Billy Hughes and His Daughter


 Helen Hughes and her father 

Secrets
One of the saddest episodes in early 20th century Australian history to emerge in recent years is the poignant story of Helen Hughes, daughter of  Prime Minister William "Billy" Hughes. It's a mysterious tale of bad behaviour, exile, suffering and ultimately death - as well as a terrible indictment on the cruel social and moral edicts of the era. The story, which had remained quietly concealed for over 70 years was brought to light in 2008 by actor and amateur historian, Martin Vaughn, who had become fascinated by mysteries surrounding Helen's life and death.

Politics of a Self-Made Man
Billy Hughes was the seventh Prime Minister of Australia, in office from 1915 (the same year his daughter Helen was born) to 1923, serving throughout the turbulent  years of WW1. He was a controversial, polarising figure, partly because  he was perceived as a Labour Party 'rat', after having deserted the party over the issue of conscription, which he had enthusiastically supported (throughout his career he was to change political parties five times) and partly because of his vivid, over-bearing personality. Reputedly he could be both charming and ruthless and seems to have been multi-facted, presenting as a hero to some and a scurrilous renegade to others. In any case, he was to distinguish himself as our longest serving parliamentarian and died at the age of 90, still working to the very end.

William Hughes
Born in London to Welsh parents, Hughes had  immigrated to Australia at the age of 22, working at first in various odd jobs, including stints as a bushman, labourer and cook. Later he moved to  Sydney, where, after a period of poverty, he became heavily involved in politics, joining the Socialist League in 1892 at the age of 30. Among other things, he became a soap box speaker for the Single Tax League, an organiser for the Australian Workers Union and the Shearers Union, secretary of the Wharf Labourers Union, National president of the Waterside workers union and eventually was elected as an MP in the very first Federal parliament in 1901. After years of part-time study, in 1903 he also managed to secure a law degree and became a Kings Counsel a few years later.

In addition to his political activities, in the early days in Sydney, Hughes had formed a defacto relationship with his landlady's daughter, Elizabeth Cutts, a union which produced five children. Cutts died in 1906 and five years later he married Mary Campbell, with whom he had one daughter, Helen.

Helen
Helen Hughes as a child
From all accounts, Helen Hughes was strikingly beautiful, stylish, vivacious and clearly the apple of her father's eye.. 52 when his daughter was born, Hughes used to take his daughter everywhere with him -their's was a particularly close father/daughter relationship. According to historian Diane Langmore, although Hughes was often volatile and abusive toward the people around him, he seems to have been unusually gentle and affectionate with Helen:

You see a much more tender Billy. I think there is a warmth and tenderness in his relationship with Helen that you don't see with any of his other relationships of his life.~ Diane Langmore, Rewind 

In fact, Hughes and Helen appear to have been much closer to each other than ether of them were to Mary Campbell. An affectionate letter from Helen in childhood to her father hints that there may even have been some jealousy or at least disapproval from Mrs Hughes toward the relationship:

Darling Daddy, I have just got your dear little letter. I hope you can come home soon. I miss you so much. Don't let Mummy see. She might get angry. Love from your only little daughter, Helen.

Helen virtually grew up in the public eye and as a young woman, was well known in society circles: a popular, feted debutante, often appearing at public events with her father, her photograph appearing in newspapers and women's journals. She had a privileged, golden future ahead of her and everything to live for. Yet at the age of 21, after leaving for a trip to London, ostensibly for a holiday, she disappeared from public view, never to be seen again. Six months after her departure Helen died, alone and ill in a London hospital.

Contemporary newspaper reports of her death were vague and contradictory - one reported she had died of appendicitis, another claimed her death was caused by a duodenal ulcer but in neither case did the facts really add up. Rumours surfaced in certain circles that she had died from an illegal abortion but nothing of that nature was reported in the papers. How different the media was back then - there was a tendency to regard the reporting of scandalous sexual conjecture about public figures as irresponsible - a painful and needless intrusion into private lives, as well as potentially damaging to public office. Things were hushed up.

Moral Failure
Some moral values in the early 20th century left something to be desired and were particularly punishing for women. In the 1930s, social mores were such that young women were taught  to eschew any thoughts of sex before marriage. It was regarded as a shocking thing to do - a woman's reputation could be eternally shattered by such a scandal. Sex before marriage presented a tremendous risk for the woman and if a pregnancy followed she would be utterly ruined. It would have been unthinkable that the daughter of such a prominent man, who held the highest office in the land, should find herself in such a situation. Thus it would have been most unusual for a woman in Helen's position to contemplate a pre-marital affair - the consequences were simply too great.

