Far too many RIP posts these days; another beloved Pan’s People dancer, beautiful Louise Clarke, has died – at the too-young age of 63. Thanks for the moves, doll x
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…
Flick Colby, genius choreographer and creator of my beloved Pan’s People, Ruby Flipper and Legs & Co. dance troupes, has very sadly lost her battle with cancer at the age of 65. As with so many creative legends, the real tribute is in their body of work – and what a body of work Flick had! Here are some favourite photos and performances (Flick’s own performances, prior to bowing out from the dancing, are limited because of the BBC’s wanton destruction of their archives in the Seventies). Rest in peace, beautiful lady.
So, I give you, the ultimate gift-wrapped butt bows….
Down with lurgies and stress! Boo, and may I say, hiss. I haven’t felt much like posting here, or anywhere. I’m lining up some listings when I’m able though, and they should be up and running next week I hope. Until then, or until I have the energy to post properly again, here is a lovely, shiny post with lots of lovely inspirational images I’ve picked up here and there.
Boo-ga-loo-ing, as Marsha Hunt says, is emotional. You can dance if you feel good and know what you’re doing but, if you feel nervous and inhibited, you’ll just look that way. Around Christmas there are always a lot of parties and you want to look groovy. You want to look hip-with-it, not all gawky. So, to make you feel kind & confident, we’ve devised a special Flick Book. It’s the latest dancing and it’s really simple. All you have to do is cut out each picture carefully. Pile them high starting with no. 1 at the bottom and bulldog clip ‘em together. Then flick the pages and see how it’s done.
Pretty Flick Coleby [sic] is the young choreographer and lead dancer of Pan’s People — six girls and sometimes two men — who dance on “Top of the Pops” and other pace-setting programmes. They are easily the best group around, so Flick’s advice is really hot.
“When you’re dancing, bypass your head, by-pass your mind and dance from your middle. The minute you start to concentrate on the effect you are making, you are not ‘sent’. You look uptight and stiff.”
Probably the biggest give-away, explained Flick, is keeping your head straight. Let your head relax and move with your body. It won’t fall off. Also, be aware of the expression on your face.
“Don’t look like a dancing machine; have some expression.” Flick suggests practising in front of a mirror at home.
“It’s essential to know what you look like,” she says. “Once you know exactly what happens — when you move your arm in a particular movement, you will feel more confident. You can’t make a fool of yourself.” Flick was cool about clothes.
“Wear as little as possible. Remember it’s hot dancing. If you’ve got good legs, wear a short, short skirt; if you’ve got a good midriff, wear it bare. Make the most of what you’ve got and wear something that flatters you. Fringes on things will accentuate your movement, and so will a belt with a big buckle hung on the hips. Don’t wear something dark; try to swing in something light, or sequined, so you show up and don’t just melt into the shadows. Shoes with a clumpy heel are good, but boots support your ankles. Listen to lots of pop. It helps if you know a record. You’re prepared. You know what’s going to happen next. You can relax land enjoy it.” Above all, Flick says, “Don’t fling your arms around. Keep it neat and tidy. Keep it close. You want to look good, not pretentious.”
Marsha Hunt is a sensational dancer. “I got recognition because of my appearance,” she says. “You see, my hair floats around like candyfloss when I move.” It looks quite fantastic, but apparently taxi-cab drivers don’t think so. They drive straight past, pretending not to see her. “I guess my hair is a bit awesome,” she went on. Still, her promoters don’t agree. They reckon it’s very valuable; they even tried to insure it with Lloyds. Marsha says that her style of dancing is entirely emotional, not contrived at all, so she doesn’t quite know how to tell anyone else how to do it. She just knows that if the music is going in a particular direction she wants her body to go too. But exercises are important.
“People just aren’t aware of the different parts of their bodies. If you ask them to move their hands, they move their fingers. If you ask them to move their hips, sure, they move their hips, but their bodies too. You must be aware of your whole body and the only way is with exercises. I do them every day but I’m not religious about it. Maybe I can’t get it together one day.
Still, if I miss one day a week, in thirty years” time my body will be much healthier than someone who has never done any. I always do my exercises to the same record, You Can’t Always Get What You Want. (That song title sums up a little of Marsha’s philosophy. “I think ‘hope’ is a waste of energy,” she says.). “And I always dance to music I know. Then I know what to say with my body. I can express the lyrics. Otherwise it’s just boo-ga-loo-ing around to sound. But of course my kinds dancing is very egotistic. I am on the stage trying to project something. It’s unnecessary in a club to do such big movements.”
Sometimes I have those crushing moments of clear, crisp reality and remember that people (people other than Lady GaGa, I mean) don’t dress up in truly fantasian styles these days. Unless ‘wags’ or ‘porn stars’ were your childhood fantasy.
What about raggedy dolls, warrior queens, belly dancers and silent film goddesses?
Whilst I continue to [apparently] shock the world with my, ooh – gasp!, novelty duck and rabbit print Miss Mouse dress. Honestly. They don’t know from shocking…
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.