Dorian Leigh

Impossibly elegant. Image by Richard Avedon
Before Twiggy, in fact two decades before Twiggy, model Dorian Leigh was swanning down the Paris cat walks and posing for the world's top fashion magazines. Although Twiggy is often given credit for being the first supermodel, many consider Leigh the true contender for that accolade.

Said to be the inspiration for the Holly Go-Lightly character in Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffanys, Leigh was an ultra-feminine, elegant beauty who reeked of sophisticated style and a classic pizazz, in what was then a contemporary 50's form. In the glitzy, glammy, bitchy world of 40's and 50's high fashion, Dorian was the IT girl.

Dorian Leigh, Elle Magazine, 1950
In the early 40's, after a broken first marriage, Leigh found herself a single mother, working as a department store file clerk while studying at night school, followed by a degree in mechanical engineering from New York University.

After a few war jobs, at a laboratory and as a tool designer for Eastern Airlines, she drifted into a job writing ad copy at Republic Pictures. A friend suggested she try modelling and Leigh took her advice and signed up with an agency.

By this time she was 27 - ancient by modelling standards and according to Harper's Bazaar, during her first meeting with Harper's editor Diana Vreelan, she got her first job, appearing on the cover of the magazine by claiming to be only 19. Despite being only 5'5', significantly shorter than most models and close to 30, by the close of 1946,  Dorian Leigh had  appeared on six covers of Vogue in and over the next few years, graced the covers of more than 50 magazines. According to photographer Richard Avedon, she was the best model he ever worked with, as well as the "loveliest and the most versatile."

Leigh and Biel, digitally together for Revlon's Fire and Ice relaunch
A real life Holly Go-Lightly, Leigh possessed a wild, abandoned streak that enhanced her notoriety. Along with numerous affairs with writers, musicians and photographers, she was married at least four times and there were rumours there was a fifth, bigamous marriage.

A 1952 Revlon Fire and Ice ad campaign seemed tailor made for Leigh, as the slogan read "For you who love to flirt with fire; who dare to skate on thin ice". In the photo at right, Dorian's Fire & Ice campaign image  is retrieved and juxtaposed with a new 2010 version that featured actress Jessica Biel.

Dorian Leigh died in 2008 at the advanced age of 91...

Top Models of the 1960's