Thursday, 31 December 2015

80s Colours and Patterns

It wasn't just neon. Some colour combinations just scream "80s!", especially pink and jade diagonal flashes. Stripes, stripes, stripes were everywhere, and "black plus a colour".

pseudo kilim patterns on plastic tablecloths in shades of navy, jade, burgundy and ochre – these took a long, long, long time to go away.
red, grey and white on curtains etc.
pink and grey, especially in pseudo Japanese flowers on coffee cups
pseudo marble tiles in grey, apricot, and/or navy
all woodwork stained dark browny-red inside and out
terra cotta especially with French blue
yellow, pink, stone
pink, jade
pink, grey
grey, black and red
apricot, French blue,
the two combined, the two combined with lemon
ombré effects on pseudo silk-painted pseudo Japanese flowers (pink, grey, jade and apricot on black)

tongue and groove on ceilings
stripes on carpet
wall and floor tiles set diagonally
stripes on crockery
white slashes painted on in pairs to look like reflections on a shiny surface
wood cladding
blocks of green, pink and purple on anoraks for fell-walking

rag rolling and sponging
“artisanal” beige tiles
wallpaper with white trellis arches and pink flowers
mosaic tiles (in bathrooms, but also on tables, trays, placemats and coasters)
dupion taffeta (especially plaid)
fabric printed with strawberries or slices of cake
basket-work wallpaper in black and gold like the seat of a cane-bottomed chair
fake leaded windows
splatter paint, speckled finishes that came in a can
trellis-effect tiles

isosceles triangles
half circles
the Crafts Council gold swirl

More here, and links to the rest.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

80s Art

In the 80s, you hung prints showing:

blue skies, clouds and checkerboard floors

sunlit terraces without people but with highball glasses with straws, deckchairs or directors’ chairs, white cane furniture, ombré shadows, umbrellas furled and unfurled. Throw in a straw hat with a ribbon, a pavilion and a swimming pool

French windows opening onto terraces with white furniture and a cocktail glass with an umbrella, and a distant prospect of apricot and grey ombré mist (John Sovjani).

poolside scenes, beach umbrellas and empty deck chairs, turquoise sea, ultramarine sky, the edge of a pool, part of a deck chair, part of a garden chair with diagonal stripes

conservatory interior with palms and white ironwork

poppies and wheat, irises and lilies, daffodils, bird of paradise flowers

Venetian blinds and their shadows

neon slogans, especially in pink

cocktails splashing as a cherry is dropped in, with detailed reflections on the drops, splashes etc (All done by hand.)

Victorian greenhouses, ombré sunsets, unicorns, airbrushing, reflections, humorous sheep, Raybans, rainbows

woman with saucer hat tilted over eyes, lipstick mouth, black gloves, lots of diagonal crayon strokes (Ferraro)

pastel gardens with white lattice arches for roses, lattices for creepers, white trellis, and pergolas with lots of mauve flowers: wistaria, lilacs and lupins. Especially lilacs.

Western-style Japanese paintings of misty trees (someone called them “watery Zen landscapes”)

large framed sepia photographs of country scenes or small girls in white pinafores

pierrot masks, Escher and Arcimboldo prints

copper fish moulds in your kitchen for making mousses and terrines

Cafés had a lot of b/w photos of 40s film stars in narrow frames, and reproductions of Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks

20s Vogue and Harper’s covers

Art by: Paul Iribe, Patrick Nagel, John Kiraly, Georgia O’Keeffe, B.B. La Femme, Scott Nellis, Razzia, Walt Curlee, David Allgood (daffodils), Antonio Lopez, Manuel Nunez, Gordon Beningfield

Cream art deco teapots in the shape of racing cars, 18th century architectural plans, old advertising, Clarice Cliff, Goss china, china animals and cottages, amusing teapots in the shape of an Aga with a teapot on it, Lilliput Lane miniature cottages and buildings, pottery hedgehogs. “Collectable” china thimbles and commemorative plates advertised on the back pages of colour supplements. Huge baroque carved-wood barometers and wall clocks.

80s decor

Eighties Décor

What makes you think that, Mrs Fletcher?

