The face of fashion is turning its back on the strapping cove girls of the '80s. Perhaps the supermodels had an inkling that their stars were fading -- Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista and Claudia Schiffer were noticeably scarce during the American designer spring collections. They had other commitments. They've become too big for fashion.
The smaller, paler waifs captured the eye at the collections last month, flitting through some of the shows looking like fragile, dusty moths. Whether by nature or design, next year's star models will be more ethereal than earthy.
"We are reacting to the overexposure to megamodels -- the very tall, very symmetrical women who have been around since the '80s," says Tina Gaudoin, health and beauty editor of Harper's Bazaar. "It's also a bit of a reaction against glamour, totally overdone glamour. The new models all have something a little off, they have imperfections and they look attainable because of their more natural beauty."
Bazaar features two of the rising stars in its December issue. "Little" Kate Moss, who at 5-foot-7 is small for a model, graces the Christmas cover, and Kristen McMenemy is the pale, cool "Ice Maiden" with the face of winter.
"Kristen believed she only had one look, a sort of geeky image, but she can look very different -- feminine or androgynous, if you like," says Ms. Gaudoin. "She looks like no one else you've ever seen -- not the perfect face, not the perfect body. Women who look at her feel that if someone like that can make it there's hope for them."
But the new waifs are not the Twiggy anorexics we saw in the '60s and '70s. "They may be smaller but they eat," says Ms. Gaudoin, "and they have messy hair. That's a different attitude as well as a different look."
That different, child-woman model may seem to fly in the face of liberated women's attitudes but Ms. Gaudoin disagrees. "To be liberated you do not have to look a certain way -- masses of hair and legs all the way up to your armpits. Models now are permitted all shapes and sizes, unlike the old view that you could not be a model unless you were 5-foot-8 or over."
She says there will always be models like Christy Turlington, whose face transcends the trends and vagaries of fashion and is the model for all the mannequins in the Metropolitan Museum's new Costume Institute. But Ms. Gaudoin says we need new faces to mark the decade of the '90s.
"There is a whole cluster of younger, more interesting and different-looking girls around now and there is something very appealing about them. They would never have made it in the '80s," she adds.
Yet changing images are not all fey and fragile. An 18-year-old new arrival knocked them dead at the spring collections and she was anything but retiring. Tyra, no last name, seduced the tough audience of fashion press and photographers with her flirting hips and sexy pouts. She made Naomi Campbell look tired.
Oscar Reyes, Tyra's agent for Elite New York, knows why she's a hit. "She loves doing shows. She works hard for the money,"says Mr. Reyes. "Many of the girls who have been very visible for a long time feel they no longer have to make the effort, but Tyra gives it her all." That performance is working. Tyra is booked for a Ralph Lauren campaign and work for Max Factor. She has also been signed for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition, exposure that has made more than one megamodel.
And the newest Guess? model defies all old agency standards. Anna Nicole Smith is 25, mother of a 6-year-old, weighs 140 pounds and has a DD bosom that defies tailoring. She had no modeling experience other than photo sessions for a Playboy cover and centerfold.
Anna Smith was chosen, because Guess? does not follow trends, says Leah Levy Soltas, a spokeswoman for the sportswear company. "Paul Marciano, the president and director advertising for Guess? has always been inspired by old black and white films and that is what inspires our images and campaigns. In Anna Nicole, he saw the Hollywood voluptuousness of Jayne Mansfield and signed that look."
Ms. Soltas says the Guess? campaigns have always been unabashedly sexy and have boosted the careers of today's superstars. "Our girls went on to other fashion work -- Carre Otis for Calvin Klein; Claudia Schiffer for Chanel." She sees the same glamorous success story for Anna Smith.
"This business is very fickle," says Tyra's manager Oscar Reyes. "Each year brings along a new face that suits the mood and the time, but some things never change. Everyone wants to see a beautiful girl in beautiful clothes."