If you could even define it, you could say that Poly’s “punk” style came from her playful juxtaposition and use of “found” objects. Her style was one of opposites; the twin-sets and the military hats, the train-track braces and the customised cardigans. In its own way it was maybe even more subversive than say Westwood’s all too obvious, seditious sloganeering and S&M motifs, mostly because it was far more subtle. It had at its heart, items that were customised and re-purposed into what became an era defining style. Never a safety pin punk, her granny jacket twin-sets, were easily available at the time from almost any Charity Shop, donated by old people and worn by no-body, they were in plentiful supply. Rescued by Poly and twinned with an army helmet, these previously shunned items were suddenly not frumpy anymore, Poly quietly turned fashion and teen girls assumptions about what to wear, on their head. And that was her real skill.
There was also something very British about Poly’s sense of style. It was playful, we saw purposely re-purposed items that had been cast aside and deemed as low value, leading us to toy with ideas that we hadn’t seen before; young people in the garb of older people, dental braces worn as accessories, clashing colours and ideas that the mainstream would never dream of. Unlike the American, “cold as ice cream but still as sweet” image of Debbie or even the down and dirty rock chick chic of Joan Jett, always more real, Poly never resorted to the pouting or preening of some of her contemporaries.
Somewhere behind this style, was an undercurrent of long lost glamour, of well tailored suits mixed in with 1950s housewife chic. She cited the looks of Marilyn in “Some Like it Hot” as an influence, which was typical of the second hand and street stall style of the time, no surprise as Poly had previously run a stall of “found” and re-purposed items during the mid-1970s.
Unlike the Slits, Poly was not a smear herself in mud kind of girl, she was still a warrior, but more a Woolworths warrior than a stylised Amazonian.
Poly was a constructionist, an artist, and even a magpie, either borrowing or subverting combinations of clothing to make a new look. Was there anything she regretted wearing, she was asked by columnist Charlotte Philby in the Independent newspaper in 2009….
“I wish I’d never worn… a blue foam dress with an army helmet, which I wore to perform at the Brixton Academy in 1991. I looked like the world’s biggest hot water bottle, a giant oblong with protruding limbs. It had little planets all over and was meant to replicate something I wore at the Roxy in 1978. It didn’t work”.
We dare to disagree.