Monday, 15 August 2016
It wasn't all psychedelic granny squares and loon pants. I was narrowing my flares by 1973.
Clothes design was the new rock in the late 60s: Rabanne, Courreges, Mary Quant, Ossie Clarke – but by the early 70s they all seemed to fade away, leaving us with disparate trends worn all at once. Flowery blouse over woolly jersey and under cord pinafore dress, in different colours. Fashion chaos. It was called the layered look. Wearing two shirts at once was really trendy for about 10 minutes.
There were famous designers in the 70s but they were very upmarket and couture and typists/students like me didn’t wear drapey loungewear. With it went an early 70s fashion for a scarf tied as a tight turban coming right down to the eyes, which were heavily made up. The ends of the scarf were twisted into a rope and wound round the head. It was a cross between an oriental turban and something vaguely 30s.
But I remember Foale and Tuffin who made quilted jackets out of ethnic fabric. Quilting was a thing. I had a genuine Chinese jacket that I struggled to do up, and a shiny black quilted tabard that I wore with terracotta harem trousers and wedged espadrilles (circa 1976).
Circa 1970, the “unisex” trend shocked those people who love to be shocked. Girls and boys wore pudding basin haircuts, baker boy caps, big clumpy lace-up shoes, V-necked tank tops, tweed Oxford bags, waisted jackets with big lapels in a brown, orange and yellow palette. And there were unisex hair salons. (Any minute now we might get unisex toilets.)
In the early 70s there was a brief vogue for primary colours, especially red and blue. Also for wearing short-sleeved, tight cardigans over a shirt. (My shirt was red – from Woolworths, my cardi was blue and I wore this ensemble with blue hotpants, red tights and blue tap shoes.)
Also in the early 70s there was a Goth look influenced by Biba with very dark eye makeup and lipstick (she pioneered black and khaki nails), 40s dresses, and a LOT of purple. This ensemble was worn with a holey crocheted shawl, platform boots, a choker and a grim expression. There was an expensive glam version way out of our price range, and a suburban version that dropped the shawl, kept a late 60s half pony-tail and added a smile.
Another suburban style: A-line skirts, knee-high boots, Cleopatra hair, tailored and waisted jackets with big collars and a choker. Underneath the jacket is a blouse in the same style, in flowery fabric and with a lot of tiny buttons.
And my favourite combo: silver V-necked cardigan over brown velvet maxi skirt for evening wear. Choker and boots optional.
And a tamed hippy look: long hair parted in the middle, fringed suede waistcoat, A-line suede miniskirt, platform boots that reached mid-calf, fringed suede bag. The palette was ochre, olive and brown, or if you were prepared to stand out in Godalming, brown and purple. Perfect for skipping through puddles and dancing through fields. Unfortunately you needed a slim figure and a sweet, dim smile.
There was a Minnie Mouse, 40s revival look with polka dots and high-heeled strap shoes (that Roxy Music album cover is 1972).
Middle class girls wore baggy sweaters with daring V necks – that hadn’t been seen since the 50s. Older ladies were still wearing “big hair”, with high round necks or polo necks which did them no favours at all. You wore a narrow belt over the jersey (or a jacket), sometimes in the same fabric and with a plastic 30s style buckle. Belts were a cheap way of looking stylish.
Sociology lecturers wore corduroy dresses or smocks with wide short sleeves and a yoke right across the bust, worn over a too-small polo neck. This costume went with a Purdey hairstyle, which quickly became a drab uniform for polytechnic staff. When the fringe got too long, you cut it yourself, too short and straight across. The male version was longish curly hair and a wild beard, plus glasses, concealing the entire face apart from the nose.
Serious people were very serious in the 70s, and it was the done thing to be drab. Oddly enough, the drab people all paired off, despite thinking that love was a bourgeois construct and romance a tool of patriarchy.
Knitting patterns showed smiling women with long, straight hair doing practical things – like feeding horses. Thick woolly jumpers in “natural” wool expressed “togetherness” (according to actress Sophie Grabol), also a rejection of capitalist values. Boucle yarn was in, and by the late 70s: Aran, Aran, Aran, worn with a man's flat cap or tweed solar topee and a big grin.
I adopted the look, from the top:
thick Aran cardigan, leather belt
several “prairie” tiered skirts, the underneath ones showing
Fellow students thought it was a bit avant garde. It was hard to get Aran cardigans, you either went to Ireland or knitted your own.
Knee boots came back, and we tucked our flares into them, creating a Russian look. Designers created Russian style tunics to go with it, and Cossack trousers. Did knee boots spell the end of the flare? Or cycle clips? Or leg warmers? With skinny jeans you don’t need cycle clips.
We wore 15 denier tights in "American Tan" (orange) in the summer because bare legs just weren't possible. If it got too hot, you dyed your legs orange with Q Tan which smelt of digestive biscuits. In the 80s we just went “What the Hell?” and walked around with bare (white) legs, and manufacturers brought out ecru tights to match.
I'm still following the advice of Catherine Milinaire's Cheap Chic (charity shops, army surplus). Some of our odd mix and match looks were the result of earning very little (our low salaries assumed that we were still living at home or that daddy had bought us a flat). And army surplus clothes preserved 40s designs. I wore Land Girl brown corduroy breeches and navy serge sailor trousers. But it was difficult being a large girl of 5ft 9in.
60s clothes here.