Helen with Billy and her mother Mary
Yet have an affair she did, because as Martin Vaughn eventually discovered after years of painstaking research, Helen was  indeed sent off to London because of an unwanted pregnancy. She did not however, have an illegal abortion but died from toxaemia as the result of a Caesarian, performed after  after a gruelling 24 hour labour. There is also a suggestion  that Billy Hughes arranged to have the medical records go missing. That all this should be uncovered so many years after the event is testimony to that old maxim - the truth will out.

It was of course, tragic for Helen that she should have been compelled by a now redundant and unjust moral code to hide away in a foreign country and suffer the agony of a lonely, painful and 'shameful' death  but also devastating for her family in Australia and in particular, a loving, doting father who appeared to have worshipped her. Ironic too, in that he himself had fathered five illegitimate children.

To add further intrigue to the story, it seems the baby, a boy, survived. Decades later, it was revealed that in 1938, nine months after Helen's death, Billy Hughes had made provision for the maintenance and education of a nine month old boy, D.E. Hughes, "under the guardianship of Australia House, London", though, sadly, it appears he had no relationship at all with the child, who remained a closely guarded secret. 

Given the social climate of the time, it would have taken remarkable courage and meant disgrace and the end of his political  career for Hughes to publicly acknowledge the means of his daughter's death and the grandson she left behind. It is perhaps more an indictment of the era than of the man. Helen's son, who has changed his name,  was eventually tracked down and is apparently living in Sydney. However, according to the historians who found him, he apparently did not wish to be identified, nor did he want anything to do with the Hughes family. 

Island Painting

Oil on canvas Island Painting - where in the world?
Mystery Painting
This lovely old oil painting turned up recently at a Church garage sale in Melbourne, Australia and was bought by an acquaintance for five dollars (after he outbid a $2.50 offer). We're trying to unravel the mystery of the location and if possible, the artist, though he/she is probably unknown. Just on the remote chance that a passing viewer might recognise the scene, I thought I'd put it up here.

The Gamine Haircut

Gamine Shirley Maclaine Source
Short, pert and easy to care for, the gamine cut, popularised in the 1950s/early 60s was a radical departure from the kind of fussy, contrived hairstyles that featured in the 40s and early 50s, with their overworked rolled bangs, pins and perms.

The word gamine comes from the French gamin and means 'waif' or 'urchin' - an ideal gamine is a little bit tomboy, yet paradoxically girlish too,  with a vulnerability and  unique appeal. You don't have to have short hair to a gamine (Audrey Hepburn was one) but the 'gamine cut' was designed to conjure up that particular look.

Not quite as radically short as the pixie cut, the 50s gamine left enough hair around the face and over the top of the ears to be flattering, allowing that sly femininity to sneak into an otherwise boyish look. 

Jane Russell

Mid 20th century sexpot, Jane Russell in a 'come hither' pose
The Black Queen
Described by film writer  David Thompson as "immense and impervious", with her cascading raven hair, fine, wide-spaced eyes, red slash of a mouth and generous physical proportions swathed in sexy cloths, American 40s/50s actress Jane Russell was the walking embodiment of a wolf whistle. Yet unlike many of the other sex symbols of her era, Russell's persona was not that of the whispery, pouty sex kitten but rather a feisty lioness with a soft underbelly for the right man. 

Typically tawdry Macao poster
Although some of her films were a tad tacky, with an obvious kind of Hollywood-charged sex appeal that left little room for subtlety, she  nonetheless managed to salvage a certain dignity in her performances. Onscreen she could be mesmerising - her luxurious dark looks were photogenic and her face had interesting dimensions; often she appeared to be on the verge of a sneer, which gave her beauty the hint of a hard edge.

While perhaps not the greatest actress (I couldn't see her playing Ophelia), through her considerable physical assets and a distinctive personality, she commanded attention and was well suited to the kind of simmering B grade dramas that were often thrown her way. She also had a wry line in smart rapport and a natural sense of humour: no small commodity in an industry plagued by ego and insecurity.

