Friday, 31 May 2013

Last-Week Links: 31 May 2013


Though the weather gods may be trying to tell us otherwise, I've checked my calendar and it's definitely June today, and therefore time to plan some summer adventures. The New Yorker shared some bonkers brilliant 1930s images of Robert Ripley - of "Believe It Or Not" fame - but has been dentist's waiting room favourite, National Geographic which really caught my imagination. Thanks to Frankie, I found Found, a tumblr of 125 years of archive photos from the magazine, including this lush image of Hawaii, shot by Paul Zahl in June 1959. I'd really like to be heading off to Hawaii this summer, my desire fuelled also by Rachel's travels, and a post on resort fashion and Blue Hawaii on Dividing Moments.


Thoughts on travel obviously require thoughts on a new summer wardrobe. There were some great retro-styled suggestions on Yesterday Girl, though if we're talking clothes wishes, I'm still in love with this 1940s playsuit with skirt. It came from Miss Bamboo - a brilliant shop for fantasy Hawaii dressing.



Of course a holiday would also require some magazines to idly flick through on the beach. I enjoyed Susie Bubble's thoughts on Vogue Girl Korea, and the scope for allowing more depth and detail in fashion and teenage magazines. While there seems to be an every growing number of independent magazines, I'm not convinced they all manage to justify their existence as an object: I want my magazine to be more than a printed blog. There are a couple of launches I'd be curious to read though: Bristol-based Another Escape, themed around following your own inspiration, and Bertie from Vice's The Mushpit, though I suspect it might make me feel very old indeed.


Before I have that meltdown, I'll remind myself of three great pieces on three women who have each influenced the world of fashion in their own way, and at ages beyond their 20s. Teenage republished its post on Carmen dell'Orefice, famous for being fashion's oldest working model. This photograph shows her aged just 16. Meanwhile, T Magazine featured an in-depth interview with Miuccia Prada, and the Wall Street Journal asked about what's going to happen to Anna Piaggi's collection. Lucky Judith Clark for getting to explore those Worth dresses and Ballet Russes costumes and goodness knows what else.


I'll finish this week's round up with some things that are purely for fun. I love this skirt from &Other Stories, produced in association with illustrator Alyson Fox. I think a bag from the collection pops up in this shoot for the brand featuring Elisa Nalin (who also featured in yesterday's turban post), photographed by  Tamu of All The Pretty Birds.

As a young teenager, Judy Blume's Forever taught me more about sex than I ever would have thought to have asked. It's getting a live reading at the Royal Court on June 14. I think I'd still blush.

And this.






And, of course, I found it through the mighty Suri's Burn Book. Happy weekend.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Wrapped Up In Turbans

What do Diana Vreeland, Loulou de la Falaise and Marisa Berenson have in common? There are probably many answers, but the one I'm thinking of is that they are all stylishly dedicated turban wearers. Back in January, I declared 2013 to be the year of the turban and it seems to definitely be so (well in my head at least).

Ziegfeld dancer, Doris Eaton Travis, via 

The turban, in all of its twisting and turning variations, has been around for thousands and thousands of years. It carries many cultural and religious connotations but even in a purely fashionable sense, it's been part of fashionable European dress since the early fifteenth century, and is a style which is continually revived and played around with.

via

The exoticism of the turban fed the imagination of designers in the 1920s like Paul Poiret, or Jeanne Lanvin (as shown in this illustration from 1923) or, at a more extreme level, in the later elaborately decorated towering turbans created by Lilly Daché for Carmen Miranda.


Turbans seemed to reach a peak of popularity in the late 1930s/early 40s. It was a Lilly Daché turban selected to be buried in a time capsule at the 1939 New York World's Fair (there's a great film about the time capsule here). In Talking Through My Hats, she describes this particular creation:

"The year, 1938, was a turban year, if you remember ... So I designed a turban of draped silk jersey in two Persian colours, emerald green and royal purple, trimmed in purple ostrich tips and held on by two jewelled fobs with combs attached. With the hat was my new 'complexion veil'; tinted green across the eyes, and blush rose on the cheeks, to give the effect of make-up to the wearer ... When scientists dig up this time capsule in 6938, they will know that women were chic, even five thousand years ago."

