It is easy to get lost in old newspapers . . . they seem to speak eloquently of the time and culture that made them. But we know that just like now, back then we regarded them as litter, vague amusement, sketchy information, plenty of subliminal guilt (my life-style, car, swanky pad, hot fashion, accessories . . . all not quite good enough). So straight in the recycle bin, maybe line the cat litter tray, wrap some scraps for the green councillors, anything dirty . . .
Flash back 28 years, an entirely grey copy of the Times, front pages preoccupied with the bizarre beginnings of a war, the continuing spiral of an economic crisis.
This ‘Fashion, Foreign and Law’ page would have been largely commissioned and laid out a few days earlier. The most extraordinary thing about it for me is that it contains the only images of women in the entire newspaper. And apart from one tiny column in the business section, the only female journalist (Suzy Menkes).
So, 1982 was apparently a grey world populated, or rather occupied exclusively with and by grey men. Don’t remember it being quite so bad, but that’s the picture we are getting here.
And there is something interesting about these three women with their big hair and square shoulders, striding decisively out of the page.
This is a generation who grew up taking for granted much of the thinking and achievements of feminism in the 60’s and 70’s. Their mums might have buckled under, but they were ‘doing it for themselves’, setting up businesses (recessions shift attitudes, create gaps) and just naturally taking up a bit more space.
Mainstream feminism didn’t like the new, pseudo-male but just coquettish enough fashions. Most of all they hated Thatcher and her anti-feminist politics (classically having herself filmed serving peas to Dennis for his tea, the perfect ‘stay-at-home’ housewife). Only she wasn’t really. The vision of the country’s most powerful chauvenists cringing and fawning before her every word spoke volumes. She might have been called an ‘honorary male’, but no doubt about it, she was a girl and she was powerful.
So, just for the record, we may not have known it then, but the revolution, part 2, started here.
p.s. Acknowledgements to Suzy Menkes for fashion feature and Nick Briggs (boy) for photography.
What looks like it might be a German radar screen overlaying the image is in fact a dressmaking pattern.