The First Feature Film

Ned Kelly's helmet. Source
The Story of the Kelly Gang
The Kelly Gang cast on location at Heidelberg. Source.
Surprisingly, the first feature film did not emanate from Hollywood or the UK but from Australia. A feature film is generally described as 80 minutes or longer and at over an hour in length, The Story of the Kelly Gang, released  in Melbourne in 1906 was the first long-length film to be made.

Alas, only seventeen minutes of the film survives but what has remained has been digitally remastered by the National Film and Sound Archive. The story centres around the legendary colonial Irish rebel, Ned Kelly, a bushranger and his gang of renegades - Dan Kelly, Joe Byrne and Steve Hart. In Australia, Ned Kelly was (and still is) is regarded by many as a National hero, who, while hung by the neck in 1880 for murder and theft, had colourfully symbolised the struggle of the poor and disenfranchised against the cruel establishment. There are others who view him simply as a ruthless cop-killer but either way, he is one of our most famous or infamous, historical characters and a fitting subject for our first feature film. It was to be the first of several film adaptations of Kelly's life,  two of which starred Mick Jagger (1970) and Heath Ledger (2003) as Ned.

Ruffles and Pussy Bows


A young Joan Crawford in a magnificently stylish pussy bow, circa 1930s
Ruffles and big, exaggerated floppy bows, as an accent on dresses, were very popular in the 1930s. It was the age of the soft Marcel wave and arched eyebrows and the desired look was feminine but sassy. Fluff and frippery around the neck created an effective contrast to the tailored,  slimline dresses favoured by 30s designers.

Marianne Faithfull

Marianne Faithfull, above, ultra-stylish in 60s mod clothes .
Like a Rainbow
Married and then separated to an artist, mother to a young son,  a hit single, a rock star boyfriend and a heroin addiction, all before the age of 21 - in the rich cultural history of hip 60s London scene, there were few figures as notoriously colourful as Marianne Faithful. From the beginning, she seemed to tumble effortlessly into fame, a singing career and a world famous relationship.

Physically, as well as stylistically,  the singer had all the right ingredients for the times: wild blonde hair, a  slender body, a sensuous mouth, whispery voice, incandescent blue eyes and the whole enhanced by a  Carnaby Street cool that reflected the cutting edge fashions of the era. (though Faithfull describes Carnaby Street as a media construction)

Clothes aside, her convent background and sweet, angelic facial features belied a daring, hedonistic personality that sought out sensual experience but the clash only made her seem more interesting. Looking at very early footage of her, she seems exceptionally effervescent, dreamy, articulate and almost childishly naive, as though she lived in rarefied air.

Hitler's Filmmaker: Leni Riefenstahl

Photographer and film-maker, Leni Reifenstahl
Triumph of the Will and Olympia
In 1936, under the auspices of German dictator Adolf Hitler, Berlin played host to the Summer Olympic games. It was a grand event and the Germans went all out to impress. A new 100,000 seat track and field stadium, six gymnasiums and a host of smaller arenas were created, along with state of the art high-tech equipment, closed circuit TV and a radio network that broadcast internationally.

Hitler saw the games as an opportunity to showcase the 'glory' of Germany and in a world first, decided to produce a documentary film to mark the event.  He wanted an inspired work that  both elevated the German sense of pride and awed the rest of the world and he hired young German photographer and film-maker Leni Riefenstahl to make it. 

Where do you go to my Lovely?


 Image by Alain Elorza

You talk like Marlene Dietrich and you dance like Zizi Zeanmaire
Your clothes are all made by Balmain and there's diamonds and pearls in your hair...yes there are

Nice to be some
Singer/composer Peter Sarstedt's 1969 magically evocative ode to an  unknown and probably imaginary jet setting beauty, translated into a huge hit for him in England and I have to confess, it's always been a favourite of mine, romantic fool that I am. The song does tend to be more favoured by women than men, perhaps because it's a story song and provides a kind of romanticised female escapist fantasy. Those of us not in a position to steal a painting from Picasso (apart from the fact that he's dead) can listen to the song and imagine for a brief moment what it must be like for the Aga Khan to give one a racehorse for Christmas or more precisely, to be fabulously rich, glitteringly gorgeous and utterly adored...never forgetting of course, at night, alone in bed, that one came from the back streets of Naples. Yes, oh yes, I still bear the scar deep inside...

