…Not just any old make-up set…

Today we welcome a guest blogger. All the way from the U.S of A. regular tweeter Janet Canning aka Lapsed Vinyl Goddess offers her take on the day she found Toyah at M&S...

“I first became entranced with the makeup of the punk era when I was a young middle school student, and my brother the Prog freak, introduced me to his Kraftwerk records. My art teacher provided a battered record player and several beaten up Talking Heads albums to the class.
chrissie2Being a visual kid, I wanted pictures, so I found music magazines from the UK at Tower Records, the closest music store. They were sometimes out of date by months, but sometimes would included a crumpled flexi disc inside that you had to rewarm and press out gently, in the hope that you could play it on the turntable.
At that time, my only real source for any punk or post punk music was college radio, when I stayed up late at night with headphones and was popping in cassette tapes to record, hiding from my parents. I looked at the pictures of female punk icons of the UK and US music scenes, like Debbie Harry or Chrissie Hynde in any music mag I could find. These were the women we alternative girls wanted to look like, be strong like.

After all, not many women got up there on stage like that, with all the men playing guitars and drums. We needed our icons. And we needed to know why the men were so obsessed with them. As a girl growing up, you wanted to be noticed, and then you learned why – maybe it was that impossible beauty, and much of that was an illusion.

LondonA few years later at 17, I’d saved enough from my student jobs to get to London. On my first visit to the UK in 1982, I spent days trying to retrace all the steps of the punk movement that I had been listening to and reading about for years. The movement itself had been replaced by the New Romantics and many other post-punk bands, but you could still find traces of punk in the clothing. Punk had been morphed by commercialism and tourism and I could feel that whatever movement and momentum there had been, was mostly gone.

70s M&SIt wasn’t entirely bad news, as Punk became more mainstream, it moved beyond Kensington Market and Acme Attractions and crept onto the High Street. Marks and Spencer’s is one of the major High Street shops in the UK, and it was here, in London for the first time I found two makeup boxes on display of Toyah (Willcox) brand makeup. I was agog. I’d finally found some trace of the kind of makeup that I couldn’t get in the West Coast of the US . It was insanely commercialized Pop Queen merchandising, but I bought several boxes and shipped them home to show to friends because I was just so fascinated with the pre-Toyah 1982boxed punky peacock look. I knew that this was not the real deal, this is not what punk girls really wore. I still thought that they were more DIY, creating their look and movement from what could be found in second hand shops and using bin bags as dresses and shirts. Young punk girls were supposed to be skint kids that couldn’t afford to shop in a place like Marks and Spencer’s and, even on principal, probably wouldn’t use upscale department stores. Just like everything else that was DIY, ripped up and safety-pinned together, women had to get creative about what they used for makeup and where they got it.

It’s that memory to this day that made me think what an important statement the makeup was to the movement, the identity that each wearer took on when creating their personal look. It was such an integral part to the meaning and messages of punk as art and femininity that women were trying to make. Of course the men were wearing it as well. The lines were continuing to blur from gender/blender identity, and later into the post-punk years, where even the poser boys started begging to be made up.

17 make-upWhether it was about being a peacock, or a bird of paradise with a tribal/clan identity that grabbed attention, it became an integral part of the punk statement. Boots, shredded trousers or skirts, zippers everywhere, jackets, insane colored and shaped hair, vintage clothing and the makeup that brought it all together. The high-end makeup brands started taking notice, demand was coming for extreme colors as even the more mainstream women started to take notice. The reality for the punk girl was that they had to find their own makeup at discount shops or make their own on the cheap, but that was part of the fun and mystique. Don’t be like the others. The harsh reality of being in Thatcher’s and later Reagan’s economy in the US meant very few jobs or money to go around, especially for the young. Punk lyrics were filled with it, no future, no jobs, and it was hard to find a place to live. Hungry punk girls wanted to live and be alive, and be as colorful as they could. So just as life could be lived out on the music scene and record shops, by 1982 major retailers had started to catch up, and for a few months in the summer of 1982, “Punk Style”, as it had become, had even found a toe hold in High Street behemoths like M&S”.

If anyone still has a box of Toyah make-up….please send us a pic!

