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Reeling In The Years...

So much rain this week, and staying in tends to make me feel reflective (aka moping about the past)...not, I hope the kind of rose-tinted hazy retrospection that fashions times past into a carefully edited vignette of not-quite-the-truth, but a more truthful recollection. Something I read in a book this morning got me thinking about the clothes I wore as a young teenager in the early 1970's, and the chasm of difference between the reality of what was available and what I really wanted to wear, or rather perhaps the image I wanted to project to cover up a seething mass of every kind of insecurities, contained within the body of a not unattractive young woman.

Sometimes I would see students from nearby Keele, dressed in what I considered desirable and exotic garb (or maybe a drab midlands city of the 1970's made it appear so to me)...the boys with long flowing hair, corduroy jackets and trailing striped university scarves, and the girls, how I wanted to look like one of them, in floor length velvet coats of wine or purple, knee length boots and magically floaty crimped hair. They represented everything I wanted, freedom from parental constrictions, an independence and the glamour of intelligence I envied so much.

Sometimes the boys would wear hulking ex-army greatcoats, carrying the latest album under their arms to display to the world their musical credentials, more often than not some progressive group, Pink Floyd, ELP or Yes, especially the latter. I became a poor copyist of the artwork of Roger Dean, with its fantastical floating landscapes and sinuous graphics. Colours were muted and organic, dark and offbeat, mulberry and damson and bottle green (rebranded "forest"), no primary brights and even the names held a hypnotic attraction for me, suggesting a shadowy otherworld, laced with hints of Tolkien and other books as yet unread. I leafed through fashion magazines for pictures of Biba dresses worn by kohl eyed sirens, drooping gowns of slippery satin exuding 1930's Hollywood glamour, dark velvets and suede boots such as were never seen on the rainy streets of Stoke on Trent. Having no income of my own, my clothes were completely subject to parental approval, and as such, did little to fulfill my romantic dreams. It is, given the supersaturated world of images, intense colour and sound that we take for granted today, difficult sometimes to grasp just how compelling this apparently unobtainable array of sensory delights was to me, even if there was next to no chance of acquiring any of it.

Contrary to the strange concept of the UK in the 1970's that seems to have somehow evolved, it was a fairly grim time, a grey decade punctuated by industrial unrest, strikes, and racial tensions. It felt like people had lower expectations of life, and unconformity was frowned upon. Looking back at old photographs shows grimy and unkempt buildings and streets, and people appearing much older than their actual age, which may also explain the ease with which we were able to get into nightclubs and purchase alcohol.

I so wanted to be one of those university girls, or at the very least pass for one by my appearance, striding confidently on my way to a poetry reading or what we considered the height of classiness, a wine and cheese party. And perhaps with a guitar slung carelessly over my shoulder to indicate even more of my talent than was apparent from my well-informed intelligent conversation and beauty. As an accessory, I would need a devoted erudite boyfriend, preferably with long hair and an earring (very bold for the time), or perhaps wire framed spectacles to give him an air of wisdom.

It goes without saying that I got neither the image or the boyfriend.

And then the arrival of Glam, as both a musical and cultural phenomenon, threw me off course with its' alluring glitter...more of which to follow.

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