France Gall: Les Sucettes

Yé-Yé
France Gall in her naive days
Great Britain had the Beatles and yeah, yeah but across the channel, France had ye ye, it's own version of popular youth music.  Thus, while swinging London was rocking the world with innovate bands, mod culture and Mary Quant,  the  French had it's own groovy 60s scene going.

One famous exponent of French 60s pop was actor, director and musical individualist, Serge Gainsbourg. Notable for his unique lyrics and varied styles (as well as his affair with 60s icon Jane Birkin), Gainsborough had dabbled in jazz in the 1950s but moved on to sexy bubble pop in the 60s.

John: Cynthia Lennon


cynthia lennon's book about john lennonWhen someone gave me a box of discarded books recently, I pulled out one that caught my eye and began to read. The book was Cynthia Lennon's John, her 2005 personal expose of her ten year relationship with a legend.

I knew nothing about John Lennon's first wife...only that she existed. So much has been written about the Beatles and their relationships that to write more feels like adding a droplet of water to an already overflowing glass, not to mention the parasitic element of publicly raking over people's private lives. Yet Cynthia's book is interesting for its first-hand insights into the effects of  fame, adulation, wealth and the problematic nature of creating cultural legends, alive or dead.

The Mothers-in-Law

Cast of the TV show, The Mothers-in-Law
The cliche of the mother-in-law joke was taken a step further in 1967, with the creation of the TV sit-com, The Mothers-in-Law. What could be funnier than one-annoying mother-in-law? Why, two of course! Add some newly-weds and a couple of diametrically opposed husbands and you have the skeleton of a story-line, fleshed out each week by a series of meddling mishaps, disagreements and conflicts.

Bob Downe and Barry Morgan

The irrepressibly upbeat Bob Downe
In Praise of the Sickly Seventies
If immovable hair, carbon nitrate teeth and polyester safari suits appeal to you, you might like Antipodean entertainer Bob Downe, who lives, worships and dangerously inhales all things '70s.

Bob has been quipping, singing and what could be loosely called dancing, around clubs, cabarets and TV stations since 1984, an ominous year in more ways than George Orwell could predict.

Everything Bob Downe does, he does with gusto - disturbing gusto, so keep a kidney tray handy if you decide to sit through an entire song. Call me cowardly but somehow Bob and the Gilligan's Island theme together seems just too much 70s to take in in one gulp...

Mrs Simpson


 

Profile of a seductress - Wallis Simpson
When the freshly crowned King Edward VIII announced to the world in December, 1936 that he had decided to abandon the throne of England in favour of marriage to "the woman I love" there were in essence, two reactions - outrage or a kind of romantic empathy and intertwined with both was a sense of shock.

As most of us know, the woman Edward loved was forty year old American divorcee, Wallis Simpson. To the romantics, Edward was making  a supreme and noble sacrifice for love, while to the outraged he was spurning respectability, his duty, the people of England and the Church for an absurd, puppy-like passion that was nothing short of embarrassing.  

What mysterious qualities did Mrs. Simpson posses that would make her so powerfully alluring that a man would toss aside one of the greatest glories that could be bestowed upon him? Could it really be the force of her personal charms or was it a case of Edward looking for the excuse he needed to shirk the cumbersome responsibilities of monarchy?

1950s Melbourne



Flinders St Station and trams  in the 1950s- Melbourne icons

Stability and Sedation
When glamorous US film star Ava Gardner visited Melbourne in 1959 to film Neville Shute's nuclear-disaster novel On the Beach, she was allegedly unimpressed by our isolated corner of the world and famously described it as "the perfect place to make a film about the end of the world". US evangelist Billy Graham however, while visiting in 1950, had called it "the most moral city in the world". Perhaps in between those two descriptions, almost a decade apart, lay an unavoidable correlation...were we morally upright but dreadfully dull? More recently, journalist Neil Jillet has claimed Gardner  never made the remark at all but rather it was a colourful invention of his own, yet this scarcely seems to matter, as the remark, now etched into Melbourne folklore, had touched a raw nerve.

Liberace Fashion

Fun Times with the King of Kitsch
Strangely, I've never thought of Liberace as a fashion consultant or even remotely fashionable for that matter but perhaps there are those out there who do and if you're one of them (please, seek help!), this book purports to "swing open the closet door" on Liberace's extensive wardrobe in order to give us some sartorial guidance on the "fine art of extraordinary dressing for ordinary occasions". Tempted?

