Peggy Moffitt

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Peggy Moffitt
Peggy Moffitt in Rudi Gernreich monokini swimsuit 1964.jpg
Peggy Moffitt modeling Gernreich's monokini.
Born Margaret Anne Moffitt
(1940-05-14) May 14, 1940 (age 75)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Occupation Model, actress
Spouse(s) William Claxton (m. 1960–2008) (his death)
Children Christopher Moffitt

Margaret Anne "Peggy" Moffitt (born May 14, 1940) is a former American model and actress. During the 1960s, she worked very closely with fashion designer Rudi Gernreich, and developed a signature style that featured heavy, Kabuki-like makeup and an asymmetrical hair cut.



Though her unique look has now become iconic of the 60s fashion scene, Moffitt began her a career as an actress, beginning with an uncredited role in the 1955 film You're Never Too Young.[1][2] She first began modeling in Paris in the 1950s.[3]

During the 1960s, she developed a signature style, including false eyelashes and heavy eye makeup, drawing on Japanese Kabuki theater. Her hairstyle, an asymmetrical bowl cut, created by Vidal Sassoon, became known as the "five point".[4] Her unique look became an icon of the 1960s fashion scene.[2]

Work with Rudi Gernreich[edit]

Gernreich collaborated with Moffitt and her husband and photographer William Claxton. The three became "a dynamic and inseparable trio."[5] “Without Rudi I would have been a gifted and innovative model,” explained Moffitt in The Rudi Gernreich Book. “Without me he would have been an avant-garde designer of genius. We made each other better. We were each other’s catalyst.... It was fun, it was invigorating, it was a true collaboration, and yes, it was love.”[6] Moffit was later described as his muse.[5][7]


Main article: Monokini

Gernreich first conceived of a topless swimsuit in December 1962, but didn't intend to produce the design commercially. It had more meaning to Gernreich as an idea than as a reality.[8] Gernreich had Moffitt model the suit in person for Diana Vreeland of Vogue, who asked him why he conceived of the design. Gernreich told her he felt it was time for "freedom-in fashion as well as every other facet of life," but that the swimsuit was just a statement. He said, “[Women] drop their bikini tops already,” he said, “so it seemed like the natural next step.”[9] She told him, "If there's a picture of it, it's an actuality. You must make it."[10] Gernreich decided to call his design a monokini. When a photo shoot was arranged on Montego Bay in the Bahamas, all five models hired for the session refused to wear the design. The photographer finally persuaded a local prostitute to model it.[11]

To avoid sensationalizing the design, Moffitt, her husband and photographer William Claxton, and Gernreich decided to publish their own pictures for the fashion press and news media. Moffitt was initially resistant to the idea of posing topless, and afraid the photograph and ensuing coverage could get out of control. She said,

I am a puritanical descendant of the Mayflower. I carried that goddamned Plymouth Rock on my back. … When I did give in, I did so with a lot of rules. I would not show myself on the runway that way. I’d do it only with Bill. Since Rudi would never ever have enough money to do this, I did it for free. But I had final say on everywhere it went photographically. Not Playboy. Not Esquire. I didn’t want to be exploited.[12]

Look was the first to publish a rear view of Moffitt modeling the swimsuit on June 2, 1964,[13][14] and the following day columnist Carol Bjorkman of Women's Wear Daily published a frontal view picture of Moffitt wearing the suit.[13] The now-iconic photograph became a world-wide news event.[15] It became a celebrated image of the extremism of 1960s designs.[16] Moffit later said, "It was a political statement. It wasn't meant to be worn in public."[17]

Moffitt tired of the single-minded attention to the iconic images of her modeling the Monokini. In 2012, she said of the image, "The shot seen around the world. Think of something in your life that took 1/60th of a second to do. Now, imagine having to spend the rest of your life talking about it. I think it’s a beautiful photograph, but oh, am I tired of talking about it.”[18][19]

Later work[edit]

In 1985, the Los Angeles Fashion Group staged a Gernreich retrospective, "Looking Back at a Futurist." They wanted a woman to model the monokini, but Moffitt loudly objected because she felt it would exploit Gernreich's intentions.[12] After Gernreich's death, she retained legal rights to his designs and arranged for his designs to be displayed in an exhibition titled The Total Look: The Creative Collaboration Between Rudi Gernreich, Peggy Moffitt, and William Claxton at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art's Pacific Design Center.[18] She also collaborated with Marylou Luther and her husband to release a comprehensive book chronicling Gernreich's designs.