Photo by George Marks, via

In his book Forties Fashion, Jonathan Walford notes that "American Vogue declared 1940 the year of the turban" (there are lots of years of the turban it seems). The scarf turban became part of the uniform for female industrial workers in the Second World War as a simple and stylish way to get long hair out of the way.

On the beach. (No source found: please let me know if you have any details on this image)

Part of the reason why turbans are so popular is their versatility. They can hold up hair, or enhance a neat bob. They can look chic on the beach, or glamorous worn out for an evening. They can hide dirty hair, or hair that's being set for a special occasion. They can be bought, or easily made.

Turban tutorial from Marie Claire, 1943. Reproduced in Forties Fashion by Jonathan Walford, via

There's been hundreds of tutorials on how to tie your own over the years, like this Marie Claire illustration from 1943 (again from Forties Fashion) ...

From Cheap Chic, 1975

... or this illustration from 1975 in Cheap Chic.

In recent years, there have been lots of turbans on the catwalk, used to set off ensembles by the likes of Jean Paul Gaultier, Marc Jacobs and Prada.


But it seems to be out on the street that the turbans are regaining their fashion momentum, whether it's the 1940s look redone, or part of the Jazz Age enthusiasm currently sweeping the nation. 

via

The many years, and looks, of the turban ...

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Last-Year Reads: The Cat-Walk By Cherry Marshall


As a model in the 1940s, turned model agency owner in the 1950s, Cherry Marshall’s autobiography The Cat-Walk gives a unique insight in the changes in modelling and the fashion industry in Britain over this period. This was a time where models were “expensively dressed by hook or by crook, aloof, disdainful, never without immaculate gloves and hat, she projected an image of a wealthy woman of the world, looking more like thirty than twenty-one.” And, although she made her name at the time when models were at their most aloof, I liked Cherry (real name Irene) a lot, especially as she was fired from one job for smiling too much. She seems very open and forward looking, and refreshing honest about her triumphs and mistakes.

Cherry Marshall as Miss Susan Small, reproduced in The Cat-Walk by Cherry Marshall

Marshall was almost bullied into modelling by another model, Seignon. It was a way a woman could earn money in the post-War period without taking jobs from the boys, and Marshall could supplement the income of her husband, the poet Emanuel Litvinoff, and support her small family. With her fabulously tiny 22-inch waist, she had the figure wanted by fashion house of the period, and worked as a house model for Wallace before moving to Susan Small, a company which specialised in copies of garments smuggled over from Paris. She became so associated with the company, she did publicity tours and adverts under the name of “Miss Susan Small”.

Cherry Marshall modelling, reproduced in The Cat-Walk by Cherry Marshall

It was this period of her life I found the most interesting. As a model, she was supplied with clothes and expected to uphold the reputation of the mannequin at all times. She writes, “You couldn’t appear anywhere without having the new look, not if you were a bona fide model, and no matter how hard you were you got yourself at least one dress or suit or coat.” So she swept through the streets of 1940s Britain looking glamorous while her husband come to look shabbier and shabbier in his only suit. Although she looks glam, the book makes it clear that the modelling profession, is very much work and not very well paid work at that. Marshall’s family is living in a mould-ridden basement in Hampstead and she has to borrow a neighbour’s flat to do an “at home” feature for Women’s Own. Make-up for models was the not-so-luxurious combination of Max Factor pan-stick, supplemented by boot polish mascara and face masks improvised from table salt and cold cream.

Cherry Marshall, dressed in The New Look, reproduced in The Cat-Walk by Cherry Marshall

Although she notes the associated guilt at the extravagance of wearing such styles at a time of world-wide austerity, I think Marshall’s description captures the excitement of Dior’s New Look better than hundreds of other descriptions I’ve read: “Our silk stockings were in pewter grey and our shoes high heeled and deliciously tarty and when we swept along we allowed ourselves the naughtiness of flaunting our hips.”

Marshall is also wonderfully frank about her fellow models. Barbara Goalen and her “too long and thin” nose didn’t do too well in her first job alongside Marshall, but “burst on the fashion world like a meteorite a couple of years later, with a magnificent new nose.” Jean Dawnay “wasn’t all that special” while, at a later date, Bronwyn Pugh (so loved by Charles Castle) couldn’t find any work when working for Marshall’s agency.