Katy Perry's Retro Style

Retro Queen
How many of us could wear this and get away with it? 
Ever since luminous pop queen Katy Perry has been pumping out hits and strutting her considerable assets in public view, she has been a showcase for the kind of  showy, eye-popping modern-retro style that makes contemporary gear look drab by comparison.

Perry's vivid retro style has been integral to her image and phenomenal success and in turn, the singer has elevated vintage allure to new heights of creative wow.

True, Perry's particular brand of retro carries more than a hint of trashy sexiness and is a rarefied look that few of us could carry off with the same confident aplomb - it helps to be tall, well-built and strikingly attractive. Nevertheless, the great thing about vintage is that the wearer can out it together in their own unique way - whatever suits.

Of Men and Monocles

Actor Sam Bernard in costume. 1909. Source
Not surprisingly, you don't see many monocles around these days..and why would you? They are cumbersome, fiddly objects, only cover one eye and are apt to pop put at inconvenient moments. And yet...by Jove they're eye-catching and offer the wearer an instant transformation into eccentric gentleman - an interesting accessory perhaps, for fans of chappism.

Contrary to appearances, monocles are evidently perfectly comfortable to wear and are handy as a reading glass that can be tucked discreetly into a pocket when not in use. When they first appeared in the early half of the 19th century, they were a simple affair - an unpretentious circle of metal-rimmed glass which slotted into the eye orbit. The second wave of monocles in the late 1800s however, were more elaborate and featured a gallery, which was a kind of of  wire extension on the underside of the rim, designed to increase comfort and prevent the eyelashes from getting in the way of the glass. 

History of the Chrysler Building

A New York Icon

An American Icon: The Fabulous Chrysler Building
The magnificent Chrysler building. Source
There is something both mesmerising and unique about the gleaming Chrysler building, thrusting upwards in its art deco glory - a monument to modernism, industry and early 20th century optimism. One of the great skyscrapers of New York, it still dominates the Manhattan skyline, if not in height, then in style and certainly, fame.

Designs for the building on the corner of Lexington Avenue and 42nd Street were originally commissioned by a land-developer, William Reynolds, before being passed on to automobile magnate and industry-grandising visionary, Walter P Chrysler, who worked with architect William Van Alen to create one of the most significant buildings of the modern age.

Apeface and Crumplezone

Interplanetary Rap
It's the sparkle in your eyes
Knocking me out with those Martian thighs...

Never heard of Apeface and Crumplezone...? Well if you're reading this you have now. Their latest musical vision, Escape to Mizar 5, has the distinction of being a 'full length space rap concept record' about the criminal goings-on on Mizar 5, a prison colony/red light district somewhere in a galaxy far away. With the help of a 12 page accompanying comic book, the listener is invited to be beamed up into a 'part Star Wars, part Star Trek' experience. Sounds ambitious, which is good.

Apeface and Crumple-Z, (aka Kyle Cornett and Brad White), hail from the USA, Planet Earth. Escape to Mizar 5 is their second space-rap record and you can check out the first single from it below. A full 16 track album, featuring guest appearances from the Rock, Rap and R&B talent tank,  is planned for late summer, 2012. The album promises some diverse sounds, from thumping to easy listening.The track below is definitely of the easy listening variety. You can also check out the single at itunes.


Greta Garbo Style


Hello Sailor - Greta Garbo publicity shot for MGM
One of the best ways to garner publicity is to eschew it and when Greta Garbo famously told the world she wanted to be alone, the moody Swedish actress immediately became an object of fascination. In the 1920s, she was cast as the eternal vamp and temptress and her male co-stars, mere incidental chattels overwhelmed by her dangerous beauty. In these romantic melodramas, her clothes were that of the seductress - dripping with sensual glamour.

FLY London Shoes




FLY London funky mega strapped open=toed sandal.
60s come 20s two-toned wedged ankle-strapped shoe 
Style Inspiration
FLY London shoes have a huge range, some of which have a distinctly vintage feel, reminiscent not just of the 60s but of the 1920s and 30s, which were an influence on the mod generation - they're retro but with a distinctly modern stamp.

A UK company, FLY London describes itself as "the brand of universal youth fashion culture" - "progressive and never conventional". Okay, well it's a spiel but these shoes are a bit different (and no, they didn't pay me to say that). I liked them so much I set up an Amazon shop, which also includes a men's range.