You can follow The Lapsed Vinyl Goddess at Twitter @lapsedvinylgod1

4 thoughts on “…Not just any old make-up set…

  1. It was never hard to get hi pigmented make up in unusual colours here in the uk from 1981 until around 1987, the 90’s was so bad as less is bore happened.
    but imagine that since 2009 onwards all the kinds of eyeshadow colours i wore available in the 80’s suddenly appear en masse, theyre every where now and now im too bloody old to wear em! lol
    all these colour combinations existed here in irredescent, pearlized, metallic, matt, water colours every one from boots No.7 to shisiedo to barry m, bourgios, Miners make up mary quant toyah soul reflectors m&s and rimmel all did it even the local pharmacy’s sold purple gold lippys and steve strange eyeshadows here in uk.

    My mum had fabulous hart attacks at what we’d do next. some times she didnt know we were her children until we lifted up our heavy fringes all pinked up lolll poor woman.

    I decided in summer 1983 aged 15 i was to have hair exstensions, three places in belfast n ire, had started to do them, a salon called Image, Hair traffic and Diverse, bill harris at diva was doin em but he was a snobby tit so i chose the glossy metallic plastic lookin’ cheap as chips Image salon.

    In 1983 the joins were fabulously massive lol, but neatly performed and all part of the look along with my pink kitten heeled robin hood styled pixie boots, i got my hair undercutted at the sides, shaved close then graduated toward the back, then left layered long and fringey and sliced into for spikes on top with a mad razor and dyed black plum! with white ends and i had 10,, 20 inch long, thick, neatly plaited modacrylic extensions with tufted ends in purple and dark red black all waxed on with a huge gun,, in tails fashion at the nape, it cost me £27.50.

    My mum threw a blue fit!! LOL…. Fit to be tied she was, but no where near as trendy lolll, she did nearly hit me and tried to pull them off but me dad laffed and stopped her, and the roof was blue!
    My dreary reary ole’ year teacher took a fab shit on the spot when she saw me and i rebelled every lusty trendy inappropriate moment of their pathetic dated hatefulness and paraded myself……. Rim Ram and Ream style! in all their permed up faces lololllll

    I loved it, and with ded vulgar manequin styled make up in vibrant wake the ded colours, and the standard leggings we know today had just come out and i was camel toe’d in chartruse or white with multi colour pencil scribbles designs all over those new leggings by dupont bought in a shop called fresh garbage lolll,, and i used to bend over and light my farts with a lighter to be absolutely deliberately crass for laffs,, well…. give the public wat they want! after all they were misjudging me so lit farts through new leggings was order of day lol.

    I kept gettin’ suspended from school it was lovely but i did’nt care, simon forbes in london invented the single attached hair extension in his aptly name Antenna salon in 1979,, and marilyn, boy george the trendies goths and punks and peacocks everywhere were gettin em’ added on and i wasnt missin out, i worked my weekend job cleanin other peoples shit for two months to afford all this fablas freakery loll.

    My sister and her friend cathy loved it and then went and had them done in red long plaits, a bit more benign thompson twins style, me ma liked that better, we all got traction alopecia lolllllll because the thick woven VISIBLE joins were that tight we got rashes over the glue used, but we did feel way out lol, my mum hated me haha.
    but by 1987 they’d started to do the human hair single small attachments with a slender gun type extension still familiar today,
    and its easy to forget its been this long since it was being done back then,, even in troubled northern ireland lol,,, i had these type that year, 125 quid for a three quarter head of long brown and blonde strands done at hair traffic by kerry bailie,, and they were wavy long slopeing sarah from bananarama type extensions… ooooh i loved being young when i was young, i did loads to myself, had a ball,, smoked far too much smelt like shite and now i’m a fat old bag with thin hair and shitty skin poor health, but i would’nt swap my younger days for anything, i’m glad of all the variety and diy style tribe stuff i was able too have, fashions great today, but we had a massive choice back then and i am glad i lived it,, it was a hoot all before rap and dance came and genericised and ruined all that creativity lol .
    xx susy.

  2. I was beginning to think that I was imagining this!! As a fourteen year old girl, I coveted this so much, and eventually actually owned some. I too struggled with getting pigments strong enough to achieve the looks I wanted, I used to use face paint and children’s powder paint mixed into other makeup to get the colours!! I also went on to seriously love creative makeup (still do) and became part of the Goth scene. Thanks for awakening a memory!!!

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