Style Icons: Teddy Girls

07/09/2011 § 6 Comments

With lady pompadours cropping up everywhere this fall (like the editorial I just previously posted) I have been thinking a lot about the ladies who arguably perfected the hairstyle — The Teddy Girl.  You may already be familiar with the British Teddy Boy  subculture in the 1950s and 60s of boys and young men who dressed like the dandies of the Edwardian period, but also had something of a reputation for hooliganism.  Smaller in number, less well-known and less frequently photographed, Teddy Girls pushed the boundaries of conventional 1950s style for women, with some perfectly emulating the Teddy Boys in both hair style and dress.

These girls were awesome.

I love her ribbon/cameo necktie.  Love.

The teddy girls left school at 14 or 15, worked in factories or offices, and spent their free time buying or making their trademark clothes – pencil skirts, rolled-up jeans, flat shoes, tailored jackets with velvet collars, coolie hats and long, elegant clutch bags. It was head-turning, fastidious dressing, taken from the fashion houses of the time, which had launched haute-couture clothing lines recalling the Edwardian era. Soon the fashion had leapt across the class barrier, and young working-class men and women in London picked up the trend.

When the Girls Came Out To Play by Susannah Price for The Sunday Times

[Photographer Ken] Russell’s work offers a glimpse into the lives of a group of feisty young women who were set on creating an identity of their own. Their choice of clothes wasn’t only for aesthetic effect: these girls were collectively rejecting post-war austerity.

Among many people, male “teds” had an intimidating reputation. They were often linked in the public’s mind with violent crime. In July 1953, 17-year-old John Beckley was murdered by teddy boys near Clapham Common, and the Daily Mirror’s headline – Flick Knives, Dance Music and Edwardian Suits – made an explicit connection between clothing and criminality.

Former teddies insist that the connection between thuggery and style only applied to a small number of them. “We weren’t bad girls,” says Rose Shine, then Rose Hendon, who was 15 when she posed for Russell. “We were all right. We got slung out of the picture house for jiving up the aisles once, but we never broke the law. We