It is not often that they auction old knickers at Christies, but earlier this year the celebrated wardrobe of Heather Firbank went under the hammer, and an integral part of the collection was her exquisite underwear. Heather Firbank, sister of the novelist Ronald Firbank, was famous for her unique, occasionally eccentric clothes, and though most of them now belong to the Victoria and Albert Museum, the highest bid for the underclothes came from the lingerie manufacturer Janet Reger and her husband Peter. They made copies of the pieces they bought, and tomorrow they will be on sale from Bottom Drawer, 33 Southwick Street, London W.2, and by mail order. They are expensive, certainly, but unfortunately the luxury of Twenties underwear no longer comes at Twenties prices.All accessories are from Maria Cavallo‘s shop Dignetts, at Antiquarius, King’s Road, London S.W.3.
Model is Linda Dagenais.
Words and styling by Meriel McCooey.
Photographed by Sarah Moon.
Scanned from Sunday Times Magazine, November 17th 1974.
If fashion revivals keep accelerating at the current rate, last year’s hot-pants are going to be a cult by the end of the decade. Who would have dreamed that a Fifties teenager’s wardrobe would be back in fashion by his late twenties? In 1958 Teddy Boys were practically extinct now crowds of Teds and Rockers cram the Fishmongers Arms at Wood Green to hear rock groups like Screaming Lord Sutch and the Houseshakers (above). There are now an estimated 20,000 revivalist Teddy Boys in England, and the drainpipe-trouser trade is booming. These pictures show some of the clothes that you’ve only just managed to forget.
A new and influential shop in the King’s Road is run by an original Ted called Malcolm McLaren. Walking into Let It Rock is like walking into a flashback from the Fifties. James Dean and Elvis posters line the walls; period showcases are filled with hair-cream, plastic combs and sweetheart lockets; the juke-box belts out some of the best rock ever recorded, and the clothes on sale would be a credit to Gene Vincent, Presley, Eddie Cochran or anyone else who made the recordings. Boxes of 45s and old fan magazines litter the floor next to genuine valve radios with a three-month guarantee.
Designers like Stirling Cooper and Mr Freedom have been manufacturing Fifties-inspired clothes for some time, but Let It Rock is the only shop selling the real thing. This particular revival is so premature that there is still a large amount of the original stock around; dirndl skirts, stiletto-heeled winkle-pickers, cotton sweaters and plastic jewellery, not to mention 12in. drainpipe trousers and jeans, bootlace ties, luminous socks and blue suede shoes. This is the only place where Teds can buy off-the-peg ‘drapes’ — their mid-thigh Edwardian velvet-trimmed jackets. The phenomenon of Let It Rock is that it is situated in the heart of Chelsea, which Teds regard as ‘enemy territory’; now they’re selling to the newly converted ‘natives’.
The clothes in Let It Rock are inspired by two groups, the Teddy Boys (and girls) and Rockers (and birds). According to McLaren, Teds like the updated rock styles, whereas the Rockers, especially the girls, prefer ‘strong’ ideas like the characteristic shaggy mohair sweater-dresses and winklepicker boots. ‘Chelsea people’ go more for the authentic stuff . . . if you endorse a revival, you might as well get the real thing Fashion can thank the Fifties for some of the most unglamorous and unflattering clothes we ever knew. That is what makes their unmodified rebirth so difficult to understand.
I’m not sure I can say much more about Vivienne Westwood’s body of work which hasn’t already been said. I always think the best quality in a designer is idiosyncrasy, and Westwood had that by the truckload. Her work didn’t stagnate, but it often referenced her own past and continued to translate the wider cultural past into her own language – and yet never tried to be anybody else. Given my magazine collection covers mainly the Sixties and Seventies, I thought it best to celebrate her by doing what I do best, which is trying to go back and show you the starting point for the things we just take for granted decades later. The origins of what she’s best known for are ultimately in the Teddy Boy revival of the early Seventies and her work for ‘Let It Rock’ with Malcolm McLaren, and this captures that early spark – despite the fact that they don’t mention her at all.
I’ve also been meaning to scan this for a while so, now seemed like a good time. I mean, Pat Cleveland and Screaming Lord Sutch photographed by Hans Feurer? What more could you ask for?
