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.
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!
The 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.
By 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.