Fashioning London: Clothing and the Modern Metropolis
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Over the past three centuries, London has established itself as one of the world's most inventive fashion capitals. City life and fashion have always been intertwined, but nowhere has this relationship been more excitingly expressed than on the streets of London. Fashioning London looks at the manner in which particular styles of dress became associated with this leading international city, ultimately challenging the dominance of Paris, Milan and New York. From the pleasure gardens and coffee houses of the eighteenth century, through Victorian extremes of poverty and conspicuous pleasure-driven consumption, to the explosions of subcultural taste that define the capital today, Londoners have constantly offered an idiosyncratic reading of fashionability that has profoundly influenced the nature of style elsewhere. Drawing on a range of sources, including paintings, street photography, maps, tourist guides, literature, stage, and press representations, Fashioning London paints a vivid and definitive portrait of London's iconoclastic style.
transfixed by this fleeting vision of extreme fashionability.52 Further down the social scale, the transformative potential of fashionable dressing and the necessity of ensuring that its details lived up to the splendour of the occasion was underscored in publications such as The Dandies Ball or High Life in the City, a crudely engraved and coloured illustrated ballad of 1819 which represented the attempts of city clerks to emulate the grand extravagance of those aristocratic masquerades and
through its garments, with fashion joining architecture and other material artefacts as a form of urban biography. 13 While individual chapters concentrate on a specific time and place, the design of the whole also aims to suggest linkages and overlaps between moments, locales and styles. The majority of chapters include a close analysis of one or more garments, chosen either because of their links with the geographical area under study (generally they were made, worn or sold in the vicinity) or
inter-war urban landscape was similarly identified as an inspirational influence, shot through with a vein of surrealism that also informed the fashion photographs of Cecil Beaton and Angus McBean. The fashion illustrator Francis Marshall recalled that ‘there was an eclectic brilliance about it, a merging of baroque decor with Victorian charm that was fascinating. Behind it was the court ceremonial of many special occasions… This blending of historic royal functions with the modernity of the
greased ‘Boston slash back’ in two cases.18 Like the Teddy Boy, his predecessor the ‘Spiv’ was a figure rooted firmly in the realm of caricature, but whose extreme characteristics bore that sense of familiarity encouraged by an acquaintance with real versions on the street (caricatures generally drawing their power from a close observation of the living world). Harry Hopkins recalled his ubiquitous presence in the life of the nation as ‘an abstraction’. The Spiv was ‘a figure in a modern
imprinting a brand identity that grew organically out of the local culture. Quant’s recollection of this period lends the venture a flavour not dissimilar to that of children planning a grand adventure in the Enid Blyton tradition: ‘It was to be a bouillabaisse of clothes and accessories… sweaters, scarves, shifts, hats, jewellery and peculiar odds and ends. We would call it Bazaar. I was to be the buyer. Alexander inherited £5,000 on his twenty first birthday and Archie was prepared to put up