Anne Applebaum, author of the excellent Gulag: A History, asks where did all the gorgeous Russian women, now gracing Vogue covers and tennis courts everywere, come from? "Whatever you may say about the Soviet Union in the 1970s and '80s," she writes, "it was not widely known for feminine pulchritude."
The answer, of course, is that the beautiful women were there all along (Russia is a big country) but
…they didn't have the clothes or cosmetics to enhance their looks, and, far more important, they couldn't use their faces to launch international careers…
Instructive, in this light, is the career of a real Vogue cover girl, Natalia Vodianova. Born in Nizhny Novgorod to a single, impoverished mother, Vodianova ran away from home at 15 to run a fruit stall in the local street market (successfully, according to her official biography). At 17, she was spotted by a French scouting agent and told to learn English in three months. She did–after which she moved to Paris, married a British aristocrat, and went on to become "the face" of a Calvin Klein perfume and to earn $4 million-plus annually.
The deeper point is about not about fashion but about markets and globalization:
Ultimately, what goes for the fashion world goes for other spheres of human activity…what open markets do for beautiful women they also do for other sorts of genius. So, cheer up next time you see a Siberian blonde dominating male attention at the far end of the table: The same mechanisms that brought her to your dinner party might one day bring you the Ukrainian doctor who cures your cancer or the Polish stockbroker who makes your fortune.
See also my theory of why Latvian women are beautiful, Tyler's simple theory of where the women are beautiful and my TED talk which has no beautiful women but does discuss other benefits of globalization.
Hat tip Daniel Lippman.