Was 80s design all Memphis and Sotsass – bizarre shapes, graffiti scrawls and primary colours? 80s design was many things. Kate of the wonderful blog sums up:

Rattan flourishes, especially on furniture
A tropical palette, reflected in soft-toned floral fabric and teal cushions
Lush vegetation motifs, from house and patio plants to fabrics and wall decor
Ceramic vases in signature ’80s colors
Asian touches, such as porcelain vases and wall art
( on Golden Girls style)

Brass accents, tessellated stone that covers each piece in seamlessly applied squares, and Deco-style geometric shapes. (

Anything with a grid on it. (

Stair-step and diamond motifs. Teal, mauve, peach, purple and turquoise. (

Rattan furniture, tropical vegetation and animal motifs were distinct trends of the time. Even the prominent clouds peeking in from the window [white painted, lattice French doors half open] … were a signature ’80s theme, often showcased in surreal artwork of the era. [French doors have white venetian blinds, there’s a rattan circular glass-topped table and a screen painted with a palm tree and lianas.] (

Perhaps she’ll do Murder She Wrote now – Jessica is always staying in a hotel room with pastel flowery paper, pale Chinese vases and fabulous wall art. And the villains’ offices are full of potted palms.

There were many themes to choose from:

Black lacquer bedroom suites vaguely copied 30s and Japanese style. You sat at the dressing table in front of the pink shell-shaped mirror wearing an acetate kimono or Chinese style viscose dress with a large lily motif. Tables were low, black and Chinese style with curved legs. Art and square lanterns had Chinese characters allegedly for Life, Health and Happiness.

Translucent walls with a grid pattern recalled Japanese paper room dividers. The room was lit with square pleated paper lampshades. On the walls hung hexagonal Feng Shui mirrors and outsized red paper fans. Fan patterns were common, especially on the back of your pale pink kimono, combined with Japanese mon designs of cranes, wheat, bamboo, geometric symbols. Bamboo was big, bamboo chairs were black, and you ate off black hexagonal plates.

There was a hedgehog+brambles+conkers aesthetic. Probably with berries. And autumn leaves and blackberries – Brambly Hedge. Corn dollies, straw hats with straw flowers, and miniature versions of the same, went with this look. The Flower Fairies were fashionable – were the books reprinted? I’m seeing apple blossom. There were endless Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady products, and Country Living magazines.

Apricot, chalky blue, primrose yellow. You could do a whole room in pastels with diagonal slashes, tulips, coolie-hat lampshades, Chinese vases, ikat fabrics.

Graphic designers in red-framed uber-spectacles worked at home and decorated their entire home in graph paper: mugs, fablon, curtains, probably coasters and cushions. Green on white or red on white. Room dividers and wall units were made of bolted-together scaffolding with chickenwire panels, or sheets of aluminium with holes like offcuts from some industrial process. Or was the inspiration punched paper tape from old computers? The inmates slept on futons and threw rubbish into wire bins. They used offcuts of hardboard with holes in to hang things off (with coloured pegs and wire hooks). Their children slept in wooden bunk beds with built-in desks, and their wives hung their kitchen equipment from butcher’s hooks.

The look revolved around huge fake Art Deco glass scent bottles (perhaps the real thing were for bath salts, not scent), “keystone” mirrors, round mirrors, apricot and mint colour schemes, curved vases, Hollywood beds on platforms. Pictures showed women with marcel waves getting into vintage taxis, or a single cocktail glass.

Heavily influenced by the Victorians, this look combined flowery wallpaper, a flowery dado strip, a stripy dado, round tables with a long tablecloth, cushions, crocheted curtains, chintz, stencils, pastel pleated coolie-hat lampshades, crocheted lampshades (both terrible dust traps), roses, frills, pink, lace, stripes, pelmets, collectables, German rustic wooden kitchens, dried flowers, dressers stacked with flowery china, pine, pine, pine… with apricot. And then IKEA told us to "chuck out the chintz" and "don't let that doily spoil everything".

Very posh interiors had yellow walls and an antique globe. Sloane Rangers tried to recreate a stately home in a small flat in Fulham with a lot of forest green and burgundy, chintz and elaborate pelmets. Their china was dark green with a gold rim, or white with fluting. They liked original Victorian dark marble fire surrounds and prints of prisons by Piranesi. Their Redouté rose prints are now all faded and found at boot sales.

