I showed off my beloved Fulham Road Clothes Shop trousers, by Sylvia Ayton and Zandra Rhodes, the other day. But I’ve been waiting to show you the original photograph I have from a copy of 19 Magazine, July 1969.
One of my treasured pieces of fashion ‘ephemera’ is a flimsy paper catalogue for Cathy McGowan’s boutique range of clothes, which launched in 1965. I was pleased for it to be used in Richard Lester’s new book Boutique London: A History: King’s Road to Carnaby Street but, since only the front page was scanned and featured, I thought I ought to scan and share the rest of it!
Cathy ended up getting married in an amazing Celia-print Ossie Clark dress, but at this point she was alternating between Foale and Tuffin and Biba for presenting Ready Steady Go!. You can see a definite Foale and Tuffin influence in these clothes, I think, and I have often wondered how ‘proper’ designers at the time felt about these strange new celebrity “boutiques”.
Photoshoot in Queen’s Wood, Highgate. Typical British “August” weather tried to stop us, but I think they’re beautiful shots. Thank you so much, ladies!
I’m usually all about the Stevie Nicks. I have a fabulous skirt (in severe danger of falling apart at the seams, quite literally) which is identical to one she had. As identical as a patchwork skirt can be. And it’s safe to say, she is one of my biggest style icons. And I was going to do a post about her today. And then I spotted these two photos in the folder and remembered I had spotted that Christine McVie is wearing a gypsy Thea Porter dress, but didn’t blog about it at the time (for some weird reason).
It can’t have been fun being photographed next to Stevie most of the time, so it’s nice to see a rare moment where she outshines her.
I have one Thea Porter gypsy dress which, despite never having found occasion to wear, I cannot bring myself to sell (the skirt is very sheer and, clearly, I will never find a suitably hemmed petticoat to go underneath….). I rather like the fact that mine is a monochrome (aside from the gold silk waist panel), but it doesn’t stop me slightly lusting after the coloured ones as well.
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).
I was delighted to be at the opening of the Foale and Tuffin: Made in England exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum last Thursday night. F&T at the F&T, why have they not made more of this? Am I strange to find it quite cute? Perhaps…
Anyway, I sincerely hope that this exhibition (alongside the new book) will redress some of the scandalously unbalanced and limited modern views on Sixties British fashion. Foale and Tuffin completely rule over Mary Quant, no question. So there. Ner!
(How do you all like my very grown-up argument? Well I don’t want to repeat myself too much, so you can read a previous blog what I wrote way back in 2006.)
I was there in a few capacities, as it turned out, since a last minute dash (a week beforehand) ensured that a couple of my frocks ended up in the exhibition. Which is rather wonderful and I’m really rather stupidly proud. Sniff.
Firstly Natasha, which is a red plush skirt suit from the early Sixties with faux Astrakhan collar and hem. You can juuuuuuust see it in the teeny tiny photo above.
Secondly, and you’re likely to miss it because I think the gals aren’t all that fond of their work for Paraphernalia, the infamous Chrysler dress which was worn in plenty of publicity shots and footage by the magnificent Jenny ‘Juniper’ Boyd. Who was also in attendance, much to Miss Senti’s delight, looking utterly fabulous. In fact, I think she looks even more fabulous now than Pattie does. Controversial? I don’t care…
I had already met Marion and Sally a few years back (at a study day at the V&A; all the fashion students in their knock-off Topshop Bibas went swarming up to Barbara Hulanicki and Mary Quant and probably didn’t have a clue who F&T were), and then again when I rushed Natasha and Chrysler to the museum the week before, so I didn’t do my usual gibbering fangirl act that particular night. Which felt rather nice and meant I had a more relaxing evening than usual. They have been very sweet to me when I’ve met them, and seemed to like my sartorial choices, so I’m a very satisfied bunny indeed.
(Especially when I nabbed some of the chocolate ‘F’ shaped cake from Marion herself at the party, which was very, very yummy. The ‘T’ was lemon drizzle, which isn’t so much to my taste but I try not to play favourites with fashion double acts and their initial-shaped cakes…)
I should add that Miss Senti is the most extraordinarily fabulous spokesmodel a vintage dealer could ever hope for. She worked the room beautifully in a sequined top and trouser ensemble she bought from me ages ago (before we had even met in the flesh!) and generally out-sparkled everyone. We were scuppered photographically (me because my handbag was too small for my camera, and Senti by her batteries) so we didn’t get any shots of us that night. If any surface, I will be sure to post them.
