Conclusion: We were all in a daze.
And don’t even get me started on the fact that Mr Brownwindsor was sitting there chatting to Sylvia Ayton and I utterly failed to ask her to sign my Boutique book, which was sitting in my bag.
Conclusion: I’m useless.
However, I did get Lee Bender to sign my copy of her new book. And she recognised my nudey lady blouse immediately. Hurrah! Geek heaven…
I’m generally a bit squeaky and shy when it comes to asking questions in front of a huge audience of people. I can talk to a much admired designer up close and where only they witness my idiocy. But, after much cajoling beforehand, I realised I simply had to ask the question I’d been dying to ask since I wrote this blog [almost exactly] three years ago.
“How do you feel about being copied yourself* these days? Particularly with the Kate Moss for Topshop…..” I think I might have trailed off at this point because a look of thunder crossed her face. I squeaked inwardly, fearing I may have offended. But it turned out that she was just registering her anger at exactly the same thing that I had been angry about. She mentioned having seen a blog about it; I exclaimed that it was my blog, my dress. “Aha! I thought you looked familiar!”.
*She had spoken about her own experiences of taking inspiration from vintage pieces.
Terrifyingly fabulous when you realise your idols actually see what you write about them. I had the same stomach flip when John Bates said he had seen my website. I often forget, and I ramble on about them in the same way I would ramble on about Ossie Clark, knowing full well I can’t offend him.
Anyway, the talk itself was great. Albeit not quite sufficient for a complete geek like me. Certain people (mainly my boyfriend) keep having to gently but firmly remind me that of course I’m not going to be satisfied with whatever book/documentary/q&a session I’m witnessing. I already know most of what they’re talking about. I’m seeking the finer details. Dates, times, people, evidence. Sadly, it’s the lot of the fashion historian.
Which is also my problem with the new Bus Stop book. On balance, I would say it’s definitely worth owning (the more I look at it, the less I see the flaws). And mine holds greater importance now it’s actually got her dedication inside. But it’s not the most gorgeously produced book in the world, the design/layout leaves a lot to be desired, and it’s a crying shame that it will probably be the only one we’ll see on Lee and her work.
The problem is limited resources. She didn’t keep anything (by her own admission – you should have heard the gasps when she mentioned donating things to charity a few years back) so mostly it is filled with her illustrations. Which are very lovely. But I’m a geek. And I need information laid out in timeline form, or at least vaguely timeline-ish, and I need dates on photos. I need better quality scans of photos. But again, I am being pernickety because quite a few of the magazine photos within are from magazines I already own and could scan myself (and clean them up a bit in photoshop).
There was limited research going on, and many things slipped under the radar. Par exemple…
Oh yes. If books were produced by Miss Peelpants, they’d probably be the geekiest books in the world. But I’m not even being THAT geeky really. There are photos of Joan Collins and Barbara Bach in Bus Stop gear, presumably because those were the only ones they thought they had evidence of.
Also, there are so many Bus Stop fanatics and collectors out there; any of us would have been happy to have had our garments photographed professionally I’m sure.
My favourite part of the evening, weirdly, was the slight hint of anti-Bibaness. Which might surprise you, because I really do love Biba and Barbara Hulanicki and clearly am never afraid to express this through my blog and website. But I’m not unaware of her flaws. And I’m also starting to get a bit bored with the Biba dominance in coverage of the era.
As Lee herself, and others I chatted to afterwards, pointed out; Bus Stop clothes were made for women. Women with boobs and a bum. Barbara was designing for women with legs up to their armpits and no boobs. I don’t have the most generous bosom in the world, but Biba squishes me out in all directions sometimes. I appreciate the boldness of that as a design decision (the flagrant “if you’re not this shape, tough, you’ll wear the clothes and hope they make you look that shape” attitude) but it doesn’t always work when you need your clothes to work. Which is why I’m always wittering on about Lee Bender making wearable gear; she just WAS.
The actual rivalry with Biba was touched on, she told a brief story about both her and Barbara ending up in the same Kensington restaurant one night and being kept well apart by their companions, but this just made me even more sad. Biba gets two or three books, glossily and hard-backedly dedicated to the high altar of art deco fabulousness. Bus Stop will probably only ever get this one, making it look like the ‘also-ran’ it never was. But I’m immensely glad it even exists, quite frankly.
Someone (preferably not Topshop, although they owe her big time) needs to give Lee Bender the opportunity to design a new range of clothes. Hulanicki’s range for Topshop was such a crushing disappointment; I would dearly love to see someone who REALLY wants to do it, and isn’t just ‘phoning it in’, making a huge success with fresh, wearable designs and an understanding of women’s bodies.
Edited to add a link to a pic of the fabulous WendyB in a very similar Marie France dress she bought from me (I think!!) ages ago. I knew I remembered having a similar one and thought it might have been on Wendy’s blog, so many, many thanks for jogging my memory! Doesn’t she look GORGEOUS? You could look just as gorgeous as WendyB in the bamboo version…
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.
No, Emmapeelpants is not becoming can’tstandstillpants. I’m still very much loungingaroudasmuchaspossiblepants. Although that only really happens at weekends these days. Which is, in itself, a vast improvement on how things used to be.
Here’s a delightful (but a delightful pain-in-the-arse to scan) photoshoot with my aforementioned favourite dance troupe, Pan’s People, from Petticoat Magazine (May 1969). I suppose trousers for women were still something of a novelty in 1969, but there’s no excuse for usage of the word ‘pants’ for trousers in a British magazine.
Boring, functional work-related post alert!!
Just to let you know of three new listings in the daywear department (and to alert you to some others you might have missed the other day). Plenty more to come; I’m hoping to list a Marie France, an original Twiggy labelled dress and a Holly Harp by the end of the week. And more if I possibly can…. Wish me luck!