The middle classes went for chrome yellow, green and tomato, on twee fabric printed with all-over giraffes, stars or bears. Red and green tulip prints on chrome yellow. Rainbows in children’s bedrooms. French navy/old rose/jade/gold tiles in the kitchen. They painted floorboards white and scattered handwoven rugs that wrinkled, gathered dust and tripped you up. They filled low shelves with nicknacks from their holidays in Nicaragua and Nepal, sent each other greetings cards with sentimental cartoons, and read their children right-on fairy stories (“And so she left the prince in his palace and walked off alone into the sunset dressed in a brown paper bag”).

Essex Man loved square mirrors set diamond-wise, mirrors printed with pubiana or palm trees, amusing teapots, lamps with a globe in two hands, miniature or life-size film spotlights, glass-topped tables, lots of chrome and brass. And a jukebox.

Yes, I know I’ve skipped the 70s.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Room Layout

Cheverells, by Charlotte Augusta Sneyd

The idea that we’ve come full-circle to the medieval Great Hall with our "modern" open-plan "living spaces" is now a cliché. But...

"Greater iPad use is causing a demand for quiet spaces around the home," says the Guardian Nov 2015. Will we start building walls again?

The classic "country house" living room is big, light and airy. There’s a large mirror on the narrow mantelpiece over the fireplace, to reflect light into the room. Between two high windows is a tallboy or commode: a high chest of drawers on legs. On its top are a few antique items (candlesticks, Chinese vases), and above them on the wall is a circular convex mirror – again to reflect light into the room.

How did people live in those huge rooms? Judging by contemporary paintings, they created a “camp” around the fireplace with easy chairs, stools, occasional tables. Light chairs for guests were set against the wall, so that if people called you could easily carry a chair into the circle for them. (We admire Regency furniture for its "light" look – so unlike heavy Victoriana – but it was all about portability. Though you probably rang for a servant to move the tables.)

In one watercolour, the round table is set with a carafe of water and some fruit. Books are in shelves set into niches. A table near the window is being used as a desk. It’s on castors, so it could be pushed against the wall if necessary, as are the easy chairs and tea-table. At the far end of the room is another fireplace in an apse, with niches on either side holding comfortable sofas. Huge French windows lead into the garden.

In the centre of the room is a Chinese carpet that acts like a picnic rug – delineating the territory so that the furniture doesn’t look lost. In the centre of the rug (and the room) is a circular table with a long, thick cloth over it to protect its surface and hide its legs. On it is a bowl of pot-pourri. It’s convenient for reading, writing or putting down a tea tray. Also leaning against the wall is a folding table that can be brought out for cards or teacups. On the walls are light, bright pictures and in the corner is a chaise-longue for resting on. (You can’t lie on your bed during the day because you will untidy it and make work for the servants. Poor Charlotte Brontë used to rest sitting in a chair by her bed, leaning her head on her pillow.)

Most of this is from a wonderful painting of an interior by Walter Taylor, 1860-1943. It looks like a first-floor drawing room in a Georgian town house. A first-floor room will also have a better view and get more natural daylight.

A watercolour of the drawing room at Cheverells by Charlotte Augusta Sneyd shows a large Victorian drawing room very like today’s “open-plan space”. There’s a pier glass at the end of the room, reflecting the window; chairs and a settle (high-backed sofa) by the fire. There’s another settle against the wall near the window, with a sturdy table in front of it piled with sewing gear. On a round table (again covered by a cloth) under the window are newspapers, books and a knitting basket. In the far corner of the room are a harp and piano. All very cosy – everybody can gather in the warm and get on with doing their own thing, using the natural light from the window. (But Emily’s harp practice might have cut into your reading.)

But where on earth do you put the TV? How about “in another room”?

Friday, 13 November 2015

History in Quotes

Time-travel paradox

Or is this historiography? Or alternative narratives? It's about how change happens, and how we think about it, and how we try to make others think about it... (Oh, and can we make change happen by pretending it already has? Popular in the 80s.)

This narrative that says that everybody before about 5 minutes ago was UNAWARE but now we are AWARE and YAY. (Dominic Fox ‏@domfox)

I tell my son my pink shirt is of an era. He doesn’t know what an era is, he’s ten years old. (Peter Andre)

People call terrorism "medieval". But it was a far less destructive age than our own. (@JonathanFoyle)

The moment we left the middle ages behind and set out on the track to modernity. (BBC trailer for programme, 2013 If you want to know what "Whig history" is, this is it.)

