Thursday, 15 May 2014

The Shrimpton legacy

Sometimes I feel that fleeting moments of mad social rebellion are the ones that end up typifying a decade. And the evidence is almost always dug out of a dress-up box, or the spidery back of your closet, for a cringe-themed dress up party that you’d rather not remember anything of. The staple bell-bottoms for the 70s, a pair of leg warmers for the 80s, and an unforgivably short crop top (and a fake bejeweled belly-button piercing to match!) for your own favourite – the 90s. We reflect upon the loveable ridiculousness of fads from generations gone, laughing all the while as we jig to cheesy one-hit-wonders, now dubbed ‘classics’.

Don’t get me wrong – I love a little boogie in my halo of hippy flowers, which I whip out for the occasional old-school music festival. But sometimes I feel that the best that once-upon-a-time has to offer is forgotten behind a smokescreen of glitz and glamour. But every now and then, a stroke of luck has you stumbling across a genuine diamond in the rubble.

That’s how I rediscovered Jean Shrimpton. Beyond the Beatle boots, tie-dyes and gaudy patterned wallpapern of the 1960s, lives the legacy of a fresh-faced English rose, who transformed the two worlds of fashion and style. In the realm of fashion, ‘The Shrimp’ was the quiet, unassuming beauty that had been eclipsed by the loud voluptuousness of the 50s girl. She had the sleight, waifish frame of British youth, that became the figure swathed in the movements of Youthquake and Swinging London. In one fowl swoop, ‘sensual’ became broader and more capricious than the standard pin-up girl.

However, it was in the realm of style that Shrimpton really made her mark. Some of the classic looks today, that fall safely in the domain of both the elegant and the effortless, have their roots in her gamine gloves. So here it is, a 50-year old legacy, that is almost certainly here to stay…

1. The Peter Pan collar

Before Shrimpton, sexy was strictly a 'womanly' thing (explicit content). There was no tease to be found in fun, and no allure in awkward adolescence. The Peter Pan collar brought the world attraction within reach of the young, and Swinging London was their Neverland… Today an oversized collar is a statement, and even an accessory in itself.

2. Mondrian

In 1965, YSL released the dress that would change how women’s clothes were viewed and worn forever. Beyond the carnal splendor, the body was a canvas for the contemporary artist. And so, Yves Saint Laurent distilled a world of shape and shades onto a shift dress on the frame of Jane Shrimpton as an homage to form and colour. Today, the artistic movement of De Stijl, which literally means The Style, weaves timelessly in and out of catwalks, shop-windows and magazines. Block colour and linearity is everything.

3. Men's watch

You can almost imagine the intrigue that a men’s watch worn on a woman must have provoked in the 60s. Sort of like casual sexiness of tossing on the boyfriend’s shirt to buy a loaf of bread on a Saturday morning. The evolution of style in the last 50 years has revealed that there is an uncanny appeal of a masculine touch on the female physique. And the order of the day in the 21st Century is that unisex is sexy.

4. The original mini

It’s funny to think that half a century ago a hemline a mere 10 cm above the knee could cause such a stir. Elders, conservatives and aristocrats alike were scandalised at the audacity of such leggyness. And girls, teens and libertines were emancipated from the exhausted playpen of full-circle skirts. So here it is, an ode to the original mini – an elegant framing of limbs, and about a foot away from being confused with a belt.

5. Pointed flats

A pointed flat has the grace of a heel on the ground. It somehow elongates your legs just by framing your nestled toes. From Valentino’s studded number to Alexa Chung’s vintage finds, pointed flats have become the sophisticated duo that gives the heels a rest.