Dec 5, 2006

Lisa Fonssagrives IS the First Supermodel

Time Magazine Cover, Sept 19, 1949

Several weeks ago, a reader gently reminded me that Suzi Parker was NOT the world's first supermodel. She wondered if I'd heard about Lisa Fonssagrives.

Yes I had. How could I have forgotten her, I asked myself? As these photographs attest, she presented an arresting image. Reigning as queen of the modeling world during the 30's, 40's, and 50's, this striking Swedish beauty with the 18" waist thought of herself as a "just a good clothes hanger." (Can you imagine Janice Dickinson thinking this?)

Born in 1911, Lisa arrived in Paris in the 30's to become a ballet dancer, but her 5 ft. 7 made her too tall for ballet. She became a model by accident. A photographer asked her to pose for him and the results were history. Lisa wound up posing for a record number of Vogue and Harper's Bazaar covers.

The Supermodels Website includes this description: "Once, she appeared 103 times in a single issue of a magazine, scarcely looking like the same girl in two pictures. Says she: "The photographer says, 'Look sexy,' and I look sexy. He says, 'Look like a kitten,' and I look like a kitten. It is always the dress, it is never, never the girl." As one satisfied customer put it: "A lot of models will not move a muscle for a cheap dress. Lisa makes a $10 cotton dress look like a Schiaparelli." Mockingly, Lisa Fonssagrives puts it another way: "I'm just a good clothes hanger."

Below are some links that lead to more information about her.

Art is Life

The Lisa Fonssagrives Glove Gallery

Fashion Worlds


TheGayBoys said...

Those pictures are gorgeous. Great link. Thanks, darling!

Ms. Place said...

You're more than welcome. I aim to please my two faves.

jinxy said...

Isn't it just amazing that the more focused the model is on the clothes and the job at hand, and less focused on herself, and all that goes with that, she photographs so much more beautifully?

I think her diversity is amazing, and a lot of it has to do with her attitude. She isn't trying to force herself into her own "look" and she isn't afreaid to venture out, and it certainly shows in the end results.

Lisette said...

In my next life can I look like that, PLEASE! The only modern model that ever came close to her was Linda Evangelista pre-"won't get out of bed for less than $10,000" comment. But even she had miles to go. Didn't she marry Irving Penn?

Ms. Place said...

Yes, she married Irving Penn, that incredible photographer. I believe that some fashion photographers should be labeled fine arts photographers. Their images are so visually arresting.

Penn's images of Fonssagrives-Pen, as she became known, are among my favorite photographs of her.

Anonymous said...

Where can I get one of those rooster hats?