Borrowing clothes

Buying clothes is easy now. You can order online and have them the next day. There are sweatshops and health-and-safety-complying factories all geared up to switch production to some new colour, style or length at any time of the year. High street store Zara can have a turnaround as short as two weeks from a designer’s idea to the garment rails in the shop. You can buy men’s trousers for £8 at Primark.

But in the era that generated punk, fashion was very slow-moving. Designers would work months ahead, production would be booked and there was no way of stopping supply if the garments in question turned out to be unpopular.

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So with no Internet in the 1970’s and ’80’s, if you lived in a small town, you would be expected to source your clothes from the Freeman’s or Great Universal catalogues. And presumably you could get trendy hairstyle tips, too.

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For young would-be punks, you could get a mail-order T-shirt and bondage trousers (£12.95 in 1980), but I thought this was commercial guff, mainly because it was pretty expensive. Instead, I had to take a more creative approach. I looked to jumble sales, borrowing clothes from the older generation and winding up the sewing machine.

img002Having seen the film Annie Hall, I wore my dad’s original 1960’s striped drainpipe Levi’s with one of his shirts and his baseball boots that I now know were ‘Original Chuck Taylor Converse’. I just found them in a wardrobe. To this I added a jumble sale naval jacket which I subsequently wore in all the publicity photos for my first band The Devices. In this photo you can see that on the lapel, I have a toy budgie, and what I now know is a ‘too large badge’.

img006 (2)This photo of me in 1980 shows the eclectic approach that punk started. This time, I have raided mum’s side of the wardrobe. Her 1960’s going-to-church coat was worn with an equally ancient diamond dog-tooth jumper. The white skirt was made from an old bed sheet, but I starched it so that the cotton was really stiff. White skirt, black tights, white shoes… etc.

The location? Newark cemetery. That’s what we did for fun on a Saturday back then.

Ruth PO!

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