Reproduced in The Cat-Walk by Cherry Marshall

As her modelling work was beginning to dry up, Marshall moved into fashion PR, before being approached to take over an existing model agency. She did this with considerable style and energy, introducing things like model charts into her business and organising grooming and deportment classes. And she had a considerable knack for self-promotion, not to mention gumption, including organising a show of British fashions in the then USSR in 1956. This image shows a couple of the immaculately groomed models, poised outside GUM in Moscow, one of the images of the trip that was relayed internationally. She also, more hilariously, organised a Spanish extravaganza to showcase the work of Vidal Sassoon, despite his protests, simply because his name sounded Spanish.


Her classes weren’t only for models but also for hostesses and actresses and those who could benefit from a bit of model poise. She even took a class inside Holloway Prison. Marshall recounts the chilling story of Ruth Ellis, who attended one of her classes but couldn’t wear swimsuits for one show as she was covered with bruises from her abusive relationship. Ellis’s name is now much better known as being the last woman to be hanged in Britain, for killing her lover.


Many happier stories crossed her books too. Though not mentioned in the book, Grace Coddington attended her school, as did Paulene Stone, shown here in a photograph by John French, modelling the simple gingham outfit that catapulted Biba into business.


And, although she missed out on Jean Shrimpton, spotting her the day she signed up to rival Lucie Clayton’s school, she did claim Pattie Boyd as one of her girls. She was “clean, fresh and bubbly and we all loved her.” Despite Norman Parkinson describing Boyd as looking like a rabbit, Marshall preferred to think of her as a “new contemporary girl … fantastic in all the way-out clothes of her generation.” But, even with Pattie on board, Marshall freely admits to being out-of-step with the shifts of the sixties, and (in her eyes), the increasingly untidy, ungroomed and unprofessional models. Judging a competition alongside Mary Quant, she describes criticising a model dressed in a scruffy, badly stained dress. Quant – much closer to the mood of the time – simply stated “But at least she’s got a bit of individuality. I don’t see anything wrong with a little healthy grub myself.”

Cherry Marshall on Houseparty. She's on the left, via

Marshall began appearing regularly on the talk show Houseparty, something along the lines of today’s Loose Women, dispensing her advice to the nation’s women. By her own admission, she became frequently removed from the world of fashion, where she felt models who wanted to work were forced to “dance, gyrate, look sexy and generally perform in a way the old-style model would have refused to do”. And I see her point. She mourns the loss of the elusive quality of “style” from the 1970s modelling industry.

In 1976, she decided to quit and closed down the agency completely, rather than passing on her name. I admire her decision but it has meant she’s something of a footnote in history, and perhaps not given her due for her contribution to the modelling industry. She published this book two years later, and died in 2006. I enjoyed spending time with this fearless and frank woman: though I did keep thinking how I would probably hate her dissecting my personal appearance, and especially my walk! I'd certainly benefit from some of her deportment classes, even though I've got no real desire to appear as groomed and aloof as a 1950s mannequin.

Buy this from Last-Year Girl Books on Etsy

Friday, 24 May 2013

Last-Week Links: 24 May 2013



I love my little routine on a Thursday evening, when I come in from my sewing class and spent a bit of time looking over all the bits and pieces I've squirrelled away from the internet, and putting this post together. But, my goodness, every time I type the date in, it's a reminder of how quickly the year is rushing by. When I looked at the picture, it was accompanied by the sound of years whizzing past me. It's a campaign for Brooklyn brand, It's Okay My Dear, as featured on Calivintage, and the clothes are lovely stuff: neat shorts and shirts, with cute cat pockets. I was shocked, however, to find out the model is Rachel Trachtenburg, who I last saw as a young girl drumming in her family band, The Trachtenburg Family Slide Show Players. Now look at what a sophisticated cat she is! Once at a gig, she did tell me she liked my glittery shoes, so obviously she's always had refined tastes.