The past is never dead. It's not even past. (William Faulkner)

Britain between the wars - an era whose dying embers lasted until the late 1960s. (Steerforth)

The past has its past. (Time magazine on Mad Men, and putting 50s objects in a 60s interior)

It is a fallacy to believe the past is dead; it lives with us all the time and should teach us to inform all our present actions. (Spinoza)

Times have changed, people are different, that other generation is hypocritical and rigid but WE are not. (Moira Redmond on Vita Sackville-West’s The Edwardians)

Much as we would love to believe that we saucy and imaginative moderns are responsible for introducing misbehavior into a previously fun-free world, Miss Manners is afraid that the population, even back then, consisted of actual human beings. (Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behaviour)

But one possible value that a gadfly like me can have is in noticing, over time, certain fashions and repetitions in thought and behaviour – certain cultural tics – and pointing them out. (David Aaronovitch Aug 2011)

1962 —The future still approached, although architect Charles Moore says that it “came and went in 1957”. (Web)

The present fashion of putting off marriage until the woman is about 35 and the man 40 or over is utterly unnatural and unwholesome. (As somebody said in 1919)

They looked up and the times had changed... (Amazon review of John Le Carré's The Looking-Glass War)

That most distant of periods, the day before yesterday. (Guardian 2008)

The world has not changed as much as we would like to think. (The Week, Sept 2011)

Some of the things that people face in some parts of the world, we have lived through in our lifetime in our world. It makes one wonder why they don't take advantage of our experiences. (friend JP, 2011)

South Asians and Arabs and their diasporic peoples are Elizabethans still. (Yasmin Alibhai Brown)

The 21st century is unevenly distributed.

Mata Hari's Luggage

Mata Hari, as she called herself, was an exotic dancer shot as a spy in 1917. When MI5 searched her luggage in 1916 this is what they found:

Hat box containing 6 hats, 3 hat pins, feather boas, one veil, 2 fur stoles, 3 hat decorations, one imitation peach (another hat decoration), 1 dressing gown.

Trunk with 1 pair gent’s boots, 1 brush, 1 bundle washing, 1 pair puttees, 1 pair spurs, 3 pairs shoes, 3 chemises, 1 napkin, 1 pair leggings, 3 veils, 1 box ribbons, 3 bra shells (falsies?), 2 belts, 2 underskirts, 3 skirts, 1 dress, 4 pairs gloves, 1 umbrella, 3 sunshades, 1 pair stockings, 1 blouse, 3 scarfs, 1 night dress case, 1 coat, 1 costume (jacket and skirt), 1 bag of dirty linen, 1 bundle sanitary towels.

1 box containing 4 hair ornaments, 1 hat pin and false hair, 3 fur necklets, 1 bottle Vernis Mordore Dore (gold nail varnish), 1 box powder, 1 bottle white fluid (makeup).

Boot trunk containing 6 pairs slippers, 1 box face cream, 3 pairs boots, 2 pairs shoes, 1 pair stockings.

Trunk containing 2 pairs corsets, 30 pairs stockings, 1 lavender packet, 1 veil, 8 under bodices, 1 handkerchief, 1 underskirt, 1 shawl, 10 pairs knickers, 3 princess petticoats, 3 combs, 2 dressing jackets, 11 chemises, 1 dressing gown, towel, 1 garter, 2 coats, 5 blouses, 4 dresses, 1 petticoat, 1 scarf, 2 pairs gloves, a collar, 2 powder puffs.

Trunk containing 1 handbag with mirror inside, 1 hair comb, 3 coats, 1 box containing comb, 1 dress, 1 ornament, 2 pairs shoes, 2 fancy boxes, 1 box containing copper plate and visiting card in the name of Vadime de Massloff, Capitaine, 1ere Regiment Speciale Imperial, Russe, 1 pair gloves, 1 blouse, 7 dresses, 2 princess robes, 1 petticoat, 1 belt, wooden box with 2 brushes and china tea service.

Gladstone bag containing 2 pairs shoes, nail polishers, box of powder, pair of stockings, 2 boxes containing cigarettes, 8 hair nets, box visiting cards, box soap, pair gloves, 2 powder puffs, 1 under bodice, 2 nightdresses, handkerchief sachet containing 21 handkerchiefs, 1 dressing gown, 1 empty cash box, bunch of keys, pearl necklet in case, monocle in case, 2 earrings in box, 2 pearls in  case, green stone ring in case, green stone necklet and 2 earrings in a case, 3 fans, 2 cloth purses, one containing 1 £ treasury note, 5 or 6 pounds in silver, 1d copper, 14 silver coins and 5 bronze coins, holdall of cotton, needles etc, handbag containing cigarette case (photos inside), powder puff and rouge stick on chain.

