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.


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.