Barbara Goalen (1 January 1921 – 16 June 2002) was a British model who came to international prominence between 1945 and 1954, then gave up her career at the height of her success. Described as "the most photographed woman in Britain" and "arguably the first British supermodel", she epitomised post-war glamour and modelled for both Christian Dior and Cristobal Balenciaga, the best couturiers in the world.
Barbara Bach was born in British Malaya where her father was a rubber plantation owner. She was sent back to the UK to prep school at the age of eight, moving on to St Mary's School in Calne, Wiltshire as a boarder.
She spent a year studying art, giving this up to become an ambulance driver when war broke out. She married commercial pilot Ian Goalen who was killed in a plane crash in 1947, leaving her with a son and daughter.
Goalen became a model at the age of 24, with her mother taking care of her two young children.
Even in austere post-war Britain good models could earn five guineas an hour – equivalent to the weekly wage for many working women of the time. Perks of the job included being treated as members of society, the loan of designer clothes and entrance to any event. Initially Goalen worked as a couture model and accepted every modelling commission, but later was to make her fee four times that of other models and restrict her appearances in order to be more 'exclusive'.
Her elegant wasp-waisted shape was the perfect fit for the post-war 'New Look' fashions and she had what Vogue has described as the "mink and diamonds" look, thanks in part to her gamine short haircut (later more bouffant), arched and elongated eyebrows and high cheekbones. She said: "I was seven and a half stone and my measurements were: charlies 33, waist 18 – yes really – and hips 31".
Early on in her career, she became a favourite of Vogue photographer Clifford Coffin and was also to work with leading fashion names such as Cecil Veaton, Henry Clarke, Norman Parkinson and Anthony Denney.
Her big break came when she met English photographer John French and quickly became his favorite model. From 1950, she made frequent appearances in the pages of Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. The media would call her “the most photographed woman in England.”
With great sophisticated and elegance, Barbara Goalen can make even a simple cotton blouse look chic, and when she wears the clothes she models, they seem coming from her own wardrobe.
In early 50s, she was chosen to be one of the models for a series of influential photoshoots by Elsbeth Juda for export magazine The Ambassador that were designed to promote British culture and industry abroad.
She also became among the first British models to be employed by French couture houses – notably Balenciaga and pioneer of the 'New Look' Christian Dior – as well as modelling in New York and Australia for top fashion magazines like Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, etc.
Sometimes nicknamed “The Goalen”, Barbara is one of the three greatest British models of her time, together with Fiona Campbell-Walter and Anne Gunning, and one of the super models among Lisa Fonssagrives, Suzy Parker or Dorian Leigha.
After six-year of success, Barbara Goalen retired from modelling and married Lloyd's underwriter Nigel Campbell at Caxton Hall, Westminster in 1954. The wedding was mobbed by onlookers, A testament to her fame. The couple had two daughters.
Subsequently known as Mrs Nigel Campbell, Barbara Goalen organised the Berkeley dress show (a debutante event and fixture of the 'season') during the 1960s – despite her doubts about its relevance to the times. She also dispensed fashion advice in The Daily Telegraph and designed children's clothes, modelled by her two young daughters.
Barbara Goalen died on 16 June 2002. She was 81 years old. Not long before she died, she was reported to say:"....Don't ask my age, I will not tell you...And do not look for it in the archives...It's so provincial to talk about age!"
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