Here’s a little throwback for the dog days of summer: The Valentino Haute Couture Spring/Summer 1981 campaign, starring Brooke Shields. At the time, Shields reigned as America’s very controversial sweetheart—then fifteen years old, she’d just starred in The Blue Lagoon, a film about child lovers, and her infamous “Nothing comes between me and my Calvins” TV ad had debuted only a few months before the Valentino campaign was unveiled. She was the hottest model in the world when Dick Ballarian shot her for Valentino, in other words, and a large part of her appeal rested on the contrast between her beyond-her-years knowingness and, as The Milwaukee Journal put it, in an article from January 26, 1981, her plentiful “wholesome charm.”
The Milwaukee Journal article cited above was in fact an Associated Press report from Shields’ runway debut, which she made at the Valentino Spring/Summer 1981 Haute Couture show. “Shields modeled only five of the more than 100 spring and summer outfits in the collection presented by Valentino last week,” the article notes. “But her wholesome charm stole the limelight before a star-studded audience in the designer’s posh studio in downtown Rome.” As the article goes on to report, Shields was greeted by “animated applause” when she made her first exit, in a dress of pink linen, and her own favorite look among the ones she modeled that day was a see-through lace top worn with matching shorts in midnight-blue taffeta. The flounced gown with rose embellishment that Shields donned for the show’s finale was one of the frocks that she would go on to model in the campaign. America’s “pretty baby” never looked prettier.