Barbara Mullen, who vaulted from a job in a New York magnificence parlor to the head of the genteel modeling world of the Nineteen Fifties, regardless of a beanpole determine and a gaptoothed smile that defied the slim magnificence requirements of the day, died on Sept. 12 at her dwelling in Albuquerque. She was 96.
Her dying was confirmed by a good friend, Lori Katz.
Ms. Mullen was 5 ft 9 inches tall and had a 20-inch waist — a determine that might have match higher with the waif look of the Nineteen Nineties. Rising within the postwar Nineteen Forties, she was a far cry from the perfect set by voluptuous Hollywood stars like Rita Hayworth.
In her later years, Ms. Mullen usually stated that she by no means considered herself as lovely. Early on, trend’s string-pullers appeared to agree.
Upon assembly her, Eileen Ford, the founding father of the Ford modeling company, which might symbolize Ms. Mullen for years, knowledgeable her that she had a horrible profile. Carmel Snow, the editor of Harper’s Bazaar, deemed her “a big, ugly Irish girl.” When Ms. Mullen met the photographer Lillian Bassman in 1948, serving as a stand-in for a mannequin who didn’t present up for a shoot, she known as her “the replacement girl,” including, “This girl is a monster.”
By the early Nineteen Fifties, nevertheless, magnificence requirements throughout the business had began to evolve, and Ms. Mullen was on the vanguard of that evolution. “There came to be a group of mannequins in the French tradition of the belle laide” — a time period that interprets to “beautiful ugly” — Jessica Daves, a former editor of Vogue, wrote in her 1967 historical past of American trend, “Ready-Made Miracle.’’
“Barbara Mullen,” Ms. Daves added, “was the first of these to be accepted as a top mannequin. Her eyes were slightly too prominent; the proportions of her face were not those of classic beauty. But the proportions of her body were made for modern clothes. Her tiny head, long neck and delicately elongated torso were the essence of the new elements.”
Finally, Ms. Bassman, who spent a decade taking pictures Ms. Mullen for Harper’s Bazaar, beginning with the Paris couture collections of 1949, would declare her her favourite mannequin.
“She came into the studio, with her shoulders down, and her head down, and her coat too long,” Ms. Bassman stated in an interview carried out along with a 2009 exhibition of the pictures of her and her husband, Paul Himmel, “and you looked at her and thought, ‘Oh my god, this girl could never be a model.’” However, Ms. Bassman added, “Put her under the lights and she would just bloom.”
Barbara Elise Mullen was born on June 3, 1927, in Floral Park, N.Y., on Lengthy Island, the youngest of two daughters of Matthew Mullen, a financial institution clerk, and Izma (Shirley) Mullen, a switchboard operator and seamstress.
Ms. Mullen was 18 and dealing as an assistant at a magnificence salon in Queens in 1945 when she took a job as a mannequin sporting the most recent fashions for moneyed buyers on the Bergdorf Goodman division retailer.
She received her break two years later, when Vogue known as her in for a shoot with the photographer John Rawlings to mannequin a pink tulle costume that had been reduce for her wispy determine and didn’t match different fashions.
At first, she was nervous. “I’m not shy now, but I was then — and the camera didn’t talk back,” she stated in a 2013 interview with the British newspaper The Observer. Nonetheless, she added: “You stepped into those wonderful couture dresses and you were taken out of your everyday element. We were ordinary girls, but you felt elevated.”
The ensuing shot of her peering over her shoulder whereas seated on a inexperienced couch, accompanied by the caption “The new beauty is part attitude,” gave her publicity in a bible of trend, and different work quickly adopted. By the early Nineteen Fifties she had turn into a go-to mannequin for Harper’s Bazaar and plenty of different magazines, working with celebrated photographers like Richard Avedon, Karen Radkai and Toni Frissell.
“My favorite model was Barbara Mullen,” the celebrated photographer William Klein, who labored along with her within the late Nineteen Fifties, stated in a 2012 interview with Monetary Instances. “She was a tough Irish American living in Brooklyn, and she had a foul mouth.” (Mr. Klein’s geography was inexact: Ms. Mullen actually had spent her early childhood on the Higher West Facet of Manhattan earlier than her household moved to Woodside, Queens.)
Represented by the powerhouse Ford company, she started to domesticate a continental magnificence in method and speech befitting her perch close to the highest of her occupation, Michael Gross, the creator of the 1995 e book “Model: The Ugly Business of Beautiful Women,” stated in a telephone interview.
Even so, Mr. Gross stated, “she wasn’t the era’s equivalent of a supermodel. She wasn’t Dovima, she wasn’t Jean Patchett or Suzy Parker.”
Ms. Mullen didn’t obtain name-brand recognition exterior business circles partially due to her “chameleon quality,” John-Michael O’Sullivan, a journalist who’s writing a biography on her, stated in a telephone interview. “In an era when models still did their own hair and makeup, Barbara proved to have a mastery for reinvention.”
Together with her peak modeling years drawing to a detailed, Ms. Mullen moved to Switzerland in 1959 and opened Barbara’s Bazar, a boutique, within the Alpine ski village of Klosters. It proved an early showcase for designers like Kenzo and Emanuel Ungaro and lured patrons like Greta Garbo, Deborah Kerr and Princess Margaret.
Ms. Mullen leaves no instant survivors. Her first husband, James Punderford, died in 1955. Her second husband, Fredi Morel, whom she married in 1962, died in 2019.
In a 2010 interview with The Los Angeles Instances, Ms. Bassman gave additional tribute to Ms. Mullen. “There are models that are not models but muses,” she stated. “She had everything marvelous: a beautiful neck, grace, the ability to respond to me.”
Interviewed for a similar article, Ms. Mullen recalled: “I moved very well in front of the camera. My arms, my legs — I seemed able to do anything with them — I felt absolutely wonderful when I moved with Lillian. It was like being free — it was like being in heaven.”