On this day in 1992, Swedish beauty Lisa Fonssagrives died in Long Island. She is often called the world’s first supermodel—although Dorian Leigh, Suzy Parker and Janice Dickenson would happily argue that point to the grave—earning more than $40 an hour when other models were striking a pose for half that amount or even less. Fonssagrives began modeling for Horst P. Horst in 1936, but her heyday was from the late 1940s into the 1950s, when Christian Dior’s New Look ushered in an era of grace and nobility. Her figure—one both simultaneously willowly and angular—and aristocratic looks beautifully translated Dior’s vision of Corelle. At a time when most models’ careers lasted a few short years, her age-defying features allowed hers to flourish into her 40s.
Fonssagrives can also take credit for creating the clichéd fashion fairy tale: In 1950 she married her favorite photographer, Irving Penn, and the two lived a long and happy life together until her death in New York. The self-described “good clothes hanger” was a frequent subject of Penn’s photographs for Vogue magazine—how’s that for a marriage perk?—particularly his studies of French haute couture. Her pert nose sloped as dramatically as her waistline, making for irresistible profile shots and, as you can see in the images below, many pictures of Fonssagrives are inevitably captured from the side. —Ali Basye
Photo credits: Almost all images by Irving Penn except the one of Fonssagrives wearing a Lucien Lelong dress while leaning off the Eiffel Tower, shot by Erwin Blumenfeld for Vogue May 1939.