Calivintage, and Katie-Louise Ford both featured the beautiful collection of Rosapina Vintage Handmade. Beautiful dresses, skirts and blouses; I adore the fact they were made by a mother and daughter team, using a grandmother's fabrics from the 1950s and 60s. I also love the inter-generational story behind Analog, found through Take Courage. They're a brother and sister who found a treasure trove of family clothing which they are gradually selling on. There's great stories behind each of the garments. The pretty blouse that Cat bought, for example, was made for their Nana while in Italy.


If we're talking about treasure troves, this video shows quite a wonderful one. It's Hamish Bowles let loose with Chicago History Museum's amazing collection of Charles James dresses. I'd seen them in pictures (the V&A has some great examples too) but they look even more drop-dead fabulous on film. All those colourful layers - beautiful! I sent this onto my boss, for work-related reason but had to preface it with a note about the slightly eye-brow raising beginning. I can completely believe it. Remember how raffish James looked in The Fashion Makers?

If I'm mentioning mega-names of fashion, I also add that I liked this analysis of leading fashion brands on Pinterest. Is it just me, or are all the top ten items extremely ugly? I'm not a huge fan of spindly high heels (come and take a look at my collection of librarian-worthy favourite flats on my Pinterest instead).


There were lots of Life magazine photos doing the rounds this week. Honey Kennedy shared Sophia Loren's suitably lush Roman villa from 1964, and more glamour came from their collection of images taken at the Cannes Film Festival in 1962. My favourite though, was the images taken by Nina Leen for a December 1944 article called "Teen-Age Girls: They Live in a Wonderful World of Their Own". The photographs show the girs being typical teenagers: listening to records, drinking milkshakes, indulging in their own unique trends and crazes, and looking young and lovely while doing so. This picture alone has made me vow to hang my cardigan off my back more often and finally invest in a pair of saddle shoes.


You know who else would approve of that look? The divine Audrey Horne, of course. It's been a while since I've managed to squeeze in a Twin Peaks reference and a gratuitous picture of Audrey,  so I was extra pleased to see this Audrey Horne inspired make-up piece on XOVain. It's quite apparent that looking like Audrey requires more effort than I'm truthfully ever going to give it. Oh well. The comments are typically XO brilliant too.

Have a lovely weekend, whether you are spending it perfecting an Audrey smoulder, or have a good old vintage rummage in mind. It's a bank holiday weekend in the UK and I'm looking forward to catching up with a very good friend who's visiting from Scotland. Lots of chat and cups of tea await for me. See you next week.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Last-Year Girl: Jean Shrimpton

"The most beautiful of all the models I have known was Jean Shrimpton. To walk down the King's Road, Chelsea with Shrimpton was like walking through the rye. Strong men just keeled over right and left as she strode up the street ... Shrimpton herself seemed to have no awareness of her extraordinary looks", Mary Quant


"She’s the unicorn, the rare, almost mythical thing", Cecil Beaton


Where do you start with a face as famous as Jean Shrimpton’s? It could be her relationship with David Bailey, which brought a fresh new look into fashion photography, or there’s the pictures of her simply sizzling with Terence Stamp. There’s the 1990 Jean Shrimpton biography, only written, she told the Guardian in 2011, because she needed money to renovate the roof of the hotel she now owns, the Abbey Hotel in Penzance.


There’s been plenty of mythologising about her contribution to fashion but look at any Jean Shrimpton photos and she still appears every bit as gorgeous and modern as she would have done in the 1960s. Ask me, or the girl next to me, who we wouldn’t mind looking like and the Shrimp will feature pretty highly. No wonder, coming after the groomed hauteur of Dorian Leigh and Barbara Goalen and the like, her looks seemed like a breath of fresh air. And this became her selling point. Her adverts for Tricel, reproduced in Vogue throughout 1964, are peppered with slogans like "look wonderful in your own way" and "girls are looking like girls again", while Harper’s Bazaar, September 1965, boldly proclaims: "This woman is you" (I wish!). David Bailey himself expresses it well in Model Girl, where he’s quoted as saying: "I think the thing about Jean was that she wasn’t the stiff, dummy-kind of posed shop-window mannequin. She was somebody you felt you could have touched, almost … Jean’s look was what every girl wanted to look like."

