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Back to the whenever….

I hadn’t really noticed it before but yesterday in Sainsburys I noted that this year’s female swimwear collection is very ’50s.

I mean I’d noticed it at the high-end but seeing it in Sainsburys shows it has reached the “Taste the Difference” lasagne munching crowds like me.

Here is the interesting thing. I’ve heard a lot in the press about this decade being like the ’80s (I liked the ’80s) and the thing about that decade is that once the New Romantics ran out of mascara the ’80s went very ’50s in terms of style. Who can forget Nick Kamen in his 501s? It just strikes me as curious. If the ’80s ponced on the ’50s and now the 2010s (where’s my jetpack!) are poncing on the ’80s which of course ponced off the ’50s then…

Well, as a serious student of popular culture (I’m just pulling on the communication cord to prevent the arrival at Middle-Age Station), I’m curious. Is there a general re-capitulation of styles every thirty years? I mean is that the product cycle here?

Just call me Marty. I was pondering a big post on decadism but it’s Sunday so the hell with it!


  1. El Draque says:

    Hmmmm . . . . maybe you’re onto something.
    Going back a further 30 years, to the 1920s, swimsuits as we know them were more or less invented, except for the bikini.
    (And short skirts, for the first time ever as far as I know.)
    And sunbathing was invented too, in Florida, but only under medical supervision (no joke, Sun Clubs really did have to have doctors on call in case of sunburn).
    Go back another generation – sorry, the trend disappears as far as swimwear is concerned.

    As far as female fashion is concerned, there is a well-known correlation with the stock market. Skirts go up with the Dow Jones. And fall with the recession.
    So maybe a larger trend is involved.

  2. John B says:

    Politically it’s back to the 70s, that is for sure. Not exactly certain on the timing. That could be a 30 or 40 year cycle. If we get breakthrough to some sanity within a year or so then it can go for a 30 year cycle.
    While it’s amazing it took the freedom-haters even thirty years to educate people out of freedom, I suppose it’s also the point that they had to wait for an entire generation to become pensioned off or irrelevant.
    Because people had seen common sense and I do remember in the 80s that freedom had become fairly self evident.
    Only idiots thought that the Soviet Union had been on to something good.
    What’s that?

  3. Woman on a Raft says:

    “Is there a general re-capitulation of styles every thirty years?”

    Yes. For the simple reason that it takes about that it takes approximately 20 years to produce a new batch of fashionistas. Athough the 20 year olds will be setting the trends, it is the 30 year olds who have the money to buy them. That means the ones at the top end of the cohort will have been about ten years old when the themes first came out and are recalling what their mums or elder sisters wore, while the ones at the bottom end inject the new interpretations as they are coming to it fresh.

    The last genuinely new, never-seen-before tranche was 1960 where the availabilty of reasonably priced material and a determination to create a new dressing was developed by Mary Quant. However, she had her roots in Coco Chanel’s simplified sportswear (1940s, despite the war) who in turn can be seen to have traded on the simplified clothing of 1920, following WWI and the move towards giving women more physical freedom. See the 20 year markers?

    Fashion, despite what Vivienne Westwood thinks, is separate from politics but with the curious ability to be able to pre-figure it. When Elvis died in 1977 there was a remarkably sharp change over the summer from the bell-shaped last-gasp of glam rock to the rise of the punks and their theoretical opposites, the New Romantics, and both of those being flogged by the gifted joker Malcolm McLaren.

    On the one hand the New Romantics set the scene for the horrible rash of pie-crust frills which broke out around Lady Diana Spencer, while the punks expressed a genuine rage, although they didn’t know what or how. Both, note, are prescient; the New Romantics of the ‘everything will be alright’ school reached their perfect expression in the Royal Wedding Dress. The punks said everything was awful and had to change, and in the winter of 1978 everyone else agreed too, and in June 1979 the public made a choice to change.

    Fashion is like a weather vane or a wind sock; it doesn’t make the wind, but it does show you which way it is blowing before the full force of the gale gets here.

    At the present moment it is still set in the same direction it was, and that is set for serfdom. Watch the magazines and streets carefully for a dramatic change. If people suddenly start dressing very differently and changing their outlines the political change for freedom will be coming along behind.

  4. RAB says:

    Interesting stuff there Woman on a Raft.

    My take on fashion is that it is cyclic, and it takes 20 years to come around again because it takes that long to forget how dreadful it looked the last time round.
    There are only so many ways to wear clothes after all.

    Punk bin liners and ripped T shirts and everything being black, were a reaction to Paisley and bell bottoms of the previous crew, and New Romantics a reaction to Punk etc etc.

    McLaren once slyly said that Vivienne Westwood knew fuck all about fashion, she was (and is) just working her way through and Encyclopedia of Fashion History that he gave her for Christmas back in 1975.

