Lisa Gutierrez?and Joyce Smith
Kansas City Star

The woman on Page 56 of the new Victoria’s Secret catalog has long blond hair, a taut midriff, mile-long legs — and a big ol’ gap between her two front teeth.

The headline: Sexy in Sweats.

The fashion gods have spoken. Flawless pearly whites? That’s so 2011, so ordinary. Imperfect smiles are in.

Incisors with that distinctive little interval have ruled runways and ad campaigns for a few seasons now, and have you noticed the bumper crop on TV? Elisabeth Moss and Jessica Pare on Mad Men are both gap-toothed. So is Oscar winner Anna Paquin on True Blood.

“I think we’re getting away from that cookie-cutter image. … I think this is kind of breaking the mold,” said Kim Hoffman, owner of Hoffman International modeling agency in Overland Park, Kan.

And while women are not yet having gaps installed, the rush to have all teeth touching may be slowing.

The gap-toothed have long been among us, as musicians (Madonna, Elton John, Amy Winehouse) and goofballs (Eddie Murphy, David Letterman, Alfred E. Neuman). You couldn’t miss ex-football player Michael Strahan’s imperfect, infectious, face-splitting grin when he took Regis Philbin’s place next to Kelly Ripa on daytime TV this month. In Tampa, Condoleezza Rice smiled big for the cameras at the Republican convention.

Even golfer Tom Watson has been described by countless sportswriters over the years as having a gap-toothed grin/grimace/smile, depending largely on how his putts have dropped.

At the moment, the fashion world can’t get enough of Lindsey Wixson, Lara Stone and Mick Jagger’s daughter Georgia May, all models with dental divides, all of whom are modeling for the biggest designers — Prada, Chanel, Calvin Klein.

When Wixson was growing up in Wichita, Kan., other girls made fun of her spatially challenged smile. Dentists asked whether she wanted braces to close the gap. “My parents didn’t think I needed braces because my teeth were straight,” she said by email on her way to Europe.

Now she’s a teenage supermodel, one of fashion’s It Girls, appearing in one photoshoot after another.

So who’s grinning now?

Lusty? Lucky? Lovely? Gap teeth have been all those through the ages.

In The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer’s wife of Bath had gap teeth and the lustful leanings associated in folkloric tradition. In Nigeria, Ghana and other African countries, a woman with gap teeth is considered beautiful and fertile.

The French call them “les dents du bonheur,” teeth of happiness. (Except, one could argue, in the case of French singer/actress Vanessa Paradis. Yes, she models Chanel lipstick with her quirky choppers, but she also recently split up with Johnny Depp, a self-described lover of “teeth that aren’t perfect.”)

“Celebrities tend to dictate to some people how we look, how we act,” said Merle Nunemaker, legislative chairman for the Missouri Dental Association and a dentist in south Kansas City.

“But most of my patients, given the opportunity, would like to have those gaps fixed.”

Pare, who plays Don Draper’s latest wife on Mad Men, reportedly landed the role because the show’s creator, Matt Weiner, loved her quirky grin. But it has taken years for those smiles to be in vogue.

Actress Paquin is fiercely proud of her calling-card smile and thinks it’s rude of people to ask why she hasn’t “fixed” her smile.