Friday, 13 February 2009

Last-Year Girl: Pauline Boty

‘But I think having any hero or heroine is like building an extension onto your own personality. You see, people aren’t just made up of actions alone. Everyone has dreams and fantasies and other lives going for them as well as their everyday lives, and one of the concrete aspects of this is revealed in our idols. Our fears, hopes, frustrations, and dreams. We can pin them on a star who shows them to millions. And if you can do that, you’re no longer alone.’ Pauline Boty, The Public Ear

One of my fantasies is to be an art student in London in the late 1950s/early 1960s. It’s something to do with the idealism, the sense of new opportunities and freedom and the smell of paint. I want to hang out with the kids described in George Melly’s Revolt into Style:


‘In the 50s and early 60s the art schools were the refuge of the bright but unacademic, the talented, the non-conformist, the lazy, the inventive and the indecisive: all these who didn’t know what they wanted but knew it wasn’t a nine-till-five job. They provided an atmosphere committed for the most part to no immediate practical end. They were the incubators of total Pop’


I recently saw a programme made by Kenneth Clark in 1962 called Pop Goes the Easel about the then emerging British Pop scene. It centres around four artists Derek Boshier, Peter Phillips, Pauline Boty and, the most famous, Peter Blake and follows them in their preferred habits: the fairground, the bedsit, watching wrestling and the art school bop: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IiGBHdonTSk


Despite some memorable sequences, including Peter Blake in bed dreaming about Bridget Bardot, it’s Pauline Boty who leaps off the screen. She looks like a sixties screen icon in the mould of Julie Christie, perfectly dressed in a blond thick bob, long sleeved A-line dress and a long orb pendant. Clearly much more than a pretty face she goes on to discuss her work, collages of Victorian pin-ups, fantasy scenes, 1930s musicals. Clark, clearly also enamoured, shows her in several scenes including her backcombing her hair and also miming along to The Good Ship Lollipop.


Her charisma was legendary. She is described by Christopher Logue in his autobiography:


‘She was astonishing. A big, bright girl with a confiding laugh. Snug headband holding a torque of silver-blonde hair. Hoop earrings, jangling when she turned her head, shoes she decorated on the run – searching her handbad, out with the gold spray, whsp-whssp-whssp, then on to the dance floor.’


Although she has now almost vanished from the history books, she was entrenched in early 60s counter culture. A former flatmate of Celia Birtwell she was also friends with David Hockney and Adrian Mitchell amongst many other names of the period. As well as exhibiting her own feminist influenced work, one piece of which is in the Tate collection, she danced on Ready Steady Go! and acted – including a bit part in Alfie – and presented a radio show, The Public Ear (quoted above and below). She was photographed by David Bailey for Goodbye Baby and Amen as well as by Michael Seymour and Lewis Morley in images that can be seen on the National Portrait Gallery website.


Beautiful, intelligent and loved, Pauline Boty is the perfect example of a Last-Year Girl and an inspiration as to the possibility of a life lived fully and exuberantly.


Here's some style advice directly from her, broadcast in February 1964:


‘When you buy your clothes, what’s the idea of you you have in mind? Who, if anyone, do you base yourself on? Why is it good to be so unobtrusive? Clothes should be assets to show off and enhance you, to enjoy and be enjoyed...Some women just don’t want to be a female nonentity, and it’s the young girls who are showing the way. They’re not going to be squashed, and certainly don’t intend to be wallflowers. A revolution is on the way and it’s partly because we no longer take our standards from the Tweedy Top. All over the country young girls are sprouting, shouting and shaking, and if they terrify you, they mean to. And they’re beginning to impress the world.’


An immaculately researched biography of Pauline Boty can be read here: http://www.writing-room.com/NYSH.pdf

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

You can't be a Last-Year Girl

Fashion is shaken at the foundation.

Visualize yourself as you looked beautiful autumn day last year. There's not much of the picture that survives. Not the hemline, waistline or the shoulderline...If you're not a Last-Year Girl. You'll like the feel of a longer, fuller skirt flowing around you as you move...You'll enjoy having hips again - without apologies; and the satisfaction of a small, rounded, tapering waist and of having it show in the snug bodice tops. You can have it all.

Harper's Bazaar, August 1947

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Who is Last-Year Girl?


Hello! I'm Frances. I'm an editor and writer based in London. I love vintage style and retro fashion and design. I've been writing Last-Year Girl since 2009.

What topics do you write about?
Books, especially vintage fashion books. And fashion, especially vintage fashion.
I also write about stylish women, music, design, shops and my adventures in London and beyond.

What posts should I read first? 
A few of my favourites are: Early 1940s Fashions in A Time To Be BornThe Life of a 1930s model in Clothes PegsLast-Year Girl: Peggy MoffittStreet Corner SoulLast-Year Reads: The Fashionable Mind and Last-Year Reads: Lilly Daché's Glamour Book.

How can I ask you a question? 
You can follow me on Twitter @francesambler, or email me here.

Where else do you write? 
I'm currently a contributing editor for the magazine The Simple Things. I write daily for Retro To Go. I was one of the writers on The Rough Guide To Vintage London (published May 2013). I wrote for, as well as editing for a year, Domestic Sluttery.  I've also written for Sky Lifetime, Oh Comely, Metro, Mollie MakesBoutique Hotels and Eurocheapo.com.

I also worked as a project editor at the V&A Museum for over ten years. I worked on books including Dior, Balenciaga, The A to Z of Style, British Design from 1948, (my personal favourite) Horrockses Fashions and many, many more. I have recently copyedited Vintage Fashion Complete for Thames & Hudson: out October 2014, and surely the definitive book for any vintage fashion lover.

What if I want more?
You can follow me on Instagram for pictures of (mainly) old books and travel adventures. I also write a second blog, Fancies, full of shiny new fashion and homewares. You can take a look at that here.

Thanks for reading!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...