Report by Valerie Wade.
Photographed by Hans Feurer.
Scanned from The Sunday Times Magazine, May 14th 1972.
One thing that designer Antony Price really understands is pattern cutting : “I can think of a shape and create an optical illusion — people’s figures don’t change, clothes make figures.” Price, who designed all these clothes, wants women now to start looking artificially female, but “in a sumptuous way — this time it’s bosoms, hips and tiny waists”. He admits to being influenced by the Fifties and his ex-showgirl sister who lives in Miami and looks like his idol Jayne Mansfield. “The Fifties were less extreme, taste was incorporated into everything.” He wants shoes tall and dangerous like his own cowboy boots, but insists that his clothes (available direct or mail order from Che Guevara, 23 Kensington High St, W8) are comfortable. “What’s more comfortable than swimming costume tops?”
So, so good. Model, designer and photographer are the most perfect combination. It even has Manolo Blahnik shoes for good measure.
Model is Gala Mitchell.
Story by Valerie Wade.
Photographed by Karl Stoecker
Scanned from The Sunday Times Magazine, February 13th 1972.
For those who fancy a smooth summer Suliman have made their entire collection in pure Chinese silk. It is a man-and-wife firm, Sam Suliman designing the fabrics – the abstract patterns are hand-painted – and June the clothes. Sam finds this silk perfect for his luminous, sultry colours, which he uses in 15 variations. Everything is hand-washable and available in sizes 8-12 direct and by mail order from Suliman, 48 Maddox Street, London WI , and from Emma Somerset, 5 Police Street, Manchester.
Styled by Valerie Wade
Photographed by Sacha.
Scanned from The Sunday Times Magazine, 28th May 1972.
Superb advert for the MG Midget, photographed in front of The Great Gear Market at 85 Kings Road. Some of the best photos of boutiques have popped up, inadvertently, in adverts. From my archive there is Che Guevara in an Opel advert and Quorum for cigarettes.
Scanned from The Sunday Times Magazine, 7th May 1972.
A kebaya is the traditional organdie blouse which Malay and Indonesian women wear over their sarong. It is lavishly embroidered and trimmed with lace. No two are alike. Now available here, selling from £12.50 for plainer ones to £30 for the most elaborate, they provide summer’s latest exotic look. Worn with old jeans or peasanty skirts, pinned together with antique clasps, the kebaya is the sexiest thing in town.
Model is Uschi Obermaier.
Report by Michael Roberts.
Photographed by Willie Christie.
Scanned from The Sunday Times Magazine, July 7th 1974.
This summer’s new long day skirts might make attractive alternatives for those who fancy a change from shifts and pants. Worn as Italian film actress Nicholetta Machiavelli likes them, with simple T-shirts and an old prop-basket petticoat, they look casual and romantic, and are surprisingly cool to wear.
Styled by Meriel McCooey.
Photographed by Eva Sereny.
Scanned from The Sunday Times Magazine, August 6th 1972.
There is nothing formal about these clothes even though a few years ago most people would have thought they were. They look exotic because the fabrics are either Eastern, or mixtures of Twenties silks and chiffons. Everything is quite simply cut and easy to wear; it is only the fabric combinations that are elaborate. There are many women who don’t like to admit, even to themselves, that clothes are of any importance in their lives — just because they are not striding around in shorts doesn’t mean that they lack style, they just don’t want to be instantly pigeon-holed by what they wear. The clothes shown here are perfect for all those women who “don’t care about fashion”.
Report by Valerie Wade.
Photographed by Sasha.
Scanned from The Sunday Times Magazine, April 4th 1971.
On Thursday evening at 8 o’clock The Avengers comes back. Viewers in London, Scotland and the South will see it, other channels will have to wait until October 2. The new show lacks one vital element. Honor Blackman, who played Cathy Gale, that female gauleiter with a heart of gold, has left television for films and the arms of James Bond.
She is replaced by rangy, redheaded Diana Rigg, an actress already blooded for knock-about violence in shows like King Lear and The Devils with the Royal Shakespeare Company. She plays the new Avenger woman Emma Peel, who is described by A.B.C. television as “the youthful widow of an ace test pilot, daughter of a wealthy shipowner, and an internationally educated symbol of the jet-age female”.
