Inside The Glamorous, Groundbreaking Story Of Twiggy, The English Model Whose Iconic Look Epitomized ’60s Fashion

Published December 24, 2023
Updated March 7, 2024

With her cropped hairstyle, androgynous aesthetic, and mod style, Twiggy was the face of the '60s — and she remains a cultural icon to this day.

In 1966, a teenage girl named Lesley Hornby stopped by a London salon to buy some shampoo. Hornby ended up getting a haircut as well, a photo of which the salon owner posted on the wall. That photograph caught the eye of a fashion journalist, who penned an article introducing Hornby — better known today as Twiggy — as “The Face of ’66.”

From that point on, Twiggy’s life would never be the same.

In the blink of an eye, 16-year-old Twiggy was posing for Vogue, flying to Paris, and attending Hollywood parties with well-known celebrities. As that first article prophesied, the teen indeed became the face of the 1960s, with her large eyes, thin frame, short hair, and exaggerated eyelashes.

Twiggy In A Red Dress
Twiggy In A Rainbow Dress
Twiggy Modeling A Raincoat
Face Of '66
Inside The Glamorous, Groundbreaking Story Of Twiggy, The English Model Whose Iconic Look Epitomized ’60s Fashion
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But Twiggy was much more than just a pretty face. During her life, she's gone beyond modeling to become an actress, singer, fashion designer, mother, and grandmother. Look through some of Twiggy's most iconic photos above, then discover the incredible story behind "The Face of '66" below.

How A Fateful Haircut Led To Worldwide Fame

Born on September 19, 1949, in London, England, Lesley Hornby didn't set out to become a world-famous model. The youngest of three daughters, she had a fairly normal childhood with her family. Twiggy later told The Guardian that her mother had depressive episodes and would probably be diagnosed as bipolar today, but that her father and eldest sister took care of the family.

"I was very protected really," Twiggy said. "It wasn't until I grew up and looked back and thought it must have been really hard on Dad."

Though Twiggy wasn't allowed to wear makeup, she and her friends would still experiment with different looks on the weekends. During that time, Twiggy came up with her iconic long-lashed look, based on a rag doll.


Twiggy/FacebookLesley Hornby, later known as Twiggy, as a child.

"It used to take me an hour and a half to do," she told The Guardian. "I had three pairs of false eyelashes on the top. I'm amazed I could open my eyes."

As a teen, she also began a fateful relationship with Justin de Villeneuve. At 25, de Villeneuve was 10 years her senior when the two met. Though Twiggy later acknowledged that de Villeneuve "should never have taken me out" because of their age difference, he did play an important role in her career. Not only did de Villeneuve help develop Twiggy's look, but, according to L'Officiel, he also took her nickname "Twigs" and transformed it to "Twiggy."

But no one would have as much impact on Lesley Hornby's life than Deirdre McSharry, a journalist for the Daily Express who noticed Hornby's photo one day at a London salon. As Twiggy tells it, she'd gone to the salon simply to buy shampoo. But then the owner suggested he also give her a haircut.

Twiggy The Model

Twiggy LawsonDBE/XTwiggy's exaggerated lashes were key to her iconic look.

"I was very shy and was in a very posh salon in Mayfair. So I was too shy to say no, you know?" Twiggy told the Table Manners with Jessie Ware podcast.

The salon owner put her photo on the wall. McSharry, who covered fashion, saw the picture and decided to interview Twiggy. Soon afterward, she introduced Hornby to the world as "The Face of '66," describing her as "The Cockney Kid with a face to launch a thousand shapes... and she's only 16!"

Within months, Twiggy started taking the world by storm.

Life As Twiggy, The Face Of The 1960s

Less than a year after the Daily Express article, Twiggy was an international celebrity. She appeared on the cover of Vogue in April 1967, rubbed shoulders with Hollywood celebrities, and even got her own Barbie doll.

"Twiggy," Vogue explained in 1967, "is called Twiggy because she looks as though a strong gale would snap her in two and dash her to the ground." The magazine continued: "In a word, this modest, narrow, pastel sparrow of a girl with the big baby-grey heartbreak eyes, the angelic mouth, and the low, throaty, Bow-belled voice, is a bloomin' phenomenon — the Superstar model; the master pattern for a million teenagers all over the world."

Managed by her boyfriend, de Villeneuve, Twiggy took the fashion industry by storm. She was unusual for a model of the era — just 5'6" and very thin — but inspired countless copycats who imitated her exaggerated eyelashes and longed for her waifish frame. For Twiggy, fame was life-changing.

Vogue In April 1967

@twiggylawson/InstagramTwiggy on the cover of Vogue in April 1967.

"I was all over the newspapers, I was getting offers to go to Paris. I can't say I didn't like it. I loved it, it was brilliant," Twiggy told The Guardian. To the Evening Standard, she said: "I was discovered, it was a whirlwind and it was amazing and wonderful and bizarre. I kind of went with it."

Though the 16-year-old was suddenly thrust into the international spotlight, she was able to keep a remarkably level head. She smoked cigarettes, but didn't drink until she was in her late 20s. Unlike many of her peers in the 1960s and 1970s, Twiggy says that she never tried hard drugs.

"I was so straight it's boring," she told The Guardian.

Indeed, Twiggy comfortably marched to the beat of her own drum. And after a few years of modeling, she decided she was ready for something else.

Twiggy's Active Life After Modeling

Though Twiggy is best known for her work as a model, she only modeled for a few years before officially retiring in 1970. Then, she pivoted to a film career, and had success both in movies and on stage. She won two Golden Globe awards for her role in the musical film The Boy Friend (1971), and she was nominated for a Tony for her performance in the Broadway musical My One and Only (1983–84).

And Twiggy wasn't only a model and actress. She also became a wife, mother, grandmother, fashion designer, TV presenter, and a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE). In recent years, she's even started her own podcast, Tea With Twiggy.

Twiggy Today

Twiggy/FacebookTwiggy in 2022.

"I did a couple of films that were duds, everyone does," Twiggy told The Guardian in 2020, as she looked back at her career at age 70. "But I think I've had a brilliant career. And more importantly I've had a very happy life."

In the photo gallery above, see some of Twiggy's most iconic looks from her modeling days in the 1960s and 1970s.

After looking through these iconic images of Twiggy, peruse these photos of 1960s sex symbol Claudia Cardinale. Or, go back to vintage Hollywood with these glamorous photos of the scandalous star Mae West.

Kaleena Fraga
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Kaleena Fraga has also had her work featured in The Washington Post and Gastro Obscura, and she published a book on the Seattle food scene for the Eat Like A Local series. She graduated from Oberlin College, where she earned a dual degree in American History and French.
Jaclyn Anglis
Jaclyn is the senior managing editor at All That's Interesting. She holds a Master's degree in journalism from the City University of New York and a Bachelor's degree in English writing and history (double major) from DePauw University. She is interested in American history, true crime, modern history, pop culture, and science.
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Fraga, Kaleena. "Inside The Glamorous, Groundbreaking Story Of Twiggy, The English Model Whose Iconic Look Epitomized ’60s Fashion.", December 24, 2023, Accessed June 14, 2024.