The ’60s was a pivotal time for style. As a youthful, rebellious spirit took over, counterculture-inspired looks became mainstream and clothing became more fun and statement-making than ever before. From the long hair and well-worn denim of the hippies to the short skirts and go-go boots of the mods, the decade brought many a fashion trend to life, and its influence is still felt today (just take a look at girls rocking perfectly mod cat-eye liner on TikTok or the many groovy minidresses on high-fashion runways!). At the center of all the fabulous ’60s fashion was Twiggy, who with her stylish pixie cut, lithe figure and doe eyes put the “mod” in model.
Decades before influencers were a thing, Twiggy inspired young women around the world to crop their hair and dress boldly. Here’s a look back at the model’s life as a ’60s style icon.
The face of the ’60s: Twiggy’s rise to fame
Born Lesley Hornby in 1949, Twiggy found fame at a young age. As a teenager, she was photographed for a celebrity hairdresser with the pixie haircut that would soon become her signature look.
The pictures were spotted by a fashion journalist, and from there Twiggy began her meteoric rise, appearing on all kinds of magazine covers and being captured by famous photographers in images that defined the swinging London style of the day.
Before she was even out of her teens, Twiggy became a household name and one of the first bona fide supermodels. Her mononymous name came from her slim, twig-like figure. At 5′ 6″, she was shorter than the typical model, but this only served to make her feel more fresh and relatable.
Twiggy’s skinniness and short hair gave her an androgynous quality that felt particularly modern, and being a young, stylish Brit, she was primed for a breakout. When Twiggy was rising from gawky teen to covergirl, Beatlemania was in full swing and Americans were going wild for all things British.
Twiggy was embodiment of the mod scene — short for modern, mod emerged in the British music and fashion world of the day as young people experimented with their fashion choices, embracing a playful, space-age look that was worlds away from the conservatism of the previous decade.
While Twiggy was considered a rebellious spirit, unlike many of her mod peers, she was shy and stayed away from drugs — becoming famous as a teen often leads to dark consequences, but the model managed to stay grounded even as she became the face of the ’60s.
As for Twiggy’s iconic look, it was largely her own creation. In a 2020 interview with The Guardian, she recalled not being allowed to wear makeup growing up and experimenting with dramatic eyeliner with her friends.
As Twiggy described, “It used to take me an hour and a half to do, I had three pairs of false eyelashes on the top. I’m amazed I could open my eyes… Then I used to paint the lines underneath. So in 1966, when I was plucked from anonymity into the madness it became, that was my look.”
By the end of the ’60s, Twiggy had her own clothing line, appeared in countless international editions of Vogue, and made frequent TV appearances. Her arrival in the US was breathlessly covered by the press, and even those who didn’t follow fashion came to recognize her as a star.
Reflecting on her stunning transformation from working-class British teen to celebrity, Twiggy said, “When you’re 16, you don’t feel young. At the time you think you’re quite grown up. It wasn’t until much later, when I had a daughter and she got to be 16, that I looked at her and thought, ‘Oh my God, I was that young when it happened.’ It’s amazing, really, that I didn’t go stark raving bonkers.”
Twiggy branches out
Modeling is a notoriously short-lived career, given the fashion industry’s premium on youth, but Twiggy managed to stay relevant into the ’70s and beyond. The model may forever be associated with the swinging ’60s, but the following decades saw Twiggy branch out (pun fully intended!) into acting, singing and more.
In 1970, Twiggy retired from modeling (and grew out her hair!) and the next year, she made her debut as an actress in The Boy Friend, an extravagant musical set in the ’20s. She immersed herself in singing and dancing training for the role, and won praise for her performance.
Twiggy’s hard work preparing for The Boy Friend clearly paid off, and in 1976 she released her first album, which was a hit on the UK pop charts. Twiggy’s musical career wasn’t just a novelty — she’d release more albums (her most recent one, Romantically Yours, came out in 2011) and make her Broadway debut in 1983.
Twiggy’s acting career continued with a starring role in the 1974 thriller W. In 1980, she made a cameo appearance in the comedy classic The Blues Brothers, and she also starred in the ’80s comedies There Goes the Bride (as the dream girl of the recently departed Tom Smothers) and Club Paradise (as Robin Williams‘ girlfriend). In the ’90s, Twiggy made appearances in TV shows like Tales From the Crypt, The Nanny and Absolutely Fabulous.
Now 74, Twiggy remains stylish as ever. She returned to the fashion industry in the ’00s, becaming a judge on America’s Next Top Model, modeling for Olay and Marks & Spencer and starting a Home Shopping Network fashion line. In 2019, she was given one of Britain’s highest honors when she was appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire for her services to fashion, the arts and charity.
Today, Twiggy hosts a podcast, Tea With Twiggy, and her life inspired a recent biographical musical. In 2024, a documentary on her singular life will be released. While it’s been over five decades since Twiggy became a star, she hasn’t slowed down one bit, and she’s proven herself to be far more than just a ’60s muse.
Read on for more about your ’60s favorites!