How to Dress with Drama

helen mirren by james wedge

Far Left. Printed Italian voile dress with smocked bodice and medieval sleeves, grey/blue, 8-14, Gina -Fratini, £49, from Harrods ; Chic, Hampstead, NW3 ; Sheila Worth, Kendal Street, W2. Centre. Wraparound kimono in Lurex printed with Zandra Rhodes design, pink/lilac/silver or green/ orange/gold, 10-16, Hildebrand, £23, from Harrods, Knightsbridge, SW1 ; Kendal Milne, Manchester : Strava-ganza, Harrogate. Right. Crepe de chine dress, se-quinned bodice, black only, 10 and 12, by Alice Pollock, £62.50, from Fifth Avenue, King’s Road, SW3 ; or enquiries to Quorum, 6 Burnsall Street, SW3. Suede wedge-soled sandals, 3-8, f5.99, from branches of Sacha.

Clothes currently in fashion are of such contradictory styles that they seem to demand of the wearer a talent for acting beyond the capacity of most women. It takes a skilled actress to switch easily from cool Japanese geisha girl to 1940s tart and remember which part she’s playing. Helen Mirren, associate member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, shows how it’s done, with a toss of her head, a quick change in facial expression, a swivel of hip and heel. The dresses she wears here all have sleeves that require dramatic gestures : medieval pointed sleeves, kimono sleeves, and sleeves slashed from the shoulder. You don’t have to be an actress to wear these dresses, but it does help.

Photographed by James Wedge.

Scanned by Miss Peelpants from The Observer Magazine, 11th July 1971.


Mirror, Mirror by Helmut Newton

Mirror Mirror - Helmut Newton - Observer April 69 - 2

Wet-look cire bikini, also in red, with gilt link on bra top and belt of pants, 59s., from main branches of C & A. Paste tiger brooch from the Paris flea market.

Pause for reflection before you buy your swimsuit for this summer. If you’re going to be in the picture, you must get your exposure right : make it the most your shape will take. Because this is a narcissistic year. More girl, less swimsuit. Bikinis will be back with us again this summer — and they’ll be barer than ever. But the fabrics, not to be outshone, are glistening wet-look cires, metallic golds and silvers. And as adornments for the bare body, there is simple animal jewellery —snake bracelets, stalking-tiger brooches, that sort of simple thing.

Hair by Didier at Jean-Louis David, Paris.

Photographed by Helmut Newton.

Scanned by Miss Peelpants from The Observer Magazine, April 1969.

Mirror Mirror - Helmut Newton - Observer April 69 - 1

Silver crochet bikini (also in other colours), £5 15s. 6d.; all cobweb crochet jacket, £5 15s. 6d.; both by Clobber, from Miss Selfridge, Oxford Street, W1 ; Just Looking, Kings Road, SW3; J. T. Parrish, Newcastle; Contrary, Burton Square, Manchester ; Silver cord lacing up jacket, 5d. yd. from John Lewis, Oxford Street, W1. Paste tiger brooch from the Paris flea market.

Mirror Mirror - Helmut Newton - Observer April 69 - 5

Tobacco-brown bikini with fine chain straps and belt, by Tiktiner, £10 15s., from the Summer House at Simpsons, Piccadilly, W1. Gold leather sandals fastening above the ankle, f7 17s. 6d. from Elliotts, 76 New Bond Street, W1, and Kings Road and Knightsbridge branches. Snake brace-lets, 42s., frog ring, 12s. 6d.; by Corocraft, from Marrian-McDonnell, 45 South Molton Street, W1, and 80 Sloane Avenue, SW3; Kendal Milne, Manchester.

Mirror Mirror - Helmut Newton - Observer April 69 - 4

Barely one-piece swimsuit, cut away at the back like a bikini, in sand-coloured towelling, and in other colours too, by Jersea, £4 15s., from Harrods, Knightsbridge, SW1 ; Lynette Claire, Kensington High Street, W8; Marshall & Snelgrove, 24-30 New Street, Birmingham; Darling & Co., Bath ; Impact, Salisbury. Gladiator boots, by Mary Quant, 89s. 11d., from Lilley & Skinner.

Mirror Mirror - Helmut Newton - Observer April 69 - 3

White Nylon Helanca and Antron bikini with clear perspex links, by Ruben Torres for Tweka, 5gn., also in lilac, black, pink, turquoise or gold, from D. H. Evans, Oxford Street, W1 ; Lady Jane, Carnaby Street, W1 ; Birn & Son, Southend-on-Sea ; Rackhams, Birmingham; Reid & Todd, Glasgow. Summery boots laced up the back by Mary Quant, 89s. 11d., from Lilley & Skinner, 360 Oxford Street, W1. Gilt snake chain around waist, by Corocraft, 2gn., from Way In, Knightsbridge, SW1 ; Kendal Milne, Manchester.


Things happen after a Badedas bath…

badedas

I’ve always been a fan of the Badedas advert madness, so I’m enjoying the equal opportunities vibe in this particular one… Plus, I very much need her entire look.

Scanned by Miss Peelpants from The Observer Magazine, April 1969.


The Thigh’s the Limit

thighs-the-limit

Photographed by Christa Peters.

Scanned by Miss Peelpants from The Observer Magazine, 15th February 1976.

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Pleated cotton skirt and tunic top by Chatelaine. Sandals from Midas.

