Way back when, Wednesdays

Funky fashion arrives in the North East

The days are getting shorter and the Autumn/Winter fashions are now in the stores. Let’s have a look at what people were wearing in 1971. The North East Leader, a Messenger Newspaper covered the coolest threads on offer for men, women and boys, from pages 36 – 37 of the edition dated 14 July 1971.

Knitted suits for men

Yes, these photographs are real. Perhaps these brands of menswear should have been labelled with a hazard warning “Wearing this garment may compel doe-eyed women to hang themselves precariously off your person at any given opportunity.”

Mens fashions knit shirt

These articles focused on how it was essential for a man to be stylish if he wanted to be admired and attract a lady companion. The photographs are over the top by modern standards but we all know that the advertising industry still uses sex appeal and prestige to sell products! John Brown’s smart knitted suits for casual and weekend wear were styled following overseas trends. Note the focus on Australian manufacture, no doubt using fine Australian wool. Maybe these women are not really gazing adoringly up at the male models – they are really just feeling the texture of these garments. For as the article states, women might be coveting the clothing for themselves!

A married man would make his wife’s life at home a lot easier if he chose to wear modern, easy care drip dry fabrics. Synthetic fabrics had been popular during the 1960s. These colourful and distinctive knit shirts in the ‘Summerknits’ range by John Brown were made from high tech fabrics such as Tricel and Teteron.


hotpants in crimplene

Conversely, the ladies modelling a new range of women’s clothing don’t need men as accessories in these photoshoots. Wearing funky hotpants, this girl is confident, in style and ready to have fun.

During the 1970s fashions changed greatly from the beginning of the decade to its end. In 1971 the fashions were very much like those of 1969. Garments made from polyester were popular as they were inexpensive and did not need ironing. Bright colours and bold prints were still in demand. Checks and tweeds were in vogue too.


Lady with silver buckle

Distinctive fashions by young Prue Acton, the first Australian designer to break into the American market.  Prue embraced both new synthetic and natural fibres, to create her bold and colourful designs (https://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/articles/2377).


Young women still liked mini-skirts but long, flowing skirts were also worn. Fashion continued to be influenced by the hippie era and ethnic influence of the late 1960s. Women wore long bohemian print dresses with billowing sleeves. Men’s loose shirts in floral patterns had ties around the neck or an open neckline. Not forgetting the leather sandals and scarves tied around your head. And hippie men wore beards and long hair.
Turtleneck jumpers were popular with both sexes and every woman owned at least one cowl neck jumper, to wear with pants or under a pinafore dress. Ladies still liked trendy short hair styles. But long hair might be worn down loose, plaited or dressed in a soft, bohemian up-style for a natural look. Or you could set it in waves.

Another trend emerged – the 1970s was the first decade where women wore pants and pantsuits for work and leisure. Women could wear jeans at home and elegant or trendy pants to a nightclub or restaurant. Some dress codes allowed women to wear business suits with pants to the office. By the end of the decade, women could basically wear what they wanted, which was revolutionary (https://www.retrowaste.com/1970s/fashion-in-the-1970s/1970s-fashion-for-women-girls/).  Trousers for both men and women were low rise, firm on the hips and with a wider leg which was sometimes cuffed. Corduroy clothing or men and women such as jeans, and sports coats with wide lapels, were seen everywhere (http://www.thepeoplehistory.com/1971fashions.html).


boys 2

Knitwear and shirts by John Brown for little men, made from machine washable wool.



Spotlight on: Vivienne Westwood

Fashion doyenne and political activist Dame Vivienne Westwood released her long-awaited autobiography in late 2014.

Co-written with fashion journalist Ian Kelly, it is an epic read that covers Westwood’s evolution from shy primary school teacher to original founder of the London punk scene, her influence on world fashion and the rise of Vivienne Westwood the designer label.

Vivienne Westwood

Vivienne Westwood, today

At 400 pages, it’s no short read, but there’s lots of photos and hand-drawn illustrations to break it up. Westwood doesn’t directly author the book, instead she is frequently quoted to provide her version of events on her life’s course.

The origins of British punk fashion are covered in detail, including the moment Westwood met partner Malcolm McLaren and the story behind their infamous SEX clothing shop on King’s Road. While it was a turbulent period for their relationship, it was an intensely creative period for fashion. During these years of raising small children, running a business and making all clothes by herself, Westwood refined her fashion skills and slowly her aggressive punk designs morphed into high-end fashion. It is said her cutting skills reinvented the concept of traditional British tailoring and gave a lifeline to the British tweed industry from the 1980s onwards.

Vivienne Westwood

Vivienne Westwood being made a Dame at Buckingham Palace

Westwood is still heavily involved in her activism work for Greenpeace and her human rights organisation Liberty.The book criss-crosses the wide range of topics she has provided public comment on over the years – social upheavals, change of governments, the progression of the human rights movement. Those seeking gossip and scandal can lap it up from the chapters on the 1970s, the glam 1980s, the grungy 1990s and beyond. It also features contributions from many of Westwood’s friends, including the likes of Pamela Anderson, Naomi Campbell,  Prince Charles and Julian Assange.