Jean Shrimpton shot by David Bailey in New York, 1962, via

It was through her relationship with David Bailey in the 1960s that her stunning looks became something other than simply pretty. For Bailey, she was one part of a wider vision, "actually the caricature of what I wanted to make girls look like." Kennedy Fraser, typically eloquently, describes how their imagery "suggested links to anti-establishment elements that had not yet infiltrated the elite precincts of couture". As a famous couple who were clearly having sex with each other, and an unmarried couple at that (well, to each other, Bailey was married to someone else), they chipped away at both the image of the mannequin and what was deemed appropriate behaviour for young ladies of the period.


After Bailey, Shrimpton famously dated the actor Terence Stamp. While together they seem the most dazzling couple (I remember staring at this photo of them reproduced in Ready, Steady, Go for hours in admiration of their beauty), it wasn’t a happy relationship. She describes it in harsh terms in her biography: "In London, my life with him was empty: I was bored, and we must have been exceedingly boring to others … We were so vain that we continued to dress ourselves up and go out to be looked at.” And not just boring, but destructive too. On finding out about Shrimpton’s role in the Privilege film, Stamp was quoted in the national press as saying, "Jean announcing she was playing a lead in a film would be like me announcing that I’m going to perform a rather complicated brain surgery tomorrow." In contrast to her relationship with Bailey, who remains a friend, Shrimpton cut all contact with Stamp after their break-up. In an interview with the Evening Standard magazine from only last month, he’s quoted as calling her the love of this life, “and I kind of knew it at the time, but I was driven. It was my fault. She didn’t leave me for no reason. She left me because she saw I was a lunatic. I wasn’t ready for a twin-soul relationship."


Strangely, considering the showy nature of her relationship with Stamp, Shrimpton genuinely seems to hate attention (even taking her knitting with her on nights out) and is now much happier with a life out of the spotlight. In her own words she’s “waifish, coltish and cack-handed” and it was Bailey who had to teach her how to wear clothes. He agrees. “In terms of personal style, Jean didn’t have any. She just dressed in any old rags. Most of the time she looked like a bag lady.” This is the girl who turned up to American Vogue in leather gear and her belongings in a plastic bag, after all.


She wasn’t mad on beauty products either, despite receiving £70,000, a small fortune in 1967, from Yardley to promote their ranges in the States over three years, their attempt to cash in on swinging London. In her personal appearances, she would apparently get into trouble for telling teenagers to leave their skin or hair well alone, rather than handing them a bottle of Yardley’s latest product.


It was another awkward personal appearance which is credited to Shrimpton starting a worldwide trend: the mini. Asked to promote Orlon fabrics at the Melbourne Cup, she found herself with not quite enough fabric to make a proper length dress. “Oh, it doesn’t matter”, she apparently told her dressmaker. "Make them a bit shorter – no one’s going to notice." But, in then conservative Australia, when worn with no gloves, tights and hats to a prestigious event, society and the press certainly noticed and the image of her in her simple white outfit was flashed across the world. While perhaps she didn’t invent the look– she says that "in Britain, hemlines were beginning to creep up" anyway – it certainly took the mini to the masses.

Shrimpton being styled by hairstylist Alexandre, as reproduced in Radical Rags. Bailey has said of the Shrimp's US magazine appearances "what they did to Jean was amazing: they tried to turn her into a kind of doll – stiff hair, too much make-up, over-production."

If in person, she was never quite the supermodel people expected her to be, behind the camera she was a pro, working with the best and for the best, achieving her self-professed "career pinnacle" of shooting with both Irving Penn and Richard Avedon. Avedon took these pictures of Shrimpton being primped and preened at the couture shows for American Vogue in the mid-1960s. She recounts how Steve McQueen marvelled at her skill during their photo shoot together: "'You just turn it on and off'. I shrugged. 'It’s just my job'."

With her husband, Michael, and her hotel, Jean Shrimpton today does finally seem to feel secure, happy and settled. “Modelling was a strange career for me” she states in her autobiography. “Looking back, I realise that I was never really comfortable with the fame that came with it.” While her beauty is still admired and the iconic images she created with David Bailey, according to Kennedy Fraser, lie "deep within each follower of fashion", she is happier with an existence outside the world of fashion. More so than ever it seems. In the Guardian interview, she says "Fashion is full of dark, troubled people," she says. "Only the shrewd survive – Andy Warhol, for example, and David Bailey." Of course.