  5. NickM says:

    Woman on a Raft,
    That is quite possibly one of the best comments we have ever had.

  6. NickM says:

    “how to use the force in real life without a fan”

    That’s how someone turned up here recently by putting that into Google.

    They know who they are.

    I have no idea who reads this site. I’m curious about their ages. Maybe this was the genesis of this post.

    We do get Google hits for the most bizarre and frequently pornographic reasons.

    Well, when I say pornographic… Mostly it’s very weird so not something I could imagine anyone playing with a full deck could consider a turn-on. We also still get hits for “Chrissie Amphlett nude” purely because I posted a Divinyls video once. OK, fair enough but (and I have searched since that turned up on the stats) Ms Amphlett is not in the nip anywhere on the net.

    I’ll tell you something which I think is probably very positive. I got no bloddy idea how old most of you lot are. I mean I know RAB was in a skiffle band with Lonnie Donaghan or something but otherwise… We don’t quite age as we used to do we?

    So, I’ll sleep when I’m dead. until then there is always The Proclaimers:

    The Rosslyn Institute didn’t just do Dolly the sheep. Where do you think they got Frankie Boyle from.

  7. Bod says:

    I’ll cop to being somwehere between NickM and RAB. My only claim to fame anywhere near RAB’s universe was that I hung out on the fringe of the fringe of the Canterbury Scene and spent a number years (some of them wasted, although not Wasted) at Manchester University and Imperial College London in the early 80′s doing a bunch of sciency-stuff when a British redbrick education still meant something.

  8. RAB says:

    I’ll tell you something which I think is probably very positive. I got no bloddy idea how old most of you lot are. I mean I know RAB was in a skiffle band with Lonnie Donaghan or something but otherwise… We don’t quite age as we used to do we?

    How bloody dare you!
    Neither do I !!

    I taught Lonnie everything he knew, and he’s dead already!
    I cant help feeling that Nick is getting a bit bladdered on this Skintight Sunday. ;-)

    I poured the asses milk into Cleopatras bath, taught Aristotle Arithmetic,dictated the Book of the Law to Alistair Crowley whilst hiding in a cupboard, convinced Cher to ditch Sonny, I am eternal! and though grey of hair, I am unlined and unbowed of spirit and vigour! I went paragliding last year for fucks sake!!
    I am older than Cthulhu and younger than the latest grunge band, and dont you forget it, young sir!

    Give him 20 years or so folks, and he is going to be exactly like me, un bloody stoppable! :-)

  9. RAB says:

    Bod, there was an interesting documentary on Progressive rock on the Beeb recently, it appears to have dissapeared off the iplayer but i’m sure they will repeat it soon.Catch it if you can, very illuminating.Robert Wyatt and Rick Wakeman are on fine form.
    Canterbury eh? Loved Soft Machine and Caravan. Was drinking champers with the latter after the opening gig of their reunion tour.

  10. Woman on a Raft says:

    “I got no bloddy idea how old most of you lot are”

    I cheat, like Dr Who, by moving about in time. Such a show off the Dr is, just ‘cos he’s got a door and hyperdrive. A paddle has always been good enough for me, although obviously it’s a bit blowy out on the Timeraft. He’s vain, too. It’s always “Go on, guess how old I am. My skin is wonderful for a 9,000 year old”. The silly old fool doesn’t get it; age doesn’t matter if you can bend time round you, which is exactly what happens on Planet Fashion, hence your correct observation of the 1950s suddenly zooming close.

    McLaren is like a pickled walnut with the annoying habit of being right. He has always been tortured by the idea that he he hasn’t got the level of genius he wishes (he’s right) and it shows in that when he gave Westwood the Encyclopaedia of Fashion it was she, not he, who set about mining it.

    Yet he has a touch of his own genius; an eye that can see things when they are still round the corner. There have been inspired moments where he managed to spin the Western world to his tune. I don’t think either Westwood or Lydon would have had the impact they achieved if he hadn’t had the guts to pull together a bunch of gifted, awkward people and just enough sense not to fall out with Beardie Branson while he was doing it.

    There’s a recent interview with Lydon (4 March 2010) which illustrates that knack to embody events before they have become public. Lydon’s song “Religion” in 1978 was criticised for taking a pop at the Catholic church. The offensive line:
    “Do you pray to the Holy Ghost when you suck your host? / Do you read who’s dead in the Irish Post? / Do you give away the cash you can’t afford?” doesn’t look like quite such a cheap shot at a defenceless target now. More like he told us, but we didn’t listen.

    Well worth a read:

  11. Sam Duncan says:

    Blimey, RAB. I’m only a couple of years older than Nick and you wouldn’t catch me on one of those giant kite contraptions. Well played, sir! Anyway, did Cleopatra really look like a young Amanda Barrie, or what? Actually, no, don’t answer; I’d hate to be disappointed.

