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.


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.


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!

2 thoughts on “Borrowing clothes

  1. Hi Ruth, someone pointed me in the direction of this blog, great to read it, it has been a very enjoyable couple of hours. FYI, as they say, those Newark Cemetery photos were taken in early 1983. By coincidence, I recently came across the album with them in while tidying the attic. I still take a lot of photographs in cemeteries, a punk thing perhaps that deserves more scrutiny. Or maybe not!

    1. Well, well – thank you for taking those photos way back then!

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