Jayne Mansfield


Guest Post by Imogen Reed
Blonde ambition - Jayne Mansfield
The Original Pink Princess
The story of the life of Jayne Mansfield (originally Vera Jayne Palmer) is filled with both the glamour and tragedy that seem to be ubiquitous to the vintage Hollywood starlet. Born in 1933, she lead a reasonably normal and stable childhood, coming from a fairly affluent family and spending her early years in the town of Phillipsburg, New Jersey. Mansfield’s first bout of tragedy came to her quite young, at only 3 years of age; Jayne and her parents were traveling in their car, when her father suddenly suffered a serious heart attack, which lead to his untimely death. Three years after the death of her father, Jayne’s mother remarried, upped-sticks and moved the remaining family unit to a new home in Dallas, Texas, where Jayne was then known locally as Vera Jayne Peers.

Torville and Dean

Ice Stars
Jayne Torville and Christopher Dean
In the 1980s, champion figure skaters Jayne Torville and Christopher Dean glided their way into international fame. She was a petite blonde with a warm smile, a no fuss hairstyle and a natural radiance on the ice. He was boy-next-door meets romantic lead...clean cut and endearingly nice. On dry land they were an ordinary couple but on the ice they were a magical fusion. Not since Norwegian bombshell Sonja Henie wowed audiences in the 1930s and 40s, had a skating act garnered such public adoration, at least in the UK and Australia.

Figure-skating can be a wonderful thing to watch - elegant dancers effortlessly gliding over a shimmering expanse of white, or at least, it seems effortless, though of course, the level of practise required is gruelling. Nevertheless, there's a sense of freedom and great beauty about the figure-skater. Yet few skaters have managed to garner the kind of celebrity kudos of Henie and Torvill and Dean.

Bomba, the Jungle Boy

Primitive appeal - Bomba the Jungle Boy
Bomba the Jungle Boy was a gung-ho adventure series that briefly screened on Australian television in the late 1960s, although the episodes were in fact, cheaply made matinee B-grade feature films made in the late 40s and early 50s. Played by an athletic Johnny Sheffield, Bomba was a kind of teenage Tarzan, designed to appeal to adolescent boys and girls and for a guy who lived in the depths of the jungle, he was remarkably clean-cut.

Penny Dreadfuls

The Original Pulp Fiction
Although the term 'penny dreadful' is now used as a generic adjective to describe any pulp fiction which is is cheap and sensationalised, Penny Dreadfuls were originally a genre of fiction that began in Great Britain in the 19th century: they were published in serial form and readers had to pay a penny to get each new episode. The stories were printed on cheap paper and with enticing, lurid titles like Feast of Blood or Adventures of a Notorious Burglar and in some cases were shortened versions of the popular fiction of the day - a kind of condensed, fast-food Gothic novel.

First printed in the 1830s as a cheap alternative to books and pricey periodicals (even the Dicken's serials cost over a shilling a pop), they were aimed at an undemanding readership, who wanted some inexpensive escapism to wile away their limited leisure hours. 19th century educational reforms in Britain now meant that for the first time, literature was accessible to the working classes. This, together with the industrial revolution and the invention of the steam powered printing press meant that a whole new market opened up for the print pedlars.

The 1960s Floppy Hat

Floppy hats were quite the thing in the 18th century
Style Inspiration
Wide-brimmed, floppy hats were worn with great aplomb in the 18th century, paired with flowing and elaborate ground length skirts, as featured in many a Gainsborough painting and thus often called Gainsborough hats.

These were often decorated with large plumes and/or flowers and ribbons. It was a very feminine, showy style - fashionistas of this era weren't into understatement. In the 19th century Gainsborough hats were superceded by less expansive  styles, however, remnants of the wide-brimmed floppy hat survived into the 20th century.

Baby Doll Fashions

Sugar and Spice but not Necessarily Nice
Contemporary Baby Doll
Pretty and pouty, sulky and sensual, the classic Baby Doll look is  perhaps a meld of the traditional social meme of female vulnerability and the male fantasy of the child-woman.

Particularly popular in the 60s, the Baby Doll style  took the form of short, often unwaisted dresses or waistlines up under the bust (with cleavage), sometimes with a ribbon sash and knee socks. Baby Doll has always been an ironic look, as, although the theme is infantile innocence, the underlying sub-text is adult sexual allure. 

