When I was twelve I really, really, really wanted some satin jeans.

The Nolan Sisters wore them on Top of the Pops. But more importantly, Olivia Newton John wore them at the end of Grease.


‘You’ve already got satin jeans,’ my dad said, helpfully. ‘All your jeans are sat in.’

‘Oh ha! Oh ha ha ha!’ was probably my reply. (I did a lot of ironic ha ha-ing back then.)

I vividly remember seeing the rack of satin jeans in a fashion boutique in town while out shopping with my mum. She, to her credit, let me try some on. And she didn’t tell me I couldn’t have them. She just pointed out that I might like to try on some other stuff as well, before I decided.

And I knew, from her tone of voice (sweet and kind) that possibly I didn’t look, in satin jeans, quite the way Olivia Newton John did in Grease.

I chose something else.

Fashion can be a nightmare. Or it can save you.

The shiny satin jeans look was really not me back then (although I reckon I could carry it off now!). But the flouncy gypsy skirt and cheesecloth blouse look was. Kind of. I mean, I’m not posting any pictures but I don’t remember being laughed at in the street… probably because all the other girls looked like extras from a Gypsy Kings video too. The more lace you had on your petticoat, the higher your social standing.

Then we suddenly turned into pixies. Ali16Polkadot

Little ballerina style frocks, ra-ra skirts and sweet little canvas flat shoes came in. Here’s the evidence.

At 16, I look like I’ve escaped from Fairyland.

Drainpipe jeans were next. They were painful. They’re back now and I love ‘em – but they’re better made and easier to get on. In the early 80s we mostly made our own by lumpily stitching up ordinary jeans to make them so skinny we could barely get our feet through them (to the complete bafflement of our parents).

Sometimes the none-too-clever stitching would give way and someone’s inner thigh would suddenly burst out like a dark denim wound. And that was their credibility shot!


FIVE_STARThe jump suits with enormous shoulder pads were hilarious. 5 Star (on the left) used to leap around in them on Top of the Pops, in perfect co-ordination. They looked like shiny, well choreographed rugby players caught up in a devastating eyeliner slick.

So we all had to look like that too. I’ll say one thing for the giant shoulder pads, mind, they were great for a friend to rest their head on when the weight of all the Elnette spray in their huge hair got too much for their neck.


spice-girlsBy the 90s I wasn’t so influenced. But many others were. Remember the breeze-block shoes introduced by the Spice Girls? All of a sudden, young girls, with their spindly pipe-cleaner limbs, were struggling to get across the town centre, as the six inch soles of their sparkly shoes and boots were too heavy to be supported by the average teen ankle.

They just sat against shop windows, buckled over like injured daddy-longlegs, smiling bravely through the pain. They looked amazing. Injured. But amazing.

At the moment you can get pretty much any fashion you like – drainpipes to flares, breeze-block shoes to wispy bejewelled flipflops. It’s all in. Or out. Or shake it all about.

I’ve finally found my look. It’s skinny jeans, jackets and boots. And after several decades trying out all kinds of looks, I know it fits me.

But when I look back at the stuff we all wore while growing up, in old Polaroid pictures and grainy, slightly yellowed instamatic prints, the fashion is only noticeable when we were all noticing it ourselves.

When we were posing and self conscious the clothes seemed to wear US.

But when we were screaming with laughter and looning about and careless – the clothes were immaterial. Being happy with your mates never, ever goes out of fashion.


6 thoughts on “FASHION PASSION

  1. I always love your posts about clothes and accessories, Ali! Ah, nostalgia…

    My style for a long time was a baggy jumper and leggings. Only back then, leggings had only just been invented and they didn’t contain lycra or spandex. So you wore them once, and then they would ‘bag’ at the knees and never looked the same again.

    Oh – and I’ve just remembered something that is definitely not in fashion now and hopefully never will be again. Blouses, with extra collars attached, in the style of a floral scarf or a lace doily. I had several.

    *retires in shame*

    • Hmmm, when I was about 9 (in the 1960’s) I was desperate for the frilly blouses that were all the rage and asked for one for my birthday. However, instead I got a frilly concoction on a piece of elastic to put under the collar of my school shirt! And two frilly elasticated cuffs! Funny thing was, I wasn’t disappointed because with the money mum saved I got a pair of red velvet hot pants (hand made but mega cool) and a pair of the most fantastic red crinkly plastic kinky boots to match!

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