The Most Popular Fashion Models of the 1980s

The 1980s was an era where a lot of modern fashion designers like Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent rose to prominence. In addition to iconic fashion designers, the industry also started recognizing a few models as popular or in demand for fashion shows or magazine shoots. The models of the 1980s would pave the way for the “supermodel” phenomenon that occurred in the 90s, where models were considered celebrities and were at the same level of fame as actors and fashion designers. Here is a list of the most popular fashion models of the 1980s.

Christie Brinkley

Christie Brinkley in 1999

Christie Brinkley is an American model who gained fame for appearing in the annual swimsuit issues of Sports Illustrated during the late 1970s and early 1980s. What’s impressive is that Brinkley appeared in three consecutive covers for the said issues in 1979, 1980, and 1981. Besides Sports Illustrated, Brinkley has also served as the face of American cosmetics brand CoverGirl, as well as a model for more than 500 magazine covers.

In addition to modeling, Christie Brinkley has also ventured into acting, hosting, designing, and writing. She is also a human and animal rights activist who has endorsed or promoted numerous charities and non-profit organizations.

Elle Macpherson

Elle Macpherson is a model who came from Australia and was known for her record of five cover appearances for the annual swimsuit issues of Sports Illustrated in the 1980s. Macpherson was nicknamed “The Body,” by Time Magazine in 1989 because of her amazing physique.

After gaining popularity and success from modeling, Elle Macpherson started venturing into business, as she founded two notable brands, namely Elle Macpherson Intimates (a lingerie line) and The Body (a skin care product line). Macpherson also appeared in a few movies, including Sirens (1994), Batman and Robin (1997), and The Edge (1997).

Brooke Shields

Brooke Shields in 1986

Brooke Shields is an American actress and model who originally was a child model before gaining fame and critical acclaim for her leading role in Pretty Baby, a 1978 historical drama film. During her teenage years, Brooke Shields continued to model for various brands and magazines, including fashion brand Calvin Klein and Vogue magazine. While modeling, Shields also appeared in several films during the 90s, including The Blue Lagoon (1980), Endless Love (1981), and Sahara (1983).

Shields suspended her career in modeling in 1983 in order to pursue her studies at Princeton University, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Romance languages. In recent years, Brooke Shields appeared in numerous films and TV shows for a main role or guest role.

Gia Carangi

Gia Carangi was an American model who is considered by many fashion critics and enthusiasts as the very first “supermodel.” Gia Carangi started her modeling career through appearances in newspaper ads published in Philadelphia. Sondra Scerca, a makeup artist, then discovered Carangi in a hair salon owned by a fashion photographer and hair stylist named Maurice Tannenbaum. Scerca would be responsible for helping Carangi get modeling gigs and projects in other cities around the United States.

Carangi would appear in dozens of magazines throughout the early 1980s. Unfortunately, the stress of modeling took a toll on Carangi, and she became addicted to heroin. After becoming addicted to the said drug, Carangi’s career rapidly declined by the mid-1980s. Carangi would later die from AIDS-related complications on November 18, 1986, becoming known as one of the first female celebrities to die from the disease.

Anna Bayle

catwalk at a fashion show

Anna Bayle is a model who was born in Manila, Philippines, and rose to popularity within the fashion world in the late 1970s. While studying at the University of the Philippines or UP, Anna Bayle was encouraged by her friends to compete in the 1976 Miss Republic of the Philippines pageant, where she was declared the 1st runner-up (Miss Luzon). After her appearance at the pageant, a Filipino fashion designer named Auggie Cordero mentored Bayle to become a model.

When she became a prominent figure in the Filipino modeling scene, Anna Bayle quickly got projects and contracts from brands and companies from other countries. Anna Bayle eventually retired from modeling in 1994 after a long and successful career. Anna Bayle is one of the first Asian supermodels that is responsible for shining a spotlight on the Asian modeling scene.


Iman Mohamed Abdulmajid, better known simply as Iman, is a Somali-American model who became the muse or the favorite model of numerous fashion designers, including Yves Saint Laurent, Calvin Klein, and Gianni Versace. She began modeling in the early 1970s, and one of her first modeling assignments was for Vogue Magazine in 1976. After the said gig, Iman would appear in various runways, magazines, and ads.

Iman also tried acting by appearing in TV shows and movies, such as The Human Factor (1979 film) and The Cosby Show (1985 TV show). Iman has also hosted the second season of The Fashion Show, a reality TV series focused on fashion design. In addition to entertainment, Iman is involved in charity work, as she has endorsed and worked with different non-profit organizations, charities, and programs.

And these are the most iconic fashion models of the 1980s. These fashion models are still respected and recognized today for their work and for their influence in helping the modeling scene become much bigger.