There were also a few exceedingly well dressed men in the room; one in particular who managed to pick the night after I’d posted this blog to wear stripes in my presence. Wibble. But, again, I was photographically challenged and they’d have had major champagne-blur if I’d managed to take any…
Anyway, the exhibition is brilliant and, as per usual, I need to go back and have a non-champagne-addled look around. I particularly adore the way they’ve set up the ’boutique’ downstairs, but kept having to restrain myself from grabbing some frocks off the rails and running into the changing room. Yes, there’s an actual changing room. That’s just asking for trouble where I’m concerned.
Upstairs there are rails and rails of patterns, hanging behind loads of those divine Liberty print dresses they did so well in the Seventies. In fact, my only complaint would be that there were none of the notorious clown frill pieces which are absolutely by far and away my favourite F&T designs. One day I will own one, and I will wear it everywhere just to freak people out!
There are occasional moments in my life when I realise just how much of a geek I really am. Last week, at the opening of the Undercover underwear exhibition at the FTM (go see it if you’re in London), that came in the moment when I asked the lovely Immodesty Blaize if the dress she was wearing was a Sarah Whitworth. She pulled the back a bit and let me have a look at the label. Which I probably didn’t even need to see, I just needed to confirm my geeky curiousity. In case she ever searches herself online, the design is called ‘Bitch’ – which I totally forgot to tell her! I guess that would have been even geekier, non?
I still can’t find a picture to show you [where did all the official shots go???] but it was very similar to my purple one [except I don't think her frock had the ruching down the front] in a gorgeous emerald green. I will update with a photo if I can ever find one.
Another memorable uber-geek moment was when Miss Senti asked Pattie Boyd who made her divine floaty green dress which had been pinned up on the wall at her book signing. I was determined to bite my tongue until I realised that Pattie was never going to remember the designer’s name and eventually blurted out ‘It looks like a Thea Porter’. “Aha, yes, that’s the one“. I don’t think she judged me, neither did Senti, in fact both seemed pleased to know for sure, but I probably judged myself very heavily for being so flipping geeky.
Well…..it’s not MY fault these designers are so damn idiosyncratic. I wouldn’t zoom across a room to ask someone if they were wearing a Mary Quant, a Caroline Charles or an Annacat (all fab but, unless it was a design I’d already seen, all too vague).
It’s reminded me that I need to do a blog about Sarah Whitworth at some point. Now Pam Hogg has irritated the hell out of me with the whole Susie Bubble blog photo debacle, Sarah can stand alone as my absolute favourite 80s/90s Hyper Hyper-era designer. She’s far more wearable and sexy anyway. Symphony of Shadows comes in a close second these days, and they also deserve a blog all their own very soon. My ‘to do’ list gets ever longer.
I’m also very glad that I chose NOT to wear a Whitworth corset dress to the Underwear opening, else that might have been an awkward matchy-matchy moment with the woman opening the thing. Eek. No, true to [strange] form I decided to go against the Underwear theme and wear an atypical late Sixties Janice Wainwright. No pictures, sadly. I find it very difficult to fall in line with a theme at normal-formal events, is that weird? I’m not even sure how conscious/subconscious it is.
Edited to add the footage of the opening, where you can see the green dress – finally!
I just realised how grey my blog is looking currently. And since I was leafing through my Boutique book this morning, in an attempt to cheer my poorly self up (revenge of the spring snuffles), and realised I had never scanned in the photo of Alice Pollock wearing my Alice Pollock blouse….I thought I ought to share. And brighten this place up a bit. Because it is seriously yellow.
I once made the mistake of wearing this blouse to the theatre. I hadn’t realised how tiny the theatre would be, that I would end up in the front row – practically on the stage, and that John Simm would quite possibly be blinded by my sartorial choice that night. Whoops!
I can’t promise this will be a terribly long or informative blog post, because there’s so little information out there about the label. It opened in 1967 and, needless to say, Sandie didn’t design the dresses and shoes (although she had full ‘approval’). I suspect it didn’t last very long, much like Twiggy and Cathy McGowan’s boutique labels. Perhaps there was deemed a conflict of interests when she married designer Jeff Banks in 1968?
I will make Sandie one of my Fashion Icons at some point, whereupon I shall write more comprehensively (if I ever do such a thing) about her and her style. But if any of you are not familiar with our girl, I should probably tell you that her trademark was to sing barefoot. So much was made of the fact that her label was producing shoes!
The images have been taken from footage shown in the BBC’s Queens of Pop programme.
By way of a little tribute, here are two of my favourite pairs of shoes….both by YSL.
Firstly the [faux I think] snakeskin peeptoes I wore to the Sex and the City film, coincidentally on the night he passed away.