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Blue stripe pinafore dress by Coopers. Sandals by Midas.

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Red silk embroidered tabard dress by Wendy Dagworthy. Navy sandals from Russell & Bromley.

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Sailing boat print dress by Samuel Sherman. Navy espadrilles by Chelsea Cobbler.


Inspirational Editorials: Cheap Thrills

Rich brown satin dress slashed to the waist by Lee Bender for Bus Stop

Rich brown satin dress slashed to the waist by Lee Bender for Bus Stop

An expensive dress bought to wear just for evenings can spoil your party fun. You’ll worry about spilt wine and cigarette burns while you’re engaged in unarmed combat with the crowd. You don’t want to pay a lot for something you and your friends might tire of after just one round of parties. So find yourself a dress that’s memorable like the four shown on these pages, in shiny satin, cire, Tricel, jersey or sparkling Lurex, and if its life is hort, it might break your heart but not your bank. So buy your glitter cheaply, and spend your sixpences on having fun.

Photographed by Steve Hiett.

Scanned by Miss Peelpants from The Observer Magazine, 7th December 1969

Purple tricel jersey shirtdress shimmying to ankle length by Clobber. Smoky grey pearl rope, 10 feet long, from Paris House.

Purple tricel jersey shirtdress shimmying to ankle length by Clobber. Smoky grey pearl rope, 10 feet long, from Paris House.

Lurex jersey dress, memorably low-cut, by Janice Wainwright for Simon Massey. Pale silver crochet hat from Ritva.

Lurex jersey dress, memorably low-cut, by Janice Wainwright for Simon Massey. Pale silver crochet hat from Ritva.


Biba, couture?

Safari jacket, 80 gn with jodphurs, 75 gn with skirt. Hat (without veil) 22 gn. Sam Browne belt, 20 gn.

It’s a funny old world. One of the main reasons the regular Biba relaunches have failed so dismally, each time since 1975, has been the price issue. Barbara Hulanicki, whether you agree with her or not, has always had a firm belief in affordable, fast fashion. £200 for a middling quality dress, as seen in the most recent attempts to reignite the brand, is simply not acceptable in an age of fast, cheap fashion and quirky high-end designers with real personality and bite. To whom are they appealing? I’m afraid I judge people who buy House of Fraser Biba. I just can’t help myself. So there can be little or no cachet to buying that gear, from either Biba geeks or fashion freaks. And the quality isn’t good enough to be seen alongside the likes of Jaegar and Hobbs for the ‘medium’ level appeal.

Trousers and cardigan, 60 gn. Blouse 25 gn. Hat, 25 gn.

Biba was cheap, cheerful, young and undeniably cool. Nothing has come close. Primark has the prices, Topshop supposedly has the cool and youth, but none of them have the quality or uniqueness of their oft-copied ancestor. Yes, I said quality. Biba might have had a reputation for badly-made clothes but it simply wasn’t true. It was an assumption, based on the price. And fair enough, it wasn’t couture-quality, but it was no worse than anything being produced by Saint Laurent for his Rive Gauche, Ossie Clark and other British Boutique designers of the era. Certainly a cut above anything being made by many big name designers, these days.

My vintage Bibas are beautifully well-made. They couldn’t have survived forty-odd years otherwise. A seam might have deteriorated here, a small moth-hole appeared there, and perhaps a zip has busted after a particularly raucous night out. But I’ve seen Paris couture from a mere ten years earlier in a far sorrier state than that.

Dress, 100gn. Hat, 10gn.

So if shop-floor Bibas are still doing the trick after four decades, can you imagine what a couture Biba must have been like? And if Barbara was baulking at a higher-than-usual price tag for a voluminous jersey dress (which I own) and feared it wouldn’t sell (it sold out), then what on earth was she thinking about offering a coat for 120 guineas?

Coat, 120 gn. Helmet (without veil), 14 gn.

I had heard vague things about Biba couture over the years, but I’m not entirely sure I’ve ever seen anything like this article before. I do so wish I could see some Biba couture pieces now. The original owners must have remembered they were such, so I would hope that the provenance would be forever attached to the piece as it passed from careful owner to careful owner.

Dress, 110 gn.

Dreamy. And certainly not hindered by some incredible photos by the legendary Helmut Newton and footwear by The Chelsea Cobbler.

Observer Magazine, 19th January 1969.


Big Softie

Coat by Elgee. Gaucho pants by Thea Porter. Boots by Sacha.


I cry at everything. Songs on the radio. Films. Commercials. Nice things people say, do and write. My new niece. I’m the soppiest softie you could ever meet. And despite looking longingly at skimpier clothes and hoping for an improvement in the weather, I still love wrapping myself up in the softest velvets. I’m a complete sucker for textures which match my mood, and velvet is definitely protecting me from the horrors of the outside world right now. I adore this velvet-obsessed spread (entitled Velvet: The soft touch) from The Observer Magazine from December 1970. Photos by Steve Hiett.

I’ve got an incredible velvet Antony Price dress to be photographed and listed in the next week or so (along with lots of other goodies) but until then, I’ve still got an amazing velvet Forbidden Fruit dress and a Lee Bender for Bus Stop for sale in case you need a fix…

By Nettie Vogues. Boots by Charles Jourdan.

By Susan Small. Brooch by Thea Porter.

By Polly Peck. Boots by Biba.

By Gillian Richards. Shoes by Charles Jourdan.