I’ve never been a follower of fashion as the tune from the 1960’s would have you, although I must admit to having purchased a  cloak – which was very fashionable at the time – and being ribbed mercilessly by my father who did not hold with such ‘nonsense’ as he called anything he did not agree with. I will also admit to having grown a moustache in the early 70s and that only lasted a short time too.

Fashions are a strange phenomenon that suddenly arrive and disappear almost, it seems, without trace.  Once fashionable items showing fleetingly at car boot sales and charity shops on their way to the homes of collectors or the local ‘tip’ only to re-emerge as the latest ‘new’ must-have, designed and modified by a new generation of design consultants or somebody about to have their own 15 minutes of fame, and often pushing their latest money-spinning designs manufactured in Asia or someplace where labour is cheap and plentiful.

Odd too, how ‘must-have’ items often become junk to most but a treasure to others, and old tat and junk thrown out, sometimes a hundred years ago, finds its way into what were called second hand junk shops but are now known as antiques or bric-a-brac emporiums, usually run by a rather nice class of people, backed up by an endless supply bought from said car boot sales, online auction sites and charity shops, sales boosted by T.V shows such as the Antiques Road Trip show or Bargain Hunters and the rest.

It’s quite interesting too how often  the professionals involved, having ‘negotiated’ a price often half of the ticket item with the shop owner, the prized item either fails to sell for anything like that postulated by the ‘experts’, fails to reach the reserve, or worse, fails to sell at all.  So much for experts there then as in many other areas of life!

Fashions come and go of course and presumably many of the fads of the day have a lot to do with the increase in leisure time and personal disposable income.  A look at old film of day-trippers or holiday makers parading along the seafront at, say, Blackpool or Margate in the interwar period, you are struck by how neat and tidy they are, with the vast majority wearing their Sunday best attire.

But look closer and see how they all seem to be following the fashion trends of the day.  Films made in the 1950s are also very similar, a trend which suddenly disappears in the 1960s as more families ventured abroad on package holidays and the old seaside resorts became home to the less adventurous or less well-off, along with young people.

The baby boomer generation began to be a dominant economic group with more money to spend and a wish not to look like a younger version of Mom and Dad, although many still did, while by the 1970s, others eventually ended up with the same uniform of denim, tank tops and long hair – and that was just in the gender that we once described as male.  Females often wore skirts and tops that left nothing to the imagination, even topless dresses being quite the fashion at one time with some younger women.

Economists and psychologists remarked that this ‘confidence‘ related, amongst other things, to the economic well-being of the country at the time, which seemed to hold water as the economy boomed, but by the 1970s economic difficulties, along with social upheaval, saw many changes that were reflected in fast-changing fashions for women ranging from miniskirts to hot pants, midi skirts and finally crashing to maxi hemlines for women, mostly in garish colours.

Not that men were excluded, experiencing trends which saw long hair, open shirts, chest hair embellished with gold (or most likely imitation) chains and medallions (giving rise to the expression ‘medallion man’) and flared trousers, which, combined with everything else, contrived to make fashionable clothing as ridiculous to our eyes as those worn by 17th century dandies and their powdered female equivalents. It’s no wonder that the decade is often remembered as the decade that taste forgot. Medallion man grew up or became family man but had a renaissance during the Blair years as Mondeo Man and Worcester Woman.

There was the fashion on T.V in those far off distant days of the ‘sitcom’.  Shows like Terry and June, Sykes, Robin’s Nest and Man about the House were fashionable at the time, presumably because they portrayed rather a nice view of middle class life, whereas On the Buses, Alf Garnet, Steptoe, Love thy Neighbour, Coronation Street and CrossRoads were, well, more working class.

That was a time when the homes of most people were still as individual as the people themselves.  Interior decoration was often quite distinctive.  Much was D.I.Y and it was not unusual to see home-made furniture in many rooms of the house.  For the most part there was individuality in gardens, none of this identikit instant colour and layout copied from garden centres and ‘how to’ magazines, as is, again, the fashion of today.

Fitted kitchens became the ‘in’ thing with off the shelf designs fitted as an update by owners who often ‘did up’ the bathroom at the same time.  Suddenly avocado coloured bathrooms were the rage, alongside mink (a sort of dirty brown shade) and pink. Mostly all gone now in this age of designer statement kitchens, wet rooms and power shower enclosures – any colour you want as long as it’s aubergine, black or white with reconstructed marble or quartz work surfaces together with lots of stainless steel which of course is anything but.

Then everything changed again in the 1980s with ‘loads a money’ for some apparently (remember the Ferrari Five?) and suddenly ‘cheap or serious money mate’ along with it designer this and designer that. For a while it seemed the house choice of the middle classes was a three or four bedroom box, with dark Tudor style wood attractively stuck on the front façade, (a fashion feature not seen since the 1930s) along with the third and fourth bedrooms – so small as to make the box room of the 1930s semi look really rather large –  but the fashionable detached home of the 80s and 90s was not complete without them.


Part two will be published here tomorrow.

Photo by Fuzzytek

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