Boat tickets, visiting card stamp, treasury note case (empty), bank note case containing four 100 franc notes, two 1000 franc notes, one 60 guilder note, one 40 guilder note, one 50 pesetas note, one 400 Russian note, 2 pieces music, bundle of photographs and French dictionary, cheque book, crayon drawing, pocket wallet containing papers etc. One travelling rug. One fitted ladies dressing case. Letters etc.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

A Short History of Makeup

Before the First World War, respectable women were assumed to wear no makeup, though they used powder, liquid powder, tinted lip salve and eyebrow pencils.

Lips were "bee-stung" (you were advised to apply “lip rouge” with your finger in the middle of your upper and lower lip, and blend it out to the corners, but women took the advice too literally). Eyebrows were low and straight – presumably so that they could be seen under the brim of your cloche hat. Cloche hats were pulled down very low and costume dramas always get this wrong. Women powdered their noses in public using a powder compact (a holder for solid powder) to avoid "shine". They powdered their back, shoulders and cleavage with a powder puff. And on stage they whitened all exposed areas with "wet white".

Lips were a Cupid’s bow with large gap in the middle. Stars like Jean Harlow and Greta Garbo plucked out their thick eyebrows and drew them in high up the forehead in a surprised shape. Beauty advisers began to tell you that you must NEVER pluck your eyebrows from the top (this mantra continued into the 60s and 70s).

40s Orange, coral and Chinese red lipstick. Lips in a Cupid’s bow (or, if you’re Bette Davies, obliterate your own cupid’s bow and turn your upper lip into a D-shape), painted-on cupid’s bow (see Joan Crawford). Eyebrows are thick, arched and pencilled.

50s Lipstick the colour of blackberry jam that came off on handkerchiefs, glasses, cigarettes and teeth, and bled into vertical lip wrinkles. Ivory foundation and powder. Thick, thick eyebrow pencil. Eyebrows thick near the nose, thin at the end. Peg Bracken, of I Hate to Housekeep, advised against brown eyeshadow as it made you look ill – blue and green were favourite.

Early 60s Coral, orange and pink lipstick. Thick, orange foundation and powder (that stops at the jawline, leaving a white neck). Grey, brown, green and blue eyeshadow (grey was rather avant garde). Cream eyeshadow and greasepaint eyeliner which ran together. You could still get Bourjois rouge in Woolworth's, in its 1900s packaging (a little round box).

Mid-60s Thin upper lip, very thick lower lip (Jean Shrimpton). Nude lipstick. Black eyeliner, white eyeliner. Aqua eyeshadow. Thick ivory or beige foundation (Panstik). Extended eyeliner (Ancient Egyptian). Some girls drew a line between their eyelid and brow bone. And some drew eyelashes under their eyes. False eyelashes were in.

Late 60s Nude and beige lipstick, also white and very pale pink (Mary Quant). Replaced by frosted lipstick which was a terrible mistake. Core Rimmel colours laid down: heather and coffee shimmer are still the best. Black eyeliner – in the early 60s you were told NEVER to put it on your bottom lid. In the late 60s, daringly, we did! Wow! Some went further and drew a thin line ALL the way round their eye. (Just seen a lady of my vintage on TV wearing this kind of eyeliner. She looks awful.) And some people put black eyeliner INSIDE their bottom eyelashes. (Is this fad it back 2015?) Pearlised makeup was invented (ground-up fish scales? mother of pearl?) and over-sold. You were supposed to put it on your “brow bone” after plucking your eyebrows to a thin line. It was always rather suburban (meeeow!), especially pearlised coral.

Late, late 60s Twiggy went Biba, plucking her eyebrows to a thin line and applying pearlised mauve eyeshadow right up to the brow bone. She wore purple lipstick, and stopped smiling. With it she wore a scarf tied round her forehead, with bits of hair sticking out at the sides. This was supposed to look vaguely 30s.