More recently the look returned with a more obvious sexual oomph, as evident in the picture at right and in the 90s became known as the Kinderwhore look, a kind of grunge retro perversion of the original look.

Horst Buchholz

Hot for Horst
Tousled - Horst Buchholz
The sexily tousled Horst Buchholz, whom I once had a childish crush on, featured briefly but significantly as a hot new thing in the 1960s. A kind of European James Dean with shades of Montogomery Clift, Buchholz had a certain intensity - a darkly brooding attractiveness that set him apart from the usual line-up of clean young Hollywood leading men: he also had great hair in a pre-gel era.

Horst, whose family nickname was, appropriately, Hotte, first came to my (and the world's) attention in the 1959 British B thriller Tiger Bay, which co-starred a wide-eyed Hayley Mills, who was twelve at the time. Young for a leading lady but her charmingly innocent rapport with Buchholz was what elevated Tiger Bay above the regular run of-the-mill British B dramas of the era - that and the gritty back street realism that marked a shift toward British New Wave cinema. Hayley's role was originally intended for a boy but  John Mills, who played a police superintendent in the film, suggested his daughter for the part - fortuitously, as she went on to win a BAFTA for Best Newcomer and was scooped up by Disney soon after.

Chappism

Guest Post by Imogen Reed

"Human Race Reaches Sartorial Nadir"
So reads an article title in one of the UK’s most retro-chic ports of call - The Chap magazine. The subject of its ire? The invention of the ‘sweat pant for work’. To a Chap, being less than impeccably dressed at any time, under any circumstances, is totally unacceptable. There is a quote from their literary hero, Jeeves, butler to the P.G Wodehouse creation Bertie Wooster, the quintessential English gentleman. The quotation, which they display as an encapsulation of this world-view, can be seen on the site, almost as a call to arms:

What do ties matter, Jeeves, at a time like this?
There is no time, sir, at which ties do not matter.

P.G. Wodehouse

   
Chaps Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, as Wodehouse creations Jeeves and Bertie Wooster

Esther Williams Swimsuits

Esther in a body hugging 50s swimsuit

Swimming Champion, Beauty and MGM Movie Star...
In the 1940s and 50s, there were few water nymphs as spectacularly watchable as US swimming champion, Esther Williams. A natural athlete, in her teens Williams had already busted through a number of national swimming records but unfortunately, the inconvenient outbreak of WW2 put a hold on her plans to take on the 1940 Olympics.

Instead, Williams joined Billy Rose's Aquacade, a swimming, dance and musical show and it was there that she was discovered by MGM talent scouts, on the look-out for a rival to Fox's sporting star, Sonia Henie (an Olympic ice-skater turned film star).

White Dresses


That Virginal Look
Audrey Hepburn, looking demure in a white floral dress 
Something about white spells 'purity' and it's not by accident that in Western culture it was chosen to represent virginal chastity in the form of a wedding dress. White clothing also features in many religious traditions and is the colour of choice for dressing innocent babies. Why should this be? 

Well, there's been various theories about this - one is that white is a colour that is easily soiled, thus it has a kind of precious fragility. Another is that it is the colour of snow, ice and clouds and therefore has an associated cleanliness. A third reason is that it its the opposite of black, which is associated with darkness and wickedness.

Platform Shoes

Elevating Venetian Chopines
Historically, platform shoes were known to have existed in such faraway fashion meccas as ancient Greece, where they were worn onstage to increase the height of certain theatrical characters. They also appeared throughout the centuries, gracing the feet of various characters, such as high-class prostitutes in Venice (the shoes were called chopines), wealthy citizens of China and have even been spotted on such illustrious figures as Krishna in Bhubaneswar, India.

The Bee Gees:The Early Years


Barry, Maurice and Robin 
The Bee Gees weren't always the Bee Gees and in fact when they began their musical career way back in the 1950's as children in Manchester, England, they were known as The Rattlesnakes. Their first gig was as a fill-in act between films at a local cinema, where they performed with two friends. Legend has it they were intending to mime to a popular record of the time when someone dropped it on the way to the gig and they had to sing live.
In 1958, the Gibb family, which included the then 12 year old Barry, his 9 year old younger twin brothers Robin and Maurice and baby brother Andy, moved to Queensland Australia. The boys continued to perform here and there for small change and by this time had changed their name to Wee Johnny Hayes & the Bluecats. The boys' father Hugh had been a drummer and bandleader, so they had grown up in a musical atmosphere. The Gibb boys were ambitious, particularly Barry, who guided his young siblings in the formative stages of their career.

