When it comes to the modeling world, few have made an impact comparable to that of Christy Turlington. The California native got her start while she was still in high school, spending her summers traveling to Paris and New York, where she would often shoot with Vogue. Upon graduating in 1987, the then 18-year-old got on a plane to New York City, got her own apartment and quickly got to work booking a mix of magazine covers, fashion campaigns and runway shows. Turlington’s Calvin Klein contract came a year later, which began with the brand’s Eternity fragrance campaign, and would grow to include more than 30 years of collaborations across ad campaigns (both in print and on television), runways and red carpets.
But Turlington’s biggest break came just a few years later, when a 1990 British Vogue cover alongside Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista and Tatjana Patitz caught the eye of pop singer George Michael, who promptly cast the models in his “Freedom! ‘90” music video. Global recognition, supermodel status and even a documentary following Turlington during the spring 1994 fashion shows in Milan, Paris and New York City soon followed. Yet despite her chameleon-like appearances on runways from Versace to Ralph Lauren and glammed-up red carpet moments, Turlington has been cited as saying that she was never particularly into fashion. “I’ve never been one to over decorate myself in any way,” she told Harper’s Bazaar in 2022. “I like to have understated things that are simple, comfortable but elegant.”
In fact, at the height of her fame, Turlington walked away from her modeling career to enroll in NYU in 1995. After earning her bachelor’s degree, Turlington then headed to Columbia University for her master’s degree in public health, which she promptly put to use when she founded Every Mother Counts in 2010. Through her nonprofit organization, Turlington dedicates much of her time to advocating for improved maternal health care in the U.S. and around the world. But occasionally, she has returned to her modeling roots over the years—most notably with Calvin Klein campaigns in 2014 and 2022, and a television mini-series, entitled The Super Models, in 2023.
From her earliest runways and Met Galas alongside Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss to receiving awards for her advocacy work, take a look back at some of Turlington’s biggest fashion moments.
1987, Calvin Klein Runway
Turlington met designer Calvin Klein early on in her career, and runway moments like her bridal-inspired look at the spring 1988 collection led to an exclusive contract with the fashion house—one of the longest-running partnerships in modeling history.
1990, Perry Ellis Runway
Turlington began working with Marc Jacobs in the ‘80s, modeling for the designer’s own label and for Perry Ellis, where he served as creative director from 1988 until 1992. Before the infamous “Grunge” collection that led to Jacobs being fired, Turlington made her way down the runway in a handful of looks echoing the preppy style the brand was known for, including this brightly colored floral skirt suit.
1990, 7th On Sale AIDS Benefit
At an AIDS charity benefit, Turlington was spotted in a glittering gold mini skirt and crop top set with fashion photographers Steven Meisel and Herb Ritts.
1991, in New York City
With fellow supermodel Naomi Campbell by her side, Turlington headed to a wedding reception in a printed Versace skirt and jacket.
1991, Calvin Klein Runway
At the spring 1992 show, Turlington modeled a nude-toned suit and crop top set that perfectly embodied the Calvin Klein minimalist aesthetic.
1992, Chanel Runway
Chanel was another staple in Turlington’s runway repertoire, and for the spring 1992 couture collection, she modeled an over-the-top glamorous look that included a gold chain-embellished black dress, strappy heels, a feathered black hat and several statement-making pieces of jewelry.
1992, Met Gala
Turlington’s mother and father accompanied her to the 1992 Met Gala, where she paid homage to actress Audrey Hepburn for the exhibit’s Fashion and History: A Dialogue theme. The floor-length black gown paired with rows of pearls was actually the model’s second time emulating Hepburn’s iconic Breakfast at Tiffany’s character, as she had been photographed for Vanity Fair just a few years earlier wearing the original dress that designer Hubert de Givenchy created for Hepburn’s starring turn in the 1961 film.
1992, Versace Runway
In 1992, a bleach-blonde Turlington took to the runway during Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace’s provocative “Miss S&M” collection.
1992, Thierry Mugler Runway
No one did couture quite like Thierry Mugler, and for the French designer’s fall 1992 collection, Turlington donned a black and pink satin creation that was equal parts structured and extravagant with its asymmetrical shape and oversized train.
1993, ‘Sommersby’ Premiere
For a Los Angeles film premiere, Turlington opted for a fitted black suit and crisp white button-up shirt, which she paired with a bold red lip.
1993, Valentino Runway
Turlington showcased Valentino red when she walked in the spring 1994 collection in a design that combined a classic fitted bodice with a flared cutout skirt.
1993, Oscar de la Renta Runway
Turlington sported a more ethereal look during Oscar de la Renta’s spring 1994 show in a strapless embellished design that was completed with dewy, highlighted skin and a sleek low knot with face-framing pieces.
1995, Met Gala
At the 1995 Met Gala, Turlington arrived on the arm of designer Calvin Klein before taking a moment to pose with model BFFs Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss. Dressed in a fitted black gown with a plunging neckline (a design that she would later wear down the runway for Klein’s spring 1996 collection), Turlington noted that the whole gala had a more casual feel in the ‘90s, with the models even doing their own hair and makeup.