70s Dark blue eyeshadow. Foundation still too orange. Face shapers (darker powder that was supposed to sculpt your face). Wide mouth, rather thin lips, dark lipstick at beginning of decade (30s, 40s revival) Eyebrows began to be very plucked again a la the 30s.

80s Blusher – but applied in the hollow of the cheek as if it was a face shaper. It stayed there for far too long. Hot pink and pale pink lipstick revived. Sometimes frosted. Went with white face and black hair. Very thick eyebrows, brushed and gelled to look bushy.

90s Makeup used much less.

00s Either no makeup or the dear old orange foundation that stops at the jawline. Excessive mascara. Over-plucked eyebrows. There was a strange attempt to popularise white or bleached eyebrows. Yes, that caught on.

Teens The upper lip is the thing and people have terrible trout pout treatments (as in the 30s – see Gloria Grahame, Barbara Stanwick and... Humphrey Bogart?). Most women don’t wear much make-up any more, apart from the girls on Snog, Marry, Avoid who cover themselves in orange or brown foundation again. Nude lipstick is in, with an orange face. Eyebrows have gone utterly insane, especially in Cardiff and Liverpool – thick, black and ending in wedge shapes over the nose. “Scouse brows”. Too many older women with orange foundation and hot pink lipstick (and custard yellow hair). There's also a terrible trend for older women to dye their hair crimson or purple which clashes even worse with the orange foundation and pink lipstick.

2014 Nude lipstick has gone and orange may be back, also my favourite ashes of roses. Older women are STILL wearing orange foundation that stops at the jaw-line but this time it’s “BB cream” – more like tinted moisturiser. They don’t even blend the makeup up to their hairline, so it looks like an orange mask.

2015 “Contouring” is back, and over-use of black mascara and eyeliner.

Monday, 6 July 2015

The Way We Wore: 60s Style

I think I made this one...
It wasn’t all Austin Powers...
Here's the 60s, seen mainly through the prism of knitting patterns. As with interior decor, everything changed around 1966.

In the early 60s we wore:

black-flecked beetle green bouclé tweed, and mohair, sometimes in plaid

very very thick knitted dresses. (Did anybody ever knit/wear them? Must have been so hot.)

big thick knitted cardigans,
worn with a knee-length straight skirt and a bubble-head hairstyle created with rollers and back-combing

buttons and belts
covered with the same material as your dress (It was called a “self” belt.)
stiff fabrics like crimplene, made into tailored clothes. Stiff hair. Tight armholes, tight collars.

stoles in warm wool
(mohair, mink) You wore them with your sleeveless evening dress designed for the central heating most English people didn’t have.

When mini skirts and mod clothes happened, we found we could adapt school gym and tennis skirts (short enough), and divided hockey skirts (right length), and blazers – by sewing on red buttons and wearing them with the rest of our groovy gear. And knee socks and Mary Janes.

beading was very in circa 1966, also big, big paillettes (because plastic was in), especially in iridescent blue on a vivid green woolly hat. (Older women didn't stop wearing hats – they kept up to date with “fun” hats. Or felt stetsons.)

In the mid-60s there was a trend for very tailored capes with Nehru collars. Initially worn by beatniks or early hippies, they quickly became tamed, and were worn only by older ladies (with a Tyrolean hat) and small children (in Welsh tweed). Welsh tweed was popular – we loved its geometric patterns and lurid colours.

all-over ribbing became a thing (“skinny rib” sweaters) with a beanie to match

lurex yarn

turquoise and lilac striped knitted dresses from M&S with straps, a dropped waist and a short knife-edge pleated tennis style skirt. (Also came in navy, green and white – and purple?)

Matching jersey/hat/scarf (worn with a cute expression).

clothes made out of stretchy towelling (Especially holiday clothes for children. In brown and turquoise, with rope detailing.)

PVC printed in bright, bright colours (Raincoats with matching souwester hats. Hot, and quickly became naff. Part of the “fun everything” trend. "Fun fur" was nylon.)

plastic geometric jewellery

stiff brocade in royal blue, beetle green and aqua
– possibly combined

Nylon lace had a moment.

Mannish shirts, and frilly and flouncy blouses were in – from the Tom Jones trend (the film came out in 1963), but combined with stiff, tailored pinafore dresses. There was also a hairstyle called a "Tom Jones": a bow tied on a ponytail at the back of the neck. It quickly became rather frumpy. Shoes also went 18th century, with square toes and buckles.Very short mini skirts went mainstream, combined with a frilly blouse and a huge beehive updo.