Betty Draper

Mad Men and Madder Women
Betty Draper is as coolly and cleanly beautiful as white rose petals peacefully floating down a clear mountain brook. Yet beneath the immaculate exterior of this TV representative of an affluent, white 1960s housewife, lies a cesspool of neurotic impulses. But then, the world of constructed illusion is what the drama Mad Men is all about.

For those who haven't yet been sucked into the series (now in its repeat run), Betty Draper, played with a certain edgy frisson by January Jones, is super-successful Ad man, Don Draper's, perfect-on-paper, stay at home wife. While Don (in-between philandering) is out exploiting the masses in the hedonistic world of advertising, Betty is left home to languish amid the sparkling consumables of their modern upper middle class suburban home. Their's is an ad copy world whose superficial family solidity belies an inner weakness as fragile as any cardboard production set.

Vinyl Records

'Round & 'round.Vinyl record on the turntable. Source
The Vinyl Comeback
For some traditionalists, the exponential evolution of digital music over the last fifty years or so, while impressive, is somehow lacking in soul. Vinyl enthusiasts miss the shiny black smoothness of the grooved record, the visual impact of the album cover, even the smell - in short they pine for the whole  feel and ambiance of an actual record. Vinyls have a 'physicality' that just can't be matched by non-touchable mp3's or even lightweight CD's in their crackable cases. Records have substance and according to many LP fans, a richer, warmer sound than their digital counterpart.

Vintage Pan Am Bags

Reproduction vintage Pan Am travel bag, wash bag and passport cover
Flying High
Established in 1927, Pan American was at one time the largest international air carrier in the States. The airline began as a  began as a mail and passenger service between Florida and Havana and grew to be an innovator and major International force in the airline industry.

Peaking in the 60s and 70s,  the airline boasted millions of passengers, flying in 150 jets to 86 foreign destinations. Its slogan was The World's Most Experienced Airline, designed to instill confidence and familiarity in passengers.

Back in the days when air travel was largely the province of the affluent, possessing an airline bag was something rather special - it meant you were an air traveller and thus one of the fortunate few who could afford to fly. After the arrival of the jet age in the late 50s, the first Pan Am airline bag, the Orion (above), was given away to jet -setters in the 1960s. The perfect size for on board travel.

Fake Beauty Spots


Norma Shearer as Marie Antoinette
Although it's a subjective thing, I'm quite partial to the sight of a well-formed, well placed, dark mole. As it happens, I'm certainly not alone there, as in 18th Century Europe, when men were fops and vied with women to be prettier than they, dark 'beauty spots' were quite the thing for both sexes.
If nature didn't supply you with a perfect, natural mole, you could stick one, two or even three, strategically on your face using gum. You didn't just have to confine yourself to the conventional circle either, as the beauty spots were available in stars, hearts, teardrops and crescent moon shapes.
The spots were called mouches, the French word for flies, which is a pretty unappealing, if apt, name, and were made from velvet or silk. They were worn by both women and men and provided a dramatic, dark contrast to the highly elaborate and very pale, powdered wigs and hair extensions worn during the same period. The mid to late 18th Century was a particularly flamboyant period for fashion, especially in the French court of Versailles, which was the fashion capital of the day.

Britt Ekland

Beautiful Britt Ekland


Britt and Peter Sellers
Long Blonde Hair and Eyes of Blue
Swedish-born actress Britt Ekland had the kind of sensual, pouty, kittenish blonde looks that had worked such wonders for French bombshell, Brigitte Bardot and while the Swedish beauty never quite reached the Goddess stature of Bardot, she nonetheless left her mark on the swinging 60s set and beyond, acquiring some famous love-interests along the way.

Ekland's rise to International fame began while she was making a film in Rome in '63. Sitting in a side walk cafe sipping a cappuccino with an American  friend, she was approached by a stranger who, struck by her extraordinary beauty, asked her if she'd like to meet the then head of 20th Century Fox, Daryl F Zanuck. Following the whiff of stardom to the US, Britt was signed to a contract and sent off to drama school to sharpen her acting skills and ready her for the English speaking market.
Some of Ekland's more notable  film credits include The Man with the Golden Gun, The Wicker Man, After the Fox and The Bobo.