    And on that note… Nick, you did a post about swimwear and didn’t put up a picture? You swine…*

    *In my head, that sounds like Peter Sellers in the Goon Show.

  12. NickM says:

    Well, for it to have been relevant It would have had to be pics of it on racks in Sainsburys which would have been a bit of a waste of bandwidth. Anyway, I’ll share a little secret with you. If you want to see pictures of ladies scantily clad there’s this thing called the internet. It’s marvellous for it.

    What struck me, really struck me is the sort of “double-hop” and the fact that I’ve been seeing lads in drainpipes and sort of winkle-pickers. Time for the Daily Mail to dust-off some scare stories about Teddy Boys – they’re the new hoodies!

  13. Bod says:

    That wasn’t Peter Sellars, Sam, that was Bluebottle, the East Finchley-type Boy Scout.

    Somewhere from the Archives of “ane fule kno’ that”, I’m of the (possibly mistaken) belief that Cleopatra looked more like Amy Winehouse on one of her less enchanting days, and that was the point of all the make up and kohl (in both cases). Being rolled up in a rug probably helped too.

    Incidentally, the collected works of Ronald Searle and Geoffrey Willans has been re-released. I realised that many of you youngsters will think that “‘ane fule kno’” originates from Private Eye, rather than “Down with Skool”.

  14. RAB says:

    Cleo probably did look a bit like Amy Winehouse, she was a Greco-Roman lass with a big hooter after all, hardly “Egyptian” at all.
    There is a great documentary on 4OD about the wonders of Alexandria, and not just the Library, but all the other amazing things too.Now all gone except for fragments.

    Weird isn’t it that what mankind had carefully built and seemed certain to last forever, can be destroyed in a blinking of an eye, and I’m afraid you have to blame Bishop Cyril (a nasty piece of work) and braindead Christian fundamentalists for that one.

    Yeah but Sellars was the voice of Bluebottle though wasn’t he?

    There’s a story to that. Milligan had been approached by this dingbat who really was a scoutmaster, who was looking for donations for the scout hut or something, and the bloke really talked like Bluebottle!
    So he sent him round to see Sellars at his flat. When he opened the door, he was confronted by this idiot saying…
    Mr Milligan sent me round to see you, He told me to tell you that I am a Genius!

    Well Sellars couln’t believe his luck! He nicked the voice straight away, and sent the haplass fool of into the night with a few quid for bob a job week.
    The rest , as they say is History.

    Top man Lydon, Woman on a Raft. He nicked a mate of mine, Bruce Smith, from Rip Rig and Panic to play drums in Public Image Ltd. He knows a bloody good musican when he sees one.

  15. Sam Duncan says:

    Actually, I was thinking more of Bloodnok. One of my favourite Goon gags:

    Seagoon: Don’t worry, I’ll have you out of there before you can say “Jack Robinson”!

    Bloodnok: Jack Robinson. [Pause] You liar

    And whizz for molesworth, curse of st custards!

    (The 50s were a bit of a golden age for British humour, weren’t they?)

  16. Bod says:

    I had to enjoy the Goons second-hand, me not bein’ quite as old as RAB and you, Sam (*smirk*) and sadly, as with Monty Python, I always found the Goons to be highly variable. In the States, it’s almost heretical to say that the Parrot Sketch really is only funny for the first 20-30 (bad) fan-renditions, and with the few Goon Show fans I know, it seems the same way.

    The odd thing is that the stuff I found funniest about Python, and the Goons, was the stuff people don’t seem to quote very often. Maybe it’s simply because these skits usually haven’t been done to death.

  17. RAB says:

    Apart from the wife, the two things I love most in life is music and humour.
    But despite being old, though I certainly dont feel it, I too came to the Goons second hand. I was first introduced via the teleGoons on the tv, because even little ‘ol Methusela me, was too young to hear the original broadcasts.
    The thing about the Goons is that is half rubbish and half genius and it is sometimes hard to tell which is which.
    Spike wrote the whole thing except when they got Eric Sykes in to write a few, when he was raving at the moon in a darkened room, because he was seriously mental a lot of the time. The pressure of that didn’t help his mental state.
    It all stems from the War, which all the Goons fought in and Spike got invalided out because of PTS. All the humour and silliness and surrealism comes from the wartime experiences.
    I saw Adolf Hitler, my part in his downfall, on stage the other night, done with much music (Spike was a Jazz Trumpeter as well as comedian) and gales of humour that was the only way to remain sane during the madness of a war like that. I swear that is why we Brits are so good at winning wars, is because we take the piss out of the experience at the same time.
    The best of the Goons and Monty Python which was a successor to it of course, wasn’t for me, stuff you could laugh out loud at, but the surreal, damn that’s clever! never thought of that before kind of stuff.