A strong-arm widow, born with such disadvantages, couldn’t fail to be an interesting autumn draw, but the new girl will find it hard work to oust the memory of Cathy Gale from the spot she kicked out for herself in these shows. For, as Cathy Gale, Honor Blackman was mesmeric. Male viewers turned to pulp in their armchairs as she hurled opponent after opponent through plate glass windows, and their TV dinners turned to dust as she half-nelsoned men twice her size.
Women were fascinated too, but for different reasons. They sat glued to their sets wondering what it was she had, that they hadn’t. Her slightly sinister but wholly fathomable allure had little to do with her natural assets ; her toughness, the purring reassurance of her voice, her earthiness ; her blonde hair and wide mouth. Cathy Gale’s real appeal was firmly laced into the shiny black leather of her fighting suits.
The black leather fighting suits she wore, now generally referred to as ‘kinky clothes’ were designed by Frederick Starke. They proved such a success both here and in the U.S.A., where the last series was sold, that the American business men controlling the sales insisted that these clothes should be retained for the next series. This was a mistake. Fashion moves much faster than most business men, and the feeling for black leather was on the wane, long before the last episode was off the screen. But A.B.C. agreed to the American conditions, and Emma was togged up in black leather and boots, looking just like Cathy Gale in a long red wig.
Before the new series was half-way through, the planners realised that some fairly startling changes were taking place in the fashion world. Skirts were getting shorter and women appeared to be crossing their thighs, not their knees. Leather was out. All sorts of animal skins, from snakes to zebras, were in. And op and pop art were having an explosive effect on textile design.
This series is the first to be made on film instead of videotape, which means it could be running in different countries all over the world for the next five to ten years. It would be pushed to keep its con-temporary smack with a limping gimmick like black leather. At this point, with half their film in the bag, A.B.C. called in fashion co-ordinator Anne Trehearne, an ex-fashion editor of Queen magazine, and asked designer John Bates of Jean Varon to plan a new wardrobe for Emma Peel to wear during the last 14 episodes. John Bates is the man who made the now famous daisy dress which 25 red-faced debutantes wore to the same ball.
Designing a wardrobe for a preconceived image is no easy task, but he succeeded in doing this and more besides. His clothes are 100 per cent. modern. He has shortened the skirts (in spite of tough opposition in certain quarters at A.B.C.), re-designed the black leather fighting outfits into modern, one-piece jump-suits, introduced tailored snakeskin and a whole range of op art furs.
In all there are 35 garments with complementary accessories. And for the first time the whole collection will be sold in the shops. (Frederick Starke did sell some of Cathy Gale’s wardrobe, but only selected items.) Over 12 well-known manufacturers, like Edward Rayne, Paul Blanche and Kangol, are co-operating with John Bates at Jean Varon and are making the shoes, the skin coats and the berets under licence; Echo are even making the amusing ribbed sheer nylon stockings. They will all be in the shops in October.
Both the clothes and the series are now saleable properties. It will be interesting to see which proves the biggest draw to interested buyers the striking new clothes or the shiny new girl.
Photographed by David Gittings.
Story by Meriel McCooey.
Scanned from The Sunday Times Magazine, September 26th 1965.
Suddenly this summer the shops are selling masses of hats that before would have only been dug up for garden parties, weddings, sports days or camping it up. For years magazines and designers have shown their clothes with hats, but they don’t usually turn up in the street. Fashion editors often feature ‘picture hats’ like those on the previous page posed in some romantic setting or framing an immaculate new make-up, but one never actually sees them on a number 19 bus. Now hats have gone the way of all clothes; there are no rules; you can wear anything with anything. Any hat, whether it’s wide-brimmed and floppy with half a haberdashery department stuck over it, or a small crocheted cloche pinned with a bunch of plastic fruit, i fine with either nostalgic Forties’ dresses or a dirty old pair of jeans. And you can still wear it to a wedding if you want to.
Modelled by Jean Shrimpton.
Photographed by Hans Feurer.
Scanned from The Sunday Times Magazine, June 20th 1971.