Want to know more? You can buy a copy of Jean Shrimpton's 1964 guide to the fashion industry, The Truth About Modelling from my Etsy book store. I'm also selling a copy of her autobiography, published in 1990. 

Monday, 20 May 2013

New in at Last-Year Girl books: The Twenties in Vogue, Shots of Style, Daphne Sets a Fashion and more

I'm slowly and surely adding things to my Etsy store, Last-Year Girl Books. Here's some of my favourite recent additions.


Whether you are fed up of reading about 'Gatsby style', or all the hype of the film release has only fuelled your love of the period further, The Twenties in Vogue gives a fascinating insight into that period. As the name might suggest, it's a compilation of material that appeared in Vogue over that decade: the glamorous resorts, the stunning interiors, the society ladies such as Daisy Fellowes, Lady Diana Cooper and Lady Ottoline Morrell and the stars of the period, like Josephine Baker, Charlie Chaplin, Louise Brooks, Greta Garbo and Gloria Swanson, who wrote the foreword to the book. It's a great thing to dip in and out of, in a few idle moments when you just need a quick shot of glamour. I'm also selling the follow-up volume, The Thirties in Vogue.


Daphne Sets a Fashion is the story of a girl working in a fashion house in the 1960s and was originally published in 1965. It's part of a series meant to inspire career girls (other books feature careers such as being an air hostess, a hair dresser and, thankfully, a doctor). Daphne is an in-house designer who has to tackle the copyists ripping off her designs. Gripping stuff.


Not fashion, but too nice not to mention, Country Walks is a compact little beauty put together by London Transport in 1971 to encourage people to visit the outer edges of London and some of its beautiful countryside. There are thirteen different walks to try out, around areas such as Epping Forest, St Albans, Caterham and Leytonstone. Part of the fun is seeing how these areas have changed over the last 40 years.



Shots of Style is an absolutely swoon-worthy book. It's a big, glossy book with over 150 fashion photographs. All the greats are here: Richard Avedon, Cecil Beaton, Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Norman Parkinson, Irving Penn, Man Ray, Helmut Newton ... the list goes on and on. And there's a host of beautiful faces you'll recognise too: Twiggy, Penelope Tree, Dovima, Dorian Leigh, Barbara Goalen, Jean Patchett... Inspiring stuff!


Finally, one of the smartest books about fashion I've ever read: A Fashionable Mind by Kennedy Fraser. I wrote about this book a couple of years ago - it's a collection of column Fraser made for The New Yorker over the 1970s, and covers all the twists and turns of fashion in that period, from longer skirt lengths to architectural fashion.

Do ask me if there is any particular out-of-print fashion book you're after - it might well be sat in the huge pile of books still waiting to go up in the shop.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Last-Week Links: 17 May 2013

Having the courage to follow your own convictions is a trait I admire - easier said than done of course. Perhaps it's that stage in my life (captured perfectly in this blog post by Johanna), but I'm spending a lot of time recently trying to work out what I do want, and also if my definition of being true to myself sometimes isn't just complete bloody mindedness. It can't really be a coincidence that all the posts I've picked up on this week are independent thinkers and doers. And some, I imagine, are pretty bloody minded too.


I'll stop with my riddles and show you this, one of my favourite Selby visits ever featuring Philip Oakley and Olivia Yip of Oakley Illuminations. Their house is crammed full of illuminations and other kitsch delights like disco balls and pineapple ice buckets. And I loved their loo: it looks like a cosy spot to spend some time! All this, and they live by the seaside in St Leonards. Utter envy on my part (perhaps I should stop doing all this talking about the seaside and just go and live there).


I wouldn't be the only one heading seaside-wards. One of South London's most famous and best loved residents, the Horniman Walrus, is going to Margate for a special exhibition. The Horniman Museum acted on this bit of - potentially non-too-exciting - news with brilliant spirit. The move was live blogged, while fans could find out more from the Walrus's (hilarious) Twitter account. Read a few of his tweets and you'll realise I'm not stretching the definition of "independent thinkers" by including him in this link list.