Her marriage to Andreas Kronthaler, 25 years her junior, is also explored. A relationship that developed from a mutual admiration of one another’s fashion designs and a little bit of a ‘crush’ on one another, their 23-year marriage has gone from strength to strength and defines the Vivienne Westwood fashion label as it stands today.

If you persevere with this long book you will be left feeling inspired and totally in awe of this dynamic style maven, who at 74 continues to pump out a new collection for Paris Fashion Week each year.

Vivienne Westwood and Margaret Thatcher

Another famous friend….or foe? Westwood with former British PM Margaret Thatcher.

You can borrow this book from our library here

Everyone ought to live like a Parisian. Apparently.

A suite of lifestyle guides based on the lives of Parisians have been published over the years. On bookshop and library shelves you may have seen titles such as French Women Don’t Get Fat, French Women Don’t Get Facelifts, French Women for All Seasons,  French Children Don’t Throw Food and the recently published, How To Be Parisian Wherever You are.

French women don't get fat

The book that started the ‘French women do it better’ genre….Mireille Guiliano’s French Women Don’t Get Fat

All the books aim to sell a certain idea of the Frenchwoman to we the less sophisticated foreigners. From start to finish, pages are filled with illustrations, photographs, lists, recipes, how-to’s and plenty of no-nonsense advice for improving your life by adopting Parisian ways and customs.

The latest offering, How to be Parisian Wherever You Are, is written by four accomplished French women, who have set out to explain “the art of beauty —the Parisian way.”

Their advice includes:

‘Smoke like a chimney on the way to the countryside to get some fresh air.’

‘Don’t feel guilty about infidelity.’

‘Cheat on your lover with your boyfriend.’

How to be Parisian wherever you are

Take some notes when you read How to be Parisian Wherever You Are…or don’t.

Still, you have to wonder – how many actual Parisians resemble these stereotypes in real life? UK Guardian journalist Hadley Freeman once lived in Paris and believes there is no such thing.

She recently wrote on this very topic: ‘…the funny thing is, in all my life of being related to Parisians, visiting Parisians and eating baguettes with Parisians on their scooters, I have never once come across a single woman who fits the stereotype peddled by these books. These idiotic guides present an image that is about as representative of Parisians as Four Weddings and a Funeral is of the average Brit.’

Whether or not real Parisian women truly fit the stereotypes by always looking chic, having lovers, eating baguettes and staying thin, the books are beautifully laid out, compact (most will fit in your handbag) and present stunning images of French life. They will certainly provide inspiration and give you a chuckle or two.

You can borrow any of the above mentioned books from our library catalogue. ‘How to be Parisian Wherever You Are’ was released in late 2014 and is available to borrow here

Spotlight on: Alexa Chung

Lots of ‘it’ girls are releasing memoirs these days. Although they tend to err more on the side of book-on-how-to-be-like-me, It-girl memoirs from the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Lena Dunham, Jessica Alba – even from a young Jackie Kennedy-Onassis – have been a publishing success for decades, appealing to young fashion-forward types interested in the zeitgeist.

British model, global fashion trendsetter and noughties ‘it’ girl Alexa Chung has got straight to the point, calling her recent memoir ‘IT’.

What exactly is an ‘it’ girl?. The Oxford Dictionary offers the following definition:

  1. a young woman who has achieved celebrity because of her socialite lifestyle.
IT by Alexa Chung

IT by Alexa Chung

The phrase is believed to have originated as slang in upper class British society around the turn of the 20th century. Rudyard Kipling is said to have been the first writer to use the phrase in his prose. In his 1904 short story, “Mrs. Bathurst,” he wrote: ‘Tisn’t beauty, so to speak, nor good talk necessarily. It’s just It. Some women’ll stay in a man’s memory once they walk down the street.’

Chung, whose exotic looks come from having a Chinese father and an English mother, takes the mickey much of the time, especially when providing advice for her wide-eyed fashionista audience. Makes you wonder whether this book deserves to be catalogued and placed in humour, rather than fashion.

Take her tips on how to get dressed in the morning:

1. In the shower/bath/over the sink (I don’t know what you like) take your time to imagine your day and how you’d like to look as you are doing all those boring tasks/potentially running into an ex or future partner/nemesis…

2. Is the outfit clean? – Is it though???

3. Put it on, and this is crucial… look in a mirror. 

Chung is down-to-earth. She admits ‘I probably first heard about Gucci via Posh Spice’ and ‘When I was thirteen I spent a lot of time pretending to like dance music because everyone at my school seemed to love it.’

She has no shame in telling the world at she borrowed heavily from the style of stars from the silver screen while trying to figure out her own personal style – FYI she copied Anna Karina, Liv Tyler, Jane Birkin and Edie Sedgwick, amongst others.

She is a creative and there’s lots of her own neat doodles throughout the book. There are many lists for inspiration, including ones of songs to get through a break-up, celebrities with ‘perfect hair’ to emulate and things to take to a music festival. It’s more of a zine than a book and encourages you to have a laugh.

‘IT’ is a book about Chung’s love of fashion, music, art, film and celebrity style. It’s a very popular book across the SA library network. You can put a hold request on it here