1996, Met Gala
For another Met Gala with Calvin Klein, Turlington decided on a rich wine-colored dress that included barely-there straps and an asymmetrical hemline. The model and humanitarian completed the look with a black clutch and black sandals, but she went for a matching beauty look with her red lips and nails.
1999, VH1/Vogue Fashion Awards
For the VH1/Vogue Fashion Awards, Turlington paired a fitted black leather jacket with a cream skirt, strappy black sandals and a sparkling choker necklace.
2002, New Yorkers For Children Gala
Turlington showed off a shorter, layered bob haircut at a gala supporting the New Yorkers for Children non-profit organization in 2002. For her attire, she chose a tiered black design that included striped detailing and sheer paneling along the plunging neckline, with a black clutch, kitten heels and minimal jewelry to complete the understated look.
2002, Marc Jacobs Show
Turlington made a rare fashion show appearance when she sat front row for Marc Jacobs’ spring 2003 collection in fitted pants and a sequined top by the designer.
2008, Met Gala
Turlington matched the Met Gala red carpet in 2008 with her floor-length evening gown, which featured an empire waist silhouette and a superhero-esque scoop neckline that tied in with the exhibit’s theme, Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy.
2010, Vanity Fair Event
After the premiere of her documentary at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival, Turlington and her husband, actor and filmmaker Ed Burns, attended a party hosted by Vanity Fair. Turlington skipped the usual red carpet gowns for tailored black pants and a printed jacket that included pops of pastel and a black satin tie at the waist.
2011, ‘No Woman, No Cry’ Screening
From starring as the subject of a documentary in the ‘90s to directing her very own look into the issues surrounding maternal health, Turlington attended a screening for No Woman, No Cry in a classic black suit.
2012, ‘Friends With Kids’ Screening
For the New York City screening of her husband’s film, Friends With Kids, Turlington turned to British designer Stella McCartney for a navy minidress with an asymmetrical neckline and one long sleeve. The model added a slightly retro feel with sheer black stockings paired with open-toe heels, and a shiny red-orange lip completed the look.
2014, Met Gala
A few days before the release of her latest Calvin Klein campaign (celebrating 25 years since her first Eternity fragrance ad), Turlington walked the Met Gala red carpet in an Old Hollywood-inspired gown by the designer. Accompanied by her husband (who also appeared alongside Turlington in the 2014 campaign), the model wore a crystal-studded black dress with a plunging neckline. Turlington added a ‘50s-style glamour to the look with side-swept curls and a red lip that she also matched with her manicure and pedicure.
2016, White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner
Turlington added two pops of color to her black Marc Jacobs dress at the 2016 White House Correspondents’ Dinner: the first came from the gown’s built-in ivory bra, and the second was a pair of open-toe red heels. The model and humanitarian opted to wear her hair pulled back into a bun, so as to better highlight her Tiffany & Co. diamond earrings and bracelet.
2017, Valentino Show
When Valentino showed its pre-fall 2017 collection in New York City, Turlington came out to show her support, wearing a camel coat over a design from the Italian fashion house’s spring 2017 collection. The lace-trimmed dress featured tiers of various pink colors, which Turlington complemented with a pink lip.
2018, Chanel Show
Turlington’s next fashion reunion came at the Chanel Metiers D’art show, which took place at New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. For the occasion, the supermodel selected a sheer lace dress from Chanel’s fall 2018 collection that included a turtleneck and draped long sleeves. Turlington paired the look with matching open-toe heels, a sparkling clutch and diamond stud earrings.
2019, Marc Jacobs Runway
After nearly 25 years away from the runway, Turlington made an epic comeback during Marc Jacobs’ fall 2019 collection in New York City. Arriving straight after a board meeting for Every Mother Counts, Turlington donned a feathery number to close her longtime friend’s show. “I have known and loved this man since I met him at age 16,” Turlington wrote of Jacobs (and her decision to return to the runway) on Instagram.
2022, Chanel Arts Dinner
For an evening with Chanel and the Tribeca Film Festival, Turlington chose a gold silk maxi dress from the French fashion house’s pre-fall 2022 collection. While the Chanel model walked the runway in a logo belt and opera gloves in a similar shade, Turlington took a more pared-back approach with a simple black belt and a Chanel Chain Frame Phone Pouch bag.
2022, in New York City
On her way to a luncheon for the Tribeca Film Festival, Turlington was photographed in a more relaxed Chanel look: jeans, a white t-shirt, blazer and black quilted bag.
2022, CARE Impact Awards
At the end of 2022, the humanitarian organization CARE recognized Christy Turlington for her work as founder and president of Every Mother Counts with its Champion of Women Impact award. Before taking the stage to accept her award, Turlington posed on the orange carpet in a shimmering blue netted design from Tory Burch’s fall 2022 collection (Burch was also one of the evening’s honorees).
2023, Kering Foundation’s Caring For Women Dinner
Turlington brought her daughter Grace Burns as her date to the 2023 Kering Caring for Women dinner (just weeks before Burns’ runway debut in Milan, no less). Naturally, Turlington chose from one of Kering’s luxury fashion labels for her look, wearing an asymmetrical navy gown by Balenciaga. The custom design featured a dramatic train, and Turlington paired the elegant look with black pumps, a clutch and cuff earrings from Balenciaga.