Eileen Ford’s Beautiful Legacy

July 21, 2014 • Haute Historian, Magazine

Eileen Ford, Ford Models, History Fashion

Eileen Ford was the type of model agent who sought models in a department store or in the park. Nothing could beat the excitement of finding the perfect beauty to join her agency. Ford’s daughter, Katie, reported this was her mother’s “greatest thrill.” When Ford died on July 9th at 92 years old, she left behind a legacy that will always be respected.

Ford co-founded her modeling agency in 1946 with her business partner and husband, Gerald Ford. At the time, many models were underrepresented and agencies couldn’t be trusted. Models were expected to negotiate for their wages, and they were often underpaid. Plus, photographers and advertisers would often exploit the models. Ford wanted to support young models in a professional environment. She pushed for standardized hours and wages. She enforced rules about what models could and could not do (for example, showing “excessive amounts of bosom” in a photo was a no-no).

Ford sought out tall beauties—she was known to turn away women shorter than 5’7” – with wide-set eyes and long noses. She would coach them to be professional models as well as model citizens. Ford was known to be stern, but she treated the agency’s models with care and compassion. She would teach the models to be responsible, cultured and ladylike.

Ford Models quickly became known for its all-American beauties. They were clean-cut and fresh-faced. But something special set a model apart from the average beauty. “Fire in the eye,” Ford once said. “Mesmerizing energy, intelligence, an I-know-who­-I-am look. It’s an elusive quality best described by the words charisma, excitement, magnetism.” Ford definitely knew how to spot that spark – she launched the careers of some of the most famous supermodels in the world, including Suzy Parker, Jane Fonda, Jean Patchett, Christie Brinkley, Christie Turlington and Naomi Campbell. Considering her experience, Ford set the standard of beauty for a generation.

1. Eileen and Gerald Ford in their office in 1966, NY Times

2. Eileen Ford 1977, Washington Post

3. Suzy Parker, Vogue

4. Christie Turlington, Harpers Bazaar

5. Eileen Ford showing a model the “nose tilt,” Sydney Morning Herald

– Tanisha Wallis

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