company's first doll fashioned after a real person.

Twi T ggy also found herself promoting new TV series The Avengers, and posed with British actor Patrick MacNee in his guise as secret agent John Steed. He wore a double-breasted suit, bowler hat, and suede shoes and carried a rolled umbrella for the publicity photos while TwiT ggy appeared in a patterned frock over shorts and stockings and an oversized watch on her ankle.

The teen model sensation was also big in Japan and appeared on the catwalk at the Budokwai Stadium and filmed commercials for ToyT ota cars and Choco Flakes. She even had a hit record with her 1967 single Beautiful Dreams.

The fashion icon, who now has her own Marks And Spencers range, once pointed out: "Even before I was discovered in 1966, I used to make my own clothes. I learned how to sew early on, and it's still my passion now. I constantly have ideas in my head about clothes so jumped at the chance to do my own collection and am very hands-on. Everything I design, I wear and I love."

The Neasden-born model also became the youngest person to be featured on TV show This Is Your Life when she appeared in 1969.

But she later said: "Being young isn't about age, it's about being a free spirit. You can meet someone of 20 who's boring and old, or you can meet someone of 70 who's youthful and exciting. I met Fred Astaire when he was 72 and I was 21, and I fell in love with him. He certainly was a free spirit."

Twi T ggy officially retired from modelling in 1970 and embarked on a successful acting career, but has remained in demand for modelling assignments and posed with David Bowie for the cover of his 1973 Pin-Ups album.

She revolutionised the world of modelling and is currently featured in the Vogue 100 Exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London celebrating the fashion magazine's centenary.

Twi T ggy described herself as a very shy and insecure teenager growing up and said: "The way I looked when I started modelling - I was a skinny schoolgirl, stuffing tissues into my little 32A bra. I wasn't trying to be that thin. I was perfectly healthy, but still - that look is a total impossibility for women over the age of 20. Fashion has a lot to answer for, doesn't it?"


Sporting the shrunken woollen look in October 1966

Modelling headwear in 1966 and, right, 1968

Behind the camera for a change in March 1967 and, top, promoting The Avengers with Patrick MacNee in 1966

Twiggy misses the Women of the Year luncheon at the Savoy Hotel in 1967 and stays in bed on doctor's orders
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Mar 17, 2016
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