Dinah Lee – Fashion Icon

This entry is part of 3 in the series Fashion Scene 5

What I love about writing this column is that you are always discovering new things. Take Dinah Lee for example, a random post on Facebook the other week led me to find out more about this mod girl and 60s style icon from New Zealand. Dinah was indeed Australia and New Zealand’s very own Queen of the Mods and was one of the biggest stars and highest paid artists of the 60s in Australasia.

She had a classic mod look with a sharp blunt cut bob. She was boyish and feminine at the same time and despite her rather demure looks and small frame was able to belt out a song. Her big hits were ‘Don’t You Know Yockomo?’ an RnB track originally recorded by Dee Dee Sharp. She followed this with Reet Petite (Jackie Wilson) and Blue Beat. All three went to number one and she had 15 other top ten hits.

Her look was the embodiment of mod cool to her fans and not surprisingly she became a poster girl for the leading make-up brand of the time – Yardley. Her modern style perfectly suiting the brand’s British connections.

Her debut album, The Mod World of Dinah Lee, came out on Viking records in 1964. The music was pure 60s pop with a touch of ska/blue-beat about it. Her sound and style was, no doubt, influenced by the people she hung around with. She at one time shared a flat with Millie Small who had the ska hit ‘My Boy Lollipop.’

She made regular trips to the UK and the US, appearing on Shindig with Glen Campbell and hanging around London with David Jones (David Bowie). She also performed with the likes of Ray Charles, the Bee Gees, Gene Pitney and New Zealand Aussie mod singer, Ray Columbus. According to Australian rock music journalist, Ed Nimmervoll: “Lee was the most successful female singer of both her New Zealand homeland and Australia … on stage and on record Dinah had all the adventure and exuberance for the time the boys had.”

It appears that Lee did cause some controversy simply because she didn’t appear to want to fit into the female stereotype of singers at the time. First there was her love of Mod fashion, but she also had a bit of mod attitude about her on seeing interviews from the time. Her dress sense meant that she was sometimes heckled at regional venues and caused some issues with viewers for wearing a pair of Bermuda shorts on a TV show broadcast in Australia and New Zealand.

Her friend Bobi Petch who became her PA friend tells in an interview for New Zealand music website (see here) of their days living together in Sydney where they would shop for the latest fashions. A particular favourite was The Casual Shop – a Sydney boutique which stocked all the latest one-off mod designs.

Dinah used to drive around town with Bobbi in her Mini Minor, which Bobi recalls had only a second and third working gear. She tells Gareth Cartwright: “I remember us getting Hank Marvin of The Shadows in that Mini one night and driving him around Sydney and all of us laughing like mad because the Mini only had second and third gear!” They also met the Small Faces on their ill-fated tour of Australia. Petch recalls: They really little guys, so cute, with hand-painted psychedelic boots. They were in Australia with The Who, who we only got to see in a nightclub. They were sitting around a table and none of them were dancing.”

Listening to and looking at the style of Dinah Lee gives us an insight into how the influence of mod style spread far and wide, way beyond the streets of Soho. Mod really was mainstream by Dinah’s era, but none the less, she is a great example of the boyish and savvy charm that any girl who wanted to be ‘with it’ in the mid 60s wanted a slice of.


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Claire Mahoney

At the age of 13 mod made perfect sense to me. I liked the look and the attitude - but most of all I liked the music. Secret Affair was my entry point, but they were soon playing second fiddle in my affections to The Jam. Paul Weller, of course, proceeded to break mine and many others hearts in 1982, when he put an end to that particular musical roller coaster – but what it meant was that, uninterested in anything else that was happening in music at the time, I had to look back. I was lucky enough to be given two plastic bags full of 60s 45s by my uncle who used to stock the jukeboxes back in the day. Their contents included a number of Stax originals, plus the Who and the Small Faces, as well as Motown classics from The Four Tops and the Supremes. So, when Phil Collins charted in the mid 80s with 'You Can't Hurry Love' it was nice to be able to say: “I've got the original of that!” It became quite an irritating habit of mine over the years. These days I still enjoy discovering new, old music, be it soul, rnb or jazz, as well as witnessing mod taken another turn among today's youth with bands like The Strypes. My day job as a journalist means I am lucky enough to be able to write about music and modernism now and again. Other than that you'll find me mostly on the dance floor or on eBay still looking for that perfect A line dress.

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September 19, 2017 By : Category : Articles Fashion Front Page Scene Style Tags:, , , ,
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Cathy McGowan – Fashion Icon

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Fashion Scene 5

Nicknamed ‘Queen of the Mods’, but what was it about Cathy McGowan that made her so effortlessly hip and cool?

