Icons? Or clichés?

audrey hepburn, brigitte bardot, cherry gillespie, Françoise Hardy, jo grant, man about the house, miss peelpants's rants, pan's people

All coincidences are intriguing, even if they are not all serendipitous. A few weeks back, Mr Brownwindsor and I went to the NFT to see Annie Hall. I was curious to see it anyway, as a relative newcomer to the world of Woody Allen, but I was also intrigued by the iconic status of Diane Keaton’s androgynous style statements (which, according to the accompanying literature, were entirely her own and perfectly preserved by Allen, against the costume designer’s better judgement.).

I emerged in my seemingly perpetual state of “mixed feelings”. I enjoyed the film, no doubt about it, and I was as entranced by the character and appearance of Annie as much as any others who have seen that film, before and since. But I am a contrary so-and-so (indeed, my middle name is Mary!) and I could not shake the sensation of ennui. I am bored of conventional style icons. I wholeheartedly resent the fact that so many are appropriated by the media, the fashion press and, these days, by the blogging community.

Beautiful as Audrey may have been, as sensuous as Brigitte patently was, as unnervingly cool as Françoise Hardy always will be, I am tipping over into boredom when I look at them now. Even the obscure ones aren’t so obscure any more.

The same goes for Keaton’s Annie Hall style. Barely an Autumn season goes by without several half-witted fashion editors conceiving an ‘Annie Hall’ editorial. Two weeks ago, You Magazine gave the world the least convincing Emma Peel-influenced spread I have ever seen in my life. And I have seen a fair few. I actually laughed, out loud.

Afterwards, we wandered into the South Bank branch of Foyles. As if to prove my point, there I found a book which, frankly, made me want to hate it just from the cover. I cannot even remember the title it was so dull (and I didn’t recognise the author) – something about fashion icons and getting their style. It did not disappoint me. Page upon page giving flimsy advice on how to pull off various looks, each section led by an ‘icon’.

For a Deborah Harry rock chick-look, you will need to wear smudgy eyeliner and tousle your hair. For a Brigitte Bardot bombshell-look, you will need to wear eyeliner and tousle your hair. For a Françoise Hardy yéyé-look you will need to….. Need I continue?

The laugh-out-loud moment came for me when I saw the section containing Stevie Nicks and Kate Bush. How to be a ‘free spirit’. Seriously? If you need to read a book which tells you how to dress, make-up or style your hair like a free spirit, then you really are not one. Defeating. Entire. Object.

Everyone should feel free, especially in personal expression through appearance. People should never feel like they are compelled to stick with one style forever. If you want to change your look every day, good for you. But if you need to read a book which shows pictures of Kate Moss in the ‘free spirit’ section, alongside the genuine article, then there is something seriously wrong with how you are approaching your personal style, and vintage clothing.

For surely the joy of personal style, and the development thereof, is just that. Personal. Learning what works for you, not what works for the women you admire. Those women were not trying to look like someone, they worked hard to find their own image.

I find I pick obscure ‘icons’ for my own purposes. Both deliberately and subconsciously. A smattering of Chrissie from Man About The House here, a dash of Noosha Fox there, a hybrid of Pan’s People and a snifter of Jo Grant. But I don’t look like any of them, and really I just want to look like me. Liz. I would feel repelled if I saw a Youtube tutorial on how to achieve Noosha’s make-up, or Cherry’s enormous hair. I look and learn, or don’t.

I wish all authors the best of luck, but I also wish that they would take the remarkable opportunity they have and do something different with it. Something unique. Something thought-provoking. The kind of waffle I was reading in that book was worthy of a second-rate fashion blogger, not a published author.

I rarely write long posts these days. Partly time, partly energy and partly because I am not always convinced that the world needs yet another person giving their opinion about style. These days, I try to share the quirky, unseen images which so excite me. The thrill of a new-old copy of an obscure magazine; the bizarre, experimental photography, the unusual looking models, the daft adverts for naff clothes which I openly covet, the beauty of illustrations…

So here is my first proper ‘post’ for a while. I hope people can feel proud of their true selves, comfortable in their skin and not behind the mask of someone else.

Incidentally, for an authentic Pan’s People look, you will need to wear smudgy eyeliner and tousle your hair. Oh…