born Mary Jane Walton on July 10, 1926 in Teaneck, New Jersey, Russell began her modelling career in New York City in 1948. the fashion world at this time was swept up in 'the New Look'; a post-war concept coined by Dior, who believed, and rightly so, that people were in need of something new after years of war, brutality and hardship. the new look was a return to traditional femininity, featuring long skirts, tiny waists and luxurious fabrics. during the war, women had been mobilised to work on farms and in factories while the men were away fighting. in peacetime, those women were expected to return to their more passive roles as housewives and mothers, leaving their jobs free for the returning soldiers. Dior’s “flower women” fit this paradigm very well.
but i digress :)...
in the midst of all this, Mary Jane Russell spent 13 years working for the Ford Agency, appeared on dozens of magazine covers and was a favourite of photographers Irving Penn and Louise Dahl-Wolfe. she was somewhat diminutive compared to other models, standing just 5'6", but her long neck and classical features complemented the elegance of the era.
(above with evelyn tripp)
Mary Jane would marry her highschool sweeheart, Edward T. Russell, who appears to have been a hopeless romantic. while serving as a radioman aboard seaplane tenders in World War II, he once addressed a letter to ''The Most Beautiful Girl in the World, Bronxville, New York.'' Somehow, it reached her. Edward proposed to Mary Jane on his return from the war, suggesting Dec. 21 as their wedding day because, as he said, it was the longest night of the year. *sigh* the couple had three sons, John, David and Mark, and remained married until Jane's death in November 2003 of pulmonary fibrosis. she was 77 years old.