Tuesday, 24 December 2013

The Powers Girls As Working Models

So far I've talked about the Powers models of the 1930s and 40s who worked on high fashion magazines, or who set their sights on a career in Hollywood. But what about work for the majority of the models? The models who were, to use what's become a derogatory word on the likes of Top Model, 'commercial'.

"Sally is a Career Girl Model", Cut-Out Dolls Powers Models, 1941. Via

Their broader appeal is summed up by John Roberts Powers in The Powers Girls. These girls:

"eschew the sophistication of the high-fashion models; their make-up is conservative and their hair-do simple. They are not easily identifiable as coming from any particular section of the country. They epitomize the attractive American girl, beautiful but not forbidding."

Ellen Allardyce, July 1942, via

The potential earnings in their role were undeniably lucrative, especially given the limited career options for women at this time. The fees given in The Power Girls range from $5 for an hour and a half up to $10 for an hour. Fashion shows gained their models $15 an hour while the popular models could earn $25 to $100 an hour. Earnings could be even more if you got a contract with a firm. Constance "Connie" Joannes and Ellen Allardyce (spelt with a 'y' in the book, seemingly spelt 'Allardice' elsewhere) both held a $5000 year contract for exclusive work as Coty girls.

Lucille Casey, via

As well as photographic work, or even posing for illustrations, there was promotional work too. Here's Barbard Hebbard modelling a mattress and Lucille Casey admiring the ice cream flavours at Wil Wrights Place (interestingly, she's billed as an actress in the caption, not a model).


Joselyn Reyolds here is shown meeting Elmer, the mascot of the 1939 New York World Fair.


Even Dana Jenney, one of the models to grace the pages of Vogue and Harper's, here is seen in Lord & Taylor's demonstrating their 'liquid stockings' service in 1943.

The varied jobs of a Powers model can be glimpsed in this 1941 article about Miami girl turned Powers model Dottie Smallwood:

"She's been featured in many of the national stunts where lovely Powers models are called on to 'be scenery'. For instance, Feb. 21, 20 models flew to Boston, where they sold lapel pins at the British War Relief ball at the Copley-Plaza and mingled with guests at the ball. Dottie was one of two girls who made front page news at that event from a sheer beauty standpoint. Tuesday of this week, she writes her mother, 19 hand-picked models trekked to Wall Street, where they were 'background' for Jim Farley when he was making a speech. And when the big Yankee Clipper publicity is launched shortly you'll see Miss Smallwood, together with 18 other smart-looking girls from the Powers studio all over the plane."

Marianne Steene, via 


Of course, as Dottie Smallwood's story illustrates, much of the promotional work undertaken by Powers girls in the early 1940s would relate to war efforts. Model Marianne Steene is one of the women pictured in a 1942 edition of Life sending kisses to servicemen.


Powers girl/actress Angela Greene was one of the pin-up girls used on the nose of a bomber.


This frequently reproduced image for the American Nurses Association, with its wholesome, typically (to use Power's words) "attractive American girl, beautiful but not forbidding", in fact features a Powers model - Weslee Wootten. You can read her personal story here and here.

Wootten now lives in New Zealand, having married a Royal New Zealand Air Force pilot. In my final post on The Powers Girls, I'm going to write about their lives as working women in this period and how they juggled working with being a wife and a mother. You can read the other three parts of this series here, here and here.

Oh, and hope you all have a very merry Christmas. Enjoy!

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