Personal life[edit]

Moffit married photographer William Claxton in 1960. The couple had a son, Christopher. They remained married until Claxton's death in October 2008.[20]

In popular culture[edit]

The Chicago band The Handcuffs feature the song "Peggy Moffitt" on their debut album Model for a Revolution, with famous photographs of the revolutionary model on the CD cover.[21]

Boyd Rice and Giddle Partridge released a limited edition vinyl called Going Steady With Peggy Moffitt in 2008.


Year Title Role Notes
1955 You're Never Too Young Agnes Uncredited
1956 Meet Me in Las Vegas Showgirl Uncredited
1956 The Birds and the Bees Penny Uncredited
1958 Senior Prom Girl With Holder
1959 The Young Captives Teenager Uncredited
1959 Up Periscope Jukebox girl Uncredited
1959 Battle Flame Nurse Fisher
1959 Girls Town Flo Alternative title: The Innocent and the Damned
1960 Alcoa Theatre Dodie Charles Episode: "Capital Gains"
1960 Goodyear Theatre Dodie Charles Episode: "Capital Gains"
1960 The Alfred Hitchcock Hour Robin Rath Episode: "Beast in View"
1966 Who Are You, Polly Maggoo? Mannequin/Model French title: Qui êtes vous, Polly Maggoo?
1966 Blowup Model Uncredited
1967 Basic Black Model


  1. ^ You're Never Too Young at the Internet Movie Database
  2. ^ a b Drohojowska-Philp, Hunter (2011). Rebels in Paradise: The Los Angeles Art Scene and the 1960s. Macmillan. p. 96. ISBN 1-429-95899-5. 
  3. ^ Moore, Booth (March 3, 2013). "Cultural Touchstone: Peggy Moffitt". 
  4. ^ Lowery, Allison (2013). Historical Wig Styling: Victorian to the Present. CRC Press. p. 194. ISBN 0-240-82124-6. 
  5. ^ a b Hodge, Brooke (February 23, 2012). "Clothes Encounters: Rudi Gernreich, Peggy Moffitt and William Claxton". New York Times Magazine. Retrieved 6 October 2015. 
  6. ^ "“The Total Look: Rudi Gernreich, Peggy Moffitt, and William Claxton,” Cincinnati Art Museum, through May 24, 2015". March 24, 2015. Retrieved 5 October 2015. 
  7. ^ "Peggy Moffit". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 6 October 2015. 
  8. ^ Smith, Liz (January 18, 1965). "The Nudity Cult". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 14 January 2013. 
  9. ^ Bay, Cody (June 16, 2010). "The Story Behind the Lines". Retrieved 22 January 2013. 
  10. ^ "The Rudi Gernreich Book". Archived from the original on March 10, 2014. Retrieved 11 January 2013. 
  11. ^ Kalter, Suzy (May 25, 1981). "20 Remember Those Topless Suits? After a Cool-Out, Racy Rudi Gernreich Returns to the Fashion Swim". People Magazine. Retrieved 14 January 2013. 
  12. ^ a b Amorosi, A.D. "Q&A: Peggy Moffitt". The Philadelphia Citypaper. Retrieved 11 January 2013. 
  13. ^ a b "The Rudi Gernreich Book". Retrieved 11 January 2013. 
  14. ^ Shteir, Rachel (1964). Striptease: The Untold History of the Girlie Show. East Pakistan Police Co-operative Society. pp. 318–321. ISBN 0-19-512750-1. 
  15. ^ "The Rudi Gernreich Book". Retrieved 11 January 2013. 
  16. ^ Jennifer Craik, The Face of Fashion, page 145, Routledge, 1993, ISBN 0203409426
  17. ^ Walls, Jeanette (January 14, 1991). "High Fashion's Lowest Neckline". New York Magazine (New York Media, LLC) 24 (2): 21. ISSN 0028-7369. 
  18. ^ a b Pinto, Phil (May 18, 2012). "Peggy Moffitt: The Total Look" (video). Retrieved 11 January 2013. 
  19. ^ "Peggy Moffitt" (769). Vogue. September 2014. p. 582. Retrieved October 7, 2015. 
  20. ^ Martin, Douglas (October 14, 2008). "William Claxton, Photographer, Is Dead at 80". 
  21. ^ Cain, Tim (2006-05-05). "One man's truth is another's ...". Herald & Review (Lee Enterprises). Retrieved 2008-01-20. 

Additional reading[edit]

  • Peggy Moffitt, William Claxton: The Rudy Gernreich Book, Rizzoli International Publications (1991)

External links[edit]