The museum world will be celebrating the life and style of fashion maverick Isabella Blow with an exhibition this November at Somerset House. And, in a change from Karlie Kloss/Arizona Muse/Cara Delevingne, the faces of Proenza Schouler's latest womenswear line are the band Deerhunter. While thanks to Kurt the sight of a man with a guitar in a dress is far less unexpected, I think such a high gloss brand doing it is. But Bradford and Moses do seem to find something in the clothes that chimes with them - the imagery is more theatrical than provocative, and I certainly looked at it for longer than I spend on most advertising.

Devoted readers who know more about my life than I do, may remember that last summer I went to see Atlas Sound, Bradford Cox of Deerhunter's solo project. Bradford was being by turns awkward and stubborn before blowing me away with an amazing cover of "Your Cheating Heart", originally written by Hank Williams. Hank Williams also features on this playlist (found via Cool Hunting) devoted to the films of the man who populates his films entirely with oddballs, Wes Anderson. How many times a day can you listen to "Where Do You Go To My Lovely?" without completely losing it, do you reckon? I seem to be testing that out.

Finally, keen supporters of independent magazines, Stack, are giving away archive copies of some of their great magazines this Saturday. I recommend getting down there and discovering some fantastic new voices.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Mary Quant Asked 22 Top Models: What's Wrong With Make-Up?

From The Sixties in Queen (1987)

In the early 1960s, Mary Quant was convinced there was a lot wrong with make-up. In Quant by Quant (1966), she declares "Make-up - old style - is out." In her 2012 autobiography she goes even further, stating "I wanted to design a complete look from head to toe ... Everything looked right except the make-up." At the time, wearing make-up was, in Quant's words, "about as fashionable and chic as false teeth".

So what did Mary Quant do? According to this advert, reproduced in the book The Sixties in Queen (and dated to 1964, though I think it must also be 1966 when Mary Quant Make-Up launched), she asked 22 top models.

The advert doesn't seem too far from the truth. In a period where putting make-up on in public was still deemed as slightly improper, who else would know how to apply it properly, other than the people who rely on it to make their living, the models? Quant writes: "I was acutely conscious that I had to deliberately break the rules ... Then I saw Jean Shrimpton and Grace Coddington using foot-long brushes from stage make-up suppliers. This moved my thinking further. I could see that these could be developed into a pencil-case size and made very chic and charming. A wider palette of subtle foundation and blusher colours would also give us the shading, shaping and shadowing effects need to flatter the face."

In Grace, Grace Coddington also describes a model's make-up in this period: "An intense focus on the eyes was now the absolute thing: they had to be more expressive and dramatic and were known as 'panda' eyes... Each girl had their own individual style when it came to piling on the eye make-up." In her 18 months of development before launching the range, Quant must have asked a few models about that too. She wanted the look of the range to be "flattering, exaggerating the eyes, the cheekbones and mouth, subtly shaping the face, very pale in winter or playing up freckles in summer."


Both the Shrimp and the Cod appear in this advert for Mary Quant Make-Up (fun "Make-Up", rather than grown-up "Cosmetics" was a key distinction for Quant), alongside Peggy Moffitt and Celia Hammond and many other familiar faces. I can't find out much more about this particular advert, other than that is was probably the work of Tom Wolsey, the art director on fashionable Town magazine, and the man behind the other distinctive Quant Make-Up advertising of the period. And it can't have been cheap to put together: Jean Shrimpton and the like were actually earning decent money by this time. Perhaps the expense seemed justified because Quant had complete trust in the possible success of her new products, describing it as "the one time in my life I had total, total confidence in a venture's success."


Here is the "first great post-atomic breakthrough in make-up", according to the advert. Geared towards "look of the moment", the range includes fun sounding products like "starkers nude foundation", face shapers, eye shapers, and nail varnish shades named things such as Chrome and PVC White "geared to current clothes". The packaging looks every bit as distinctive today, designed to be played with and, more importantly, to be shown off, a symbol for the "new, young career woman" as Quant describes it.

When Quant asked "What's Wrong With Make-Up?", it's basically the same question she asked, and answered with her equally game-changing clothing designs. "I want model girls who look like real people to wear my clothes which are for real people", she said, when talking about her fashion designs in 1967 and she might as well have been describing her make-up philosophy. "I want model girls who look like real people to wear my clothes which are for real people."
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