    The sketch between Bluebottle and Eccles, when Bluebottle asks Eccles the time, and starts…
    What’s the time Eccles?
    Doh I will tell you now little fellow, I have it written down on a bit of paper here somewhere…

    Is, in my opinion, a piece of sheer genius.

    But it has to be said, the fine line that Spike trod between genius and rubbish was often crossed in the direction of rubbish.

  18. Bod says:

    Since we’ve degraded in that direction, I think my favorite line(s) from the Goons was in “The Histories of Pliny the Elder”.

    “For ten years, Caesar ruled with an iron hand”
    “Then with a wooden foot”
    “Finally, with a piece of string”

    The problem – from a “art-form” point of view, is (I’m sure the Germans had a word for this – they usually do) the ‘world-view’ of the humor. So much of the content was slyly pitched against the Reithian, Officer-Class Management of the BBC at the time. The productions just ooze parody, every time Grytpyp-Thynne opens his mouth.

    But it’s more extensive than that – Bloodnok – a parody of an incompetent, venal officer who remembers firing volleys at the Mahdi’s men at Khartoum. Eccles – the guy who should never have been drafted and put in the front line. Henry Crun & Minnie Bannister, the senile Daily Sketch readers, etc. The stereotypes just don’t exist anymore (and maybe they were never did). On occasion, they even ‘gooned’ politicians (I remember two or three references to Eden that were hardly complementary, and some of the Churchill references were exactly what you’d expect from a generation that threw him out of office after the war).

    It was hugely subversive, right under the nose of the establishment – even funnier, paid for by the public via their radio license fee.

    I sometimes wonder what Milligan *really* thought about royalty as an institution. I have a sneaking feeling that he muct have laughed his ass off when he found out that Prince Chuckles appreciated the show so much.

  19. Jeff Wood says:

    My dear Papa, and his generation who fought the War, loved the Goons, Michael Bentine, Sellers and so on. They understood them, and the humour of the 50s came out of experience of the Services. Ah yes, Round the Horne was in the same group, and something called, I think, the Navy Lark – a long time ago but bloody funny.
    Back to fashion, I have recently seen girls dressed in Annie Hall outfits, causing me to reminisce – not always happily – and lads in pure Mod gear and hairstyles at a McDonald’s. I checked the car park for the scooters, but maybe the threads were all they could afford.

  20. tim says:

    If you read the book Fashion Babylon then you’ll find out that fashion is recycled (off the top of my head) every 25 years or so. It’s a trashy book, but worth reading as it provides a fascinating insight into the world of high fashion, pricing (unbelievable!) and how supposedly great works of art are really a con.

    Apparently, Vogue/Elle/whatever magazines from 25 years ago are always very valuable because it points to where the fashion will be going. Cynical? Yes. True? Very

  21. RAB says:

    Yes back to fashion for a bit.
    There is a disconnect between the high fashion designer produced stuff, that can only be worn by zero sized models, and which is usually so ludicrous that no normal person would want to wear it anyway(anybody actually seen an ordinary person walking down the High St in a Westwood creation?) and Steet fashion.

    Street fashion can be unfortunate too though. Who thought up the trend for male kids to wear jeans that have a crotch down to the knees that make them look like they’ve shat themselves and are forever hoiking up before they trip over themselves?
    Or the current one for girls all wearing jeans an puffa boots, but with an inexplicable little skirt worn over the jeans?

  22. Woman on a Raft says:

    The trend for falling down trousers is a reference to prisoners in the US who are not able to have any ligatures and are supplied with deliberately over-large trousers or ‘pants’ to make it harder for them to run around and cause problems.

    At its most shocking one is supposed to be able to see the tip of the member sticking up over the hip-band, a deliberately offensive pose. And a risky one in Milton Keynes shopping mall, I’d have thought. Still, what would I know?

    The wearing of such nethergarments is supposed to suggest one is a baaad gangsta rather than a complete pillock.

    As to wearing Westwood; depends on whether one is talking about the pantomime gear which promotes the brand or the rather more wearable versions meant for sale. I notice that Emin has a favourite Westwood dress she’s been wearing this last ten years. It looks like curtains, but when she wears it that dress makes her look glamorous instead of a wonky-faced desperate slapper.

    As a token of Westwood’s curious ability, those little skirts – often sawn-off kilts or pleated flaps – were first promoted by her as ‘gestures’ in 1977. They are meant to evoke a sense of layers of functional clothing, maybe Japanese armour, and were most likely nicked from imported manga comics rather than the encyclopaedia of fashion.

    The stupidest one I ever saw was actually a nappy lashed up with leather straps. The punk who was wearing it fell uncomfortably in to the sense of a fetish which really can’t be described in a family blog and everyone laughed at him. I doubt he tried it twice.

    But then, which of us has not made a horrible mistake with tartan plus-fours, eh?

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