Well we all need help with that. Sadly, this just means in terms of temperature. Although it is very much on my wavelength about such things. I just don’t see the need to instantly strip off as soon as there is a hint of sunlight.
Still wearing a moderate weight vintage coat, I was being blown along the seafront last weekend and frowning at people walking along in shorts. Do they just have a different inner thermostat to me? Or did they, as I suspect, look out of the window, see the sunshine and feel a steely determination to wear as few clothes as possible and get down to the beach? Chillblains or no chillblains…
Even when it genuinely is rather balmy, I still don’t see any great need to strip off…I like clothes too much.
Anyway, enough of my rambling and on with this superb spread from The Observer Magazine, 3 August 1969. Not only do I love the clothes (both his and hers), but I love the settings and overall feel of the photos by Clive Arrowsmith.
Hot days in sticky cities can be miserable. But there’s no need to take to a beach dress or wear your tie draped round your nabel. Keep morale up, temperature down with cover-up clothes in lightweight fabrics styled simply in cool, clear colours.
Oh I love this dress. I hope it’s vintage, but deep down I suspect not. She’s really been looking stunning at promotional events lately, and I really envy that hair colour. I like to think it would suit me [being just as pale - possibly paler - and with ginger running in my family] but I suspect it would not. Boohiss.
En route back from the dentist [oh yeah, I have to have yet another wisdom tooth removed. Score will now be Removed Wisdom Teeth: 5, Remaining Wisdom Teeth: 1. Am toothsome freak.], I actually ventured into the shops. It felt weird. I felt a bit shaky. I started to hate people again. I really don’t hate people at all, I’m always happy to be chatting to someone new and I’m always polite to anyone I meet. But I hate people when they shop.
I think I’m just spoilt now. I’m pretty much entirely vintage orientated (around 95% if you will) except for a handful of modern things for which I run in, squeak, pick up, buy and run out again. I cannot deal with changing rooms; I haven’t bought new jeans in a good couple of years for this reason. If the queue for the till is more than four people I put things down and run out again. In fact, I did that with two pairs of sunglasses today. I know my measurements off by heart, so why on earth should I have to take three different sizes in each piece I’m interested in into the changing rooms because shops can’t get a grip on sizing?
My heart sinks when I see a rail full of the same thing. Or things clubbed together to create this season’s ‘look’. Where’s the fun in that? The sudden vogue for stripes makes me (Queen of Stripes) want to bung mine in a box until they’ve all gone away. [I'm alarmed by the sudden belly top phenomenon. Can it really be over 15 years since I craved such things myself? Cheap nylon ra-ra skirts and belly tops make me want to take a pair of scissors to the rails of the high street. And they'd look much better for it.]
See? Spoilt. Utterly.
I expect the thrill of the unknown, of the great discovery just around the corner. I’m also spoilt in that, when I am expected to enter proper shops with friends, I can at least window shop in comfort in Westwood or wherever. The prices might make my eyes water, but there’s all sorts of varied, well made pieces which make my heart skip a beat and aren’t made from 100% polyester. The staff are bonkers and lovely, and want to smooch your backside just to make a sale (makes a change from surly teenagers in Topshop, non?). And you can be sure I’ll be heading straight home to check out ‘ending soonest’ eBay auctions for Westwood; it takes the edge off the tears of poverty. Boohoo.
Today I was really quite shocked. Have things got worse on the high street, or have I just been away too long? Sizing issues are definitely getting worse (and I can tell purely from looking at them, nothing was going to induce me into a changing room…), prices are pretty ridiculous for quality no better than Primark. Who I loathe, but at least their prices are honest in relation to the quality.
Please tell me I’m not the only one who browses websites, like Topshop.com, thinks ‘ooh, that’s kinda nice’ then goes in store and cannot restrain an involuntary and very audible ‘bleurghhhhhh’ when they actually pick it off the rail. See above. £50 for a viscose Ossie copy? Viscose used to be nice. Some of my favouritest Jeff Banks pieces have been viscose. It felt like a walking fire hazard. And no amount of Sure would rescue you from sweating like a bitch in it. What’s wrong with these people??
The worst thing of all, though, is the fabric. Even when you might possibly find something in a natural fibre, more often than not, it’s been lined in polyester. Or the nastiest stretch nylon. Errrr…..why? Why not just line in cheap cotton? At least then you can just wash and iron to your heart’s content and your skin will be able to breathe. A couple of frocks I contemplated buying, with the intention of hacking out the aforementioned ny-lining. Then I caught myself and slapped my own wrist. £25 for something I’m going to have to alter to make it wearable? Kill me now. I should be mooching around vintage shops for something which looks the same and won’t make me boil in the bag.
That said, it’s not all bad. Topshop offered up a black bodysuit which will go nicely with a whole host of gorgeous vintage skirts I already own (and surely some I have yet to acquire) and I’ve fallen in love with a pair of shoes in M&S. They’re wildly impractical (Wedges? Shiny? Colour block? They won’t go with anything, my feet will sweat and I’ll probably fall over! I must be brave and resist temptation to buy the safer blue version. I might as well buy these gorgeous blue buckled heels.) but I love them. And they look much better on a foot than these photos make them look, I can assure you.
I had to physically remove myself from the temptation and be going back when I’ve thought about it good and proper. Because, frankly, my heart really wants to buy these Terry De Havillands from TinTrunk’s Etsy shop:
No, I’m not being rude, it’s the actual title of the article which accompanied this amazing photo by the endlessly fabulous James Wedge (19 Magazine, March 1974). I love his photos. I love his hats (remind me to photograph mine some day…). I love his look.
It’s quite like his hand-tinted photo which has always been one of my favourite images in the Marnie Fogg Boutique book. Amazing!