Hanging on the wall in my living room is a photo of my husband’s late grandmother and grandfather, taken some time in the late 1950s. The couple are off on their holidays – and they look, to my mind, like film stars. Bill is suited and booted, while Lucy’s hair is immaculately backcombed. Whenever I look at it, usually as I’m rushing out the door to work, a shoe in one hand and a lip gloss in the other, I sigh with dismay at how utterly drab I look in comparison.
And I’m not alone. Earlier this year, Dame Vivienne Westwood blasted, ‘People have never looked so ugly as they do today. We just consume far too much… What I’m saying is, buy less, choose well. Don’t just suck up stuff so everybody looks like clones.’
She really does have a point. A little while back, a Tesco store asked customers not to shop in their pyjamas or barefoot.
Notices were put up in the chain’s supermarket in St Mellons in Cardiff saying, ‘Footwear must be worn at all times, and no nightwear is permitted’.
How, I wonder, have we got to the point where people have to be told not to wear their pyjamas in public?
Amanda Moorhouse is the founder of Lipstick & Curls, specialists in vintage styling. Since launching in 2009, the company has been frenetically busy as disillusioned 21st-century women look to the past for style inspiration.
Lipstick & Curls runs style workshops (want to know how to get the perfect beehive? They have the answer) and pinup sessions, where they’ll make you look as though you’ve stepped out of whatever era you want. I spent an afternoon with Amanda being styled for three different eras: 1920s, 1940s and 1960s.
I was joined by my eminently stylish mother-in-law Christina (whose wardrobe I regularly plunder), in my quest to find out whether the vintage revival really does signal the return of style.
‘Women would put a great deal of time and effort into their appearance,’ remarked Amanda, as she painted on a pout I never knew I possessed. Hair was curled and set almost every day, and make-up applied for most occasions.’
Christina, 59, concurred wholeheartedly. Watching Amanda tweak my hair into a 1960s beehive brought back memories for her of sitting at the hairdresser’s every week while her mother’s hair was styled the same way.
‘She hated the wind,’ reminisced Christina. ‘It would blow over her hair!’
So what has happened to style – do we just not care any more?
‘We do have more of a relaxed approach to our appearance,’ Amanda confirmed. ‘In the 1950s, for example, the pressure was on to look good for your husband and your neighbour.
‘Clothes used to be made to last, and fabrics were of a higher quality. Most women made their own clothes, so these items were even more special.
‘These days most ladies can go shopping in their lunch hour and buy a dress for as little as £10. The price is so affordable for today’s living standards that it doesn’t matter if it only lasts the night!’
Is that starting to change, though?
‘With the change in our economy now, men and women are starting to feel the pinch, and spending is being kept to a minimum,’ says Amanda.
‘This is definitely another factor in why people are looking to the past. Women had less in those days but made the most of what they had.’
Having travelled through 60 years worth of fashion and beauty in a single afternoon, there’s no question in my mind that the styles of the past were more beautiful than so many of today’s.
Now, if I can just get the hang of those victory rolls…
Book your own makeover with Lipstick & Curls at www.lipstickandcurls.net
Style by the decade
- 1920s Hair cut short and blunt; eyes and lips dark and skin porcelain, almost like a black-and-white film still. Get the look: apply black eyeshadow or pencil to the eyelid and smudge into the socket line. Keep all else neutral, and apply a deep plum lipstick.
- 1930s Hair short but softer, and make-up softer too; lips ruby and eyes less heavy. Get the look: set hair in curls and brush out and pin so curls fall and wave around the face. Keep the rest of the style flat.
- 1940s Make-up neutral, but lips red. An iconic hairstyle is a victory roll (named after a fighter plane manoeuvre). Get the look: keep eyes neutral, and go for pillarbox-red lipstick. Set hair in rollers and brush out and shape, giving height at the front.
- 1950s Teenagers explore lavender, peach and rose shades. Hair’s longer, with beehives and ponytails. Get the look: it’s all about backcombing. Peach and cherry on lips, and eyes lined to perfection. Katy and Christina
- 1960s Heavy lashes and bold colours on eyes; hair long and straightened with a fringe. Get the look: hair should be extremely tall or extremely flat. Make-up artistic; lashes full.
- 1970s Colours now shimmery and pastel, with extra gloss on lips. Hair’s bigger, with loose curls. Get the look: use heated rollers, then brush out curls and flick. Shimmery eyes and heavy lip gloss.
- 1980s Power dressing is born: the suit is a key fashion statement. Hair’s big, make-up heavy. Get the look: heavy shading on cheekbones and browbones, hair curly, big and backcombed.
- 1990s Women want to look fresh and flawless. Hair’s loose, straight and glossy. Get the look: good foundation and a bronzer are essential. Hair straighteners really come into their own
Photography by Rocco Rolls (www.roccorolls.com)
FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE LADY MAGAZINE ON APRIL 19, 2012