In the late 60s crushed velvet took over, and Twiggy went for the 30s Biba look. Cool youths dressed like extras from Game of Thrones. I'm still trying to forget.

60s decor here.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

70s Food

In the 60s, rice was white and had to be “fluffy”. You were supposed to put it in a sieve and run it under the cold tap before cooking to “remove the starch”.

Melon was added to everything, but the melons were never ripe. No wonder they were hard and bitter. (And you just couldn't say you didn't like melon. It was like saying "I'm a chav".) We also ate unripe avocados because we didn’t know any better and you had to eat avocados or be cast out as terminally square.

Plaice and sole were popular – they lasted into the 80s as posh restaurant food. (Delicious with lemon and parsley, or white sauce. If you add halved grapes to the white sauce it becomes Sole Véronique.)

And then the 60s became the 70s and we ate:

mackerel paté
cheese soufflé
dried herbs

prawn cocktail
black forest gateau
steak au poivre

beef Wellington

lamb with rosemary
tarragon vinegar

home-made cheesecake
marinated minute steak

garlic bread
garlic butter
red beans, red beans, red beans, red beans

brown risotto rice
wholewheat pasta
wholewheat pastry

brown bread like slices of coconut matting
grapefruit in everything
salads made of finely sliced raw button mushrooms and cress

barmbrack (raisin bread flavoured with tea)
Julienne vegetables (cut into little straws)


Colman’s French mustard
(Bland, sweet, vinegary and not too hot. Colman’s have stopped making it, but you can get it at Waitrose).

gazpacho and cold soup of all kinds
(Gazpacho was terribly cool because of all the garlic and chilli.)

kebabs made with absolutely anything (cubes of ham, chunks of green pepper, raw mushrooms, cubes of pineapple)

Posh dinner party food consisted of meat stuck together with sweet, bland sauce – like chicken a la king or osso buco. It was such a welcome change from the 50s when everything was separate (meat, potatoes, greens) and sauce was frowned on ("foreign food smothered in complicated sauce"). Food actually became nice and easy to eat. Italy and Spain (paella, foreign holidays) were the inspiration. Also Greek and Middle Eastern – houmous, taramasalata. Really posh food consisted of lobster bisque followed by tournedos Rossini.

Yes, fondue was briefly popular. We didn't just have edible food at last, eating was supposed to be fun. Instead of minding your manners, you could all dip into a fondue pot, or battle hilariously with chopsticks. And food was brightly coloured instead of beige.

Recipes recommended that you “add some of the liquid from the tin”. But at least you didn't have to steam things for hours.

Omelettes, omelettes, omelettes. Omelette pans that you weren’t allowed to wash or use for anything else. Obsessing about omelettes and obsessing about not over-cooking them. Bossily telling other people how to cook omelettes using your own superior method.

Vegetarianism became more popular on ideological and moral grounds, but many expressed complete bafflement about what vegetarians ate, and vegetarians were bossed cruelly for daring to be different. But you had to say "We are all individuals" in case anybody thought you were boring and straight.

All recipes contained tomato puree and crushed garlic. French cooks add one clove of garlic to stock so that it subtly permeates rather than hitting you over the head.

Peppers, peppers, peppers. I've been to the South of France and they don't put peppers in everything. Yes, peppers got everywhere. You couldn't buy a plain tuna sandwich any more – tuna was adulterated with red peppers and sweetcorn and renamed "Mexican tuna". The only place you could escape peppers was the British Home Stores canteen (still going).

You could still get 50s favourites fish paste, cheese and tomato, cheese and onion, cheese and pickle, cheese and coleslaw, corned beef, liver sausage. All on white sliced bread.

The 60s added bacon and banana, date and cream cheese, and club sandwiches.

In the 70s you could get all of the above, plus brown bread and poppy seed rolls (I miss them). Hippy sandwiches were rather wartime: grated carrot and raisin, houmous and bean sprouts, all on very tough brown bread. We pretended to like them – how British! At festivals and rep cinemas you had no choice - unless you went for the oat and date slice.

Vegetarian food was all a bit stodgy and heavy: piles of brown rice and vegetables. Oodles was a vegetarian restaurant chain which offered spinach, potato and gorgonzola pie in wholewheat pastry.

More here, and links to the rest.