Twiggy said she regarded Cathy McGowan as an icon. “I’d sit and drool over her clothes. She was a heroine to us because she was one of us,” she said. Perhaps that was it – McGowan wasn’t too glamorous and she certainly wasn’t just eye candy. She knew and loved the music she presented on the TV show, Ready Steady Go and responded to it with the same youthful enthusiasm at the show’s television audience.

A year into co-presenting the Ready Steady Go with Keith Fordyce, McGowan, in 1965 was given the job of fronting the show all by herself. Her love of fashion was evident from the start. She had, after all, applied for the job while working on Woman’s Own magazine. She was the epitome of what being a young women in the mid 60s was all about. She was obsessed with anything new and was always looking for the next ‘in’ thing, be it in clothes, music or clubs.

As a presenter on the show, she had to make sure she wore a new outfit every Friday. Her fans would promptly rush out and buy what she was wearing or the next best thing the following Saturday. McGowan wrote articles on music and fashion for the magazine’s Rave and Mods Monthly. Her Mod Snips column in Mods Monthly (which read as breathlessly as she talked) was basically a list of what to wear, listen to, who to see and where to be seen. In one column she writes: “Fred Perry shirts worn by a few girls these days… could catch on!” In another: “ What do you think of red mohair suits… I prefer the tonic ones!” There’s a great blog where you can read a selection of Cathy’s articles for Mod’s Monthly called Tintrunk here.

McGowan was said to have been given a weekly clothing allowance so she could make sure she had something new to wear each week. As the show began to revolve even more around its presenter it began to run a fashion segment too. She was a fan of all the top labels and regularly wore the likes of Biba – where were was a regular shopper and Foale and Tuffin.

In a 1964 edition of Rave magazine, the same year Biba was opening its first shop, she tells the story of how she goes to visit Biba’s Barbara Hulanicki at her flat and Barbara presents her with a dress custom made for her. “It had what in my opinion any outstanding dress should have: simplicity and a design and cut of sheer brilliance.”

Like Barbara Hulanicki, Cathy liked a trouser suit which at that time were considered very high fashion. Shoes-wise she loved the Mary Jane style but, she was also a big fan of boots – the flat heeled, knee-length kind. She remarked in one article that had these in almost every colour. She was also a fan of accessories – large bags and berets and square buckle belts on hipster jeans. On dresses, she would often wear the length just above the knee. The designs again would be simple with minimal detailing – a patch pocket or scalloped collar. Her trademark look though was her hair. Backcombed slightly on the crown and worn either straight and slightly turned up at the ends.

It wasn’t long before she launched her own line of clothing: Cathy McGowan’s Boutique was born in 1965. She sold simple A-line shift dress, tops and trouser suits. They were unfussy designs that any girl could carry off. Any girl that is with an eye-skimming fringe, a love of black kohl liner, and a penchant for the words – ‘smashing’, ‘super’ and ‘fab’!

 


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Claire Mahoney

At the age of 13 mod made perfect sense to me. I liked the look and the attitude - but most of all I liked the music. Secret Affair was my entry point, but they were soon playing second fiddle in my affections to The Jam. Paul Weller, of course, proceeded to break mine and many others hearts in 1982, when he put an end to that particular musical roller coaster – but what it meant was that, uninterested in anything else that was happening in music at the time, I had to look back. I was lucky enough to be given two plastic bags full of 60s 45s by my uncle who used to stock the jukeboxes back in the day. Their contents included a number of Stax originals, plus the Who and the Small Faces, as well as Motown classics from The Four Tops and the Supremes. So, when Phil Collins charted in the mid 80s with 'You Can't Hurry Love' it was nice to be able to say: “I've got the original of that!” It became quite an irritating habit of mine over the years. These days I still enjoy discovering new, old music, be it soul, rnb or jazz, as well as witnessing mod taken another turn among today's youth with bands like The Strypes. My day job as a journalist means I am lucky enough to be able to write about music and modernism now and again. Other than that you'll find me mostly on the dance floor or on eBay still looking for that perfect A line dress.

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May 22, 2017 By : Category : Articles Fashion Front Page UK Tags:, , , , ,
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Anita Pallenberg – Fashion Icon

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Fashion Scene 5

Born to Italian and German parents, Anita Pallenberg was the mother of all rock chicks and with her passing in June we say goodbye to someone who embodied the style and sass of the mid to late 60s like no other.

She started her career as a model in her teens in Italy and New York, where she even spent time at Andy Warhol’s Factory. Her life was to change in 1965 when she blagged her way backstage at a Rolling Stones gig in Munich.

She began a relationship with Brian Jones, the two of them were often photographed about town in virtually matching outfits. They were the ultimate in rock & roll 60s cool. Drink and violence eventually drove the couple apart and Pallenberg and guitarist Keith Richards became an item soon after. They remained together for 12 years and had three children.

Although much of the press covering Pallenberg focuses on her intimate relationships with the Stones, her role as the so-called ‘Sixth Rolling Stone’ went way beyond sex and drugs. She was a muse in every sense of the word – a true, deep, visual and musical inspiration.

Jagger was said to have remixed tracks on the band’s 1968 album Beggars Banquet because she didn’t like it on a first hearing. The songs ‘Angie’ and ‘You Got the Silver’ were also said to be written about her and she also provided backing vocals on the 1968 ‘Sympathy for the Devil.’ Richards is said to have written ‘Gimme Shelter’ in reaction to the fact that his girlfriend was across town filming the, ‘not so simulated’ sex scenes with Mick Jagger in the raucous 60s romp ‘Performance.’

Beyond the sex, drugs and rock n roll, it was Pallenberg’s love of fashion that made her one of the coolest women of the era and in turn her natural ability to nail that ‘just got out of bed with a rock star’ look soon rubbed off on the band’s own style. These once suited and booted RnB boys evolved into cocky, dandyish, lolloping rock icons that they have been regarded as ever since. This transformation was largely down to Pallenberg. She just seemed to know what looked good.

Marianne Faithfull wrote of her friend in her biography ‘Faithful’: “How Anita came to be with Brian is really the story of how the Stones became the Stones. She almost single-handedly engineered a true cultural revolution in London by bringing together the Stones and the jeunesse dorée… The Stones came away with a patina of aristocratic decadence that served as a perfect counterfoil to the raw roots blues of their music. This… transformed the Stones from just pop stars into true cultural icons.”

For example, when she was with Jones she dyed his hair even blonder and dressed him in women’s clothes. He once asked her to dress him up to look like French singer Françoise Hardy. By 1967 the Stones were wearing Pallenberg’s trademark Fedora hats, scarfs and fur coats. Keith Richards once said that he started to become a fashion icon simply for “wearing his old lady’s clothes.”

She was the queen of the 60s accessory. The antithesis of the clean cut, butter wouldn’t melt, look of Twiggy. Every outfit was finished with either a low slung large buckle belt, a swishing boa style scarf draped over her long-legged frame and topped off with a wide brimmed hat. Mini skirts would be worn short as you like with knee length suede boots and full length fur coats.

Her flamboyant looks also saw Pallenberg carve out a decent career as an actress. She made 15 films, among them the iconic 60s kitsch classic ‘Barbarella’ where she played the ‘Black Queen’ alongside Jane Fonda in the lead role – her black cat suit cut away in all the right places by Paco Rabanne. After her split with Richards, Pallenberg went on to follow a career in fashion which saw her graduate from St Martins in the 90s and in later days was seen either strutting down the runway herself or hanging out with latter day ‘it girls’ such as model Kate Moss.

Sadly, she never wrote an autobiography because she said the publishers would only be interested in her dishing the dirt on the Stones. Her influence on fashion however will live on. She wasn’t styled by anyone else but herself – her look was hers alone but has been much imitated. A rare bird indeed. Rest in peace Anita.

 


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Claire Mahoney

At the age of 13 mod made perfect sense to me. I liked the look and the attitude - but most of all I liked the music. Secret Affair was my entry point, but they were soon playing second fiddle in my affections to The Jam. Paul Weller, of course, proceeded to break mine and many others hearts in 1982, when he put an end to that particular musical roller coaster – but what it meant was that, uninterested in anything else that was happening in music at the time, I had to look back. I was lucky enough to be given two plastic bags full of 60s 45s by my uncle who used to stock the jukeboxes back in the day. Their contents included a number of Stax originals, plus the Who and the Small Faces, as well as Motown classics from The Four Tops and the Supremes. So, when Phil Collins charted in the mid 80s with 'You Can't Hurry Love' it was nice to be able to say: “I've got the original of that!” It became quite an irritating habit of mine over the years. These days I still enjoy discovering new, old music, be it soul, rnb or jazz, as well as witnessing mod taken another turn among today's youth with bands like The Strypes. My day job as a journalist means I am lucky enough to be able to write about music and modernism now and again. Other than that you'll find me mostly on the dance floor or on eBay still looking for that perfect A line dress.

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July 3, 2017 By : Category : Articles Fashion Front Page News UK Tags:, , , , ,
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