Grace Coddington photographed by Helmut Newton.
Scanned by Miss Peelpants from Vogue, February 1966
Grace Coddington photographed by Helmut Newton.
Scanned by Miss Peelpants from Vogue, February 1966
You may, or may not, have noticed that I frequently post scans of favourite underwear shoots on this here blog. I aspire to the level of lounging glamour demonstrated by ladies of the past; no tracksuits or slankets chez Miss Peelpants – oh no no no… I also feel as limited and uncomfortable in a lot of modern underwear as I do in a lot of modern clothing, so it seems only logical to buy and wear vintage pieces.
So I am delighted to announce the launch of Loungerie at Vintage-a-Peel. The name is inspired by a spread from Honey Magazine which I posted a while back, and the stock is inspired by all my very favourite underwear photoshoots and saucier source material I may encounter. If vintage underwear isn’t your thing, that’s totally understandable, but for anyone else – I do hope you find something to tempt you (and your lover…).
And with names like Ossie Clark, Janice Wainwright, Rudi Gernreich, Bruce Oldfield and Janet Reger, this is certainly no ordinary lingerie section!
They were all beautiful in their twenties, and they remain beautiful to this day, but I have come to the conclusion that many of my favourite women looked their very, very best in their thirties and early forties. Which may or may not be somewhat biased by my own entering of my thirties. Ok, so I entered them three years ago but still… I think it is an important thing to notice, when all around are becoming consumed by vanity and their faces destroyed by undesirable injectables.
The puppy fat has fallen away, the features now more defined and enhanced by laughter lines and emerging cheekbones. They look relaxed; as if the pressure of ‘looking good’, which so restrains a teen or twenty-something, has lifted with the knowledge that none of it really matters a great deal. Maybe they’ve had a baby, maybe they don’t want to, maybe they’re still waiting for the right moment (Diana Rigg was 39 when she had Rachael). They know any man worth his salt won’t mind seeing them without make-up, and that he doesn’t really care about the size of their breasts or backsides. They know how swiftly life is passing, how much has been missed already, and how relatively little retains its importance ten or twenty years later. They don’t try to make up for their age by ignoring it or trying to behave like teenagers, they simply embrace the things which are worth embracing. They still make mistakes, but can handle them with good grace.
I realise I am making the cardinal mistake of putting words into people’s mouths and making sweeping generalisations, but I wanted to express how looking at these women makes me feel. And how it reminds me of why it is ok for me to have changed, to have matured and to have grown into my appearance. We all have moments when we wish we still had all that youth on our side, but a few quick glances at things I wrote, men I dated or photographs of myself ten years ago – soon remind me that I didn’t know anything, had very poor taste in men and was quite chubby in the face. All things I am glad to have [hopefully] grown out of.
So whether you are here (there) already, or have it yet to come, I hope you can remember these incredible women and weep for the stupidity of the likes of Lindsey Lohan, Lara Flynn Boyle or Carla Bruni. Plus, don’t forget to check back in with me in ten years time and see if I’ve started saying that ‘actually they looked better in their fifties…’.
Apologies for vague dating of some pictures, the tumblr effect means that very few are dated for me and I’ve had to do a certain amount of guesswork… Also, certain people I think looked lovely in their thirties have gone on to have pretty lousy work done to their faces and have, consequently, not been featured here. That’ll teach ’em!
And in case you needed any more evidence, please see Duran Duran’s now infamous supermodel-stuffed video for Girl Panic!. Personally I believe they all look far, far better than they did in their modelling heyday.
Since returning from Paris, I’ve managed to do considerably less work than I ought to have done. However, it has been in the name of enjoyable vintage-related shenanigans so I don’t mind too much. I am working on new listings now, so I will let you know when they go up!
On Thursday night, I was at the launch of the new Brian Duffy book (published by ACC) which I will be reviewing (or salivating over, if you know me at all) soon. Idea Generation gallery in Shoreditch are having an exhibition and sale of Duffy prints, which are all superb. I particularly adore the picture of Grace Coddington with her boobs out, and Christine Keeler….also with her boobs out. A pattern is emerging, methinks.
Talking of boobs…. As lovely as these photos are, I have seen them all before. This meant that I was a smidge distracted by the howling, and I really do mean that, typos on the captions beside each image. It brought out my worst side, Miss Pedantpants, and here is my gallery of shame (I’ve highlighted the worst offenders…). The book doesn’t have these typos, I hasten to add, so the Idea Generation lot really need to buck their Ideas up. It’s not a professional look. Unless they really do have Yoda writing for them…
Pedantry aside, it was a great evening. The photos are well worth having a gander at, even if you can’t afford to buy a print, and it’s a lovely, airy exhibition space. I would recommend peeking into the smaller side room, since there’s a glass covered table full of Duffy ephemera and smaller, less well-known photos on the walls.
We also ended up having a little chat with Brian’s younger brother (why on earth am I so terrible with people’s names? Shameful. He was a dude!) who was genuinely lovely and happy to talk about his big brother. I was unusually sober, unusually for such an event, due to the fact that only beer was on offer. A state which was not achieved when I attended the 4th Annual Transatlantic Blogger meet-up on Saturday.
It’s become tradition to meet, eat and drink [Pimm’s] when the gorgeous WendyB visits London in the Summer. It’s also my tradition to forget my camera and rely on other people’s photos afterwards, so thank you to Wendy and Kate for providing me with a few shots to share (if you haven’t already seen them on their blogs!).
It was as lovely as always to see gorgeous laydeez Kate, Margaret and Sharon Rose, and an absolute joy to finally meet the legendary MrB. Needless to say, conversation came around to recent newspaper events, and there was much gossip, advice and a valuable and hilarious education in blunt euphemisms from the brilliant Kate.
I was wearing an Ossie Clark crepe skirt and a pink and yellow knitted top by Erica Budd. I’ve seen Erica Budd as a name in my Petticoat and Honey magazines for years now, but never possessed or even seen one. So I was chuffed to find that particular beauty. The Ossie is an absolute staple of mine, and the shoes are the most insanely comfortable wedges (comfortable given the 5 inch heel anyways…) from Marks and Spencer. I realise I lose cred for them being M&S, but they look and feel good so I don’t give a hoot! But I did have a hoot on Saturday (even if I did pay for it with a Pimm’s headache) so thank you ladies!
As a wise man said to me very recently, it should have been mandatory for publications to identify their models back in the Sixties and Seventies. Luckily, some of you are very good at this anyway. (I am not). Also luckily, such features as this exist. From Honey, July 1967, we have a handy feature on some up-and-coming models of the time.
Twiggy, obviously, needs no introduction. The glorious Grace Coddington, Paulene Stone, Shirley Anne Hayes and the ethereally lovely Charlotte Martin feature amongst some lesser-[to me]-known beauties. If any of them ever do an ego-search on Google and find this blog, please do email me and let me know what you’re up to now!
Occasionally I go and gorge myself stupid over at the magnificent Youthquakers site. They make no pretence of scanning perfection, which means they can bombard you with a tonne of amazing Vogue scans at any one time. I feel exhausted just looking at it. It also means that a complete Brit-fashion geek like me (with more magazines than I can cope with) can take a look at copies of US Vogue, which I can rarely justify getting hold of myself.
I spotted this brilliant piece in a February 1970 US Vogue. Mrs Chow was, of course, Grace Coddington and Mrs ‘Liberson’ was, in fact, Marit Allen. Fashion journalism legend and boutique collector extraordinaire. She was the wife of Sandy Lieberson (tsk! tsk!, US Vogue fact checkers…), who was a film producer and to whom I am extremely grateful for bringing That’ll Be The Day, Stardust and Rita, Sue and Bob Too! into my life.
Also, Penelope Tree. Yay!
One of my favourite quotes (“If you have style, you have to have it right down to your knickers”) comes from this article, also in the May 1969 Petticoat, so I thought I would share the entire piece with you all. It teams a quiz about whether you have style with a rare Alice Pollock interview. Delish!
Wearing a loose-fitting black trouser suit, Alice Pollock curled up on a black leather sofa in a black-walled room, over her Chelsea boutique Quorum and grinned elf-like through her black lipstick.
She was so obviously stylish that it was almost embarrassing to ask her to define the word “style”. It was like asking her to explain away her entire personality.
Looking very serious, she said: “You know that old saying about wearing nice underwear in case you get involved in a road accident? Well, to me, that is a very stylish cliche. If you have style, you have to have it right down to your knickers. And to be really stylish, you have to have a clean, healthy body and clean hair to go with all your smart clothes.”
She clasped her long, brown hands behind her undoubtedly clean, short hair and added thoughtfully: “Clothes alone don’t make a person stylish–but they do help. I think that if you’ve got style and you’re really together, you couldn’t walk around looking like a complete un-thought about mess. The two things go hand in hand. A stylish person uses clothes to express their style–but it’s just as important that they have clean hands and nails and tidy handbag.”
Warming to the subject she added: “Of course, the whole style thing goes a lot deeper than this. It is accepting yourself, and before you can do that, you have to find out what you are and this is one of the most difficult things in the world to do. Finding out what you are is using your experiences (and this means the band ones as well as the good ones) and trying to apply the lessons you learn from them to the next thing you do.
“For example, if you find that at the end of something, you have made twenty new enemies and lost ten friends, you have to decide firstly, whether you were positively right and honest in the action you took and secondly, whether it is better for your personal and professional satisfaction to have twenty enemies, or whether it was better before when you had ten friends. In other words, learn something from it. This is the way to find out about yourself and develop a style.”
Alice said she thoguht there were a few lucky people born with style, but that most of us had to work at it:
“To work out a style for yourself is very difficult as you must be very careful that it is natural and not acquired as a facade. It’s got to be what you really want–what you really dig–and it’s got to end up by being what you feel. When you have sorted out your style, it is a good idea to involve as many of the right people as possible, so that the whole thing ends up as one enormous style. We live in a society and what we do must reflect society to be of any value.
“A thing which doesn’t reflect society may be very beautiful but have no style.”
She thought for a moment and came up with an example:
“There’s a beautiful, enormous building at the end of Oxford Street and although it is lovely, it is just not practical because it was designed without calculation as to what might happen to the environment if it ever filled up. If that building was ever put to full use, there wouldn’t be any room for the workers to park their cars; there wouldn’t be enough buses or tube trains to bring them to work and there would be no room in the nearby restaurants during the lunch hours. Something like that which doesn’t work has no style.
“When I design clothes, I am very aware of the utility side of it. I know that a garment that feels uncomfortable can cramp style. As a designer, this is something which I can concern myself with but what I have no control over, is where and on what occasions the customers who buy our clothes, will wear them. This is very important because style is very much concerned with doing the right thing in the right place. If you go to a race meeting in your high heel shoes or out to the grocers in your chiffon dress, you probably won’t look very stylish. You have to adapt your style–and this means in every way, not just clothes. I mean, it’s no good putting on your Jimi Hendrix record and playing it to some business man who just wouldn’t appreciate it.”
She waved her arm at a rack full of Quorum clothes.
“Wear those to a really straight business lunch and no one will dig them. You’ll be wasting your time. Style is a matter of coming to the right decision. For instance, if you’re going out and you wonder whether you ought to put on a lot of make-up or a little. Confidence is very important. If you feel confident about your looks, you’ll be all right. Better to wear something you like and feel good in that something you think the latest fashion.”
Tucking up her knees, she pointed to her feet: “For instance, I love these old brown boots, although some people might say that they don’t go with what I am wearing. If you really love something, and you trust your own judgment; wear it.
“If you don’t trust your own judgment however, try copying the style of someone you admire. Combine the parts of her look which you like with what you look good in.”
I asked Alice whom she thought of, as having style and she came with the Burtons, Grace Coddington, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Twiggy, and her partner, Ossie Clark. For people with no style, Savundra and John Bloom.
“There’s nothing less stylish than making a big public goof involving hundreds of ordinary people. To have style, you must have faith in what you do. You must put your heart into it for it to come out saying ‘style’. It must be what you really, really believe in.”
I must say that while, for the most part, she does talk a lot of sense, I’m not quite sure I agree with her statement about not wearing a chiffon dress to the grocers. I think those kinds of big, bizarre statements can often indicate a very stylish person. Thinking for yourself and going against the grain of expectation and convention.
It’s certainly a vastly different outlook from the ones usually spouted by male designers (like Ossie himself or the fabulous John Bates), coming from the perspective of being a woman. But I think she sounds rather curiously conservative, actually, and I prefer a balance between her ideas and the more extravagant ‘wear what you want, surprise people!’ mentality of the male designer.
I’d be very interested to hear what you all think. Ultimately though, ‘style’ is totally indefinable and to ‘be stylish’ in most people’s eyes often seems rather dull to me.
You may (or may not…where have you been hiding??) know of my love for the work of John Bates. He’s a pretty important designer to me, and [via The Avengers and subsequent research] is a big part of why I have gone down this career path. I’ve met him twice and he has also, more recently, completely unwittingly and indirectly changed another part of my life. For which I’m very grateful, and which he will have no idea about.
Senti will be witness to the fact that I nearly fainted when I read what he had written in my copy of Richard Lester’s book about him. I had been wearing an early red chiffon Varon to the launch, and he wrote ‘Love the red chiffon and it fits perfectly!’. Perhaps that wouldn’t affect other, normal, people in the same way. But it was like a slice of heaven for me.
Anyhoo. I don’t post a lot about my personal collection these days. To be honest with you, I’ve let go of a few things here and there. Other things need re-photographing. And several are still sitting in a no man’s land of ‘maybe I ought to sell this, really’. Hence I removed those sections from the website before I relaunched and haven’t reinstated them yet.
I am still trying to thin down the Bates collection. Which is hard. You can’t even imagine how much so. It’s easier to sell an Ossie, frankly, because I know I can get a fair market value for it. But Bates is still very ‘all over the place’ and I don’t want to gamble with such gorgeous frocks.
My plan is to have a comprehensive mid-Sixties array of his work. The varied, inspirational designs of his early years. Plus a decent selection of everything from then on, but minimalised greatly from what it has been. If I was having any doubts about this idea, they were swiftly removed by my most recent acquisition.
The really good, really early and representative Bateses don’t turn up very often. And you often forget that, for example, you’ve personally never seen an example of his panelled crepe work turn up. Or a dress with laced panels (which I also acquired last year, and need to photograph, sorry!). I’m very lucky to own a PVC example, and a dress with foil trim – those are pretty scarce as well. I love this dress. Passionately. I can’t find a direct photographed example, but it’s got to be from the same year as the Twiggy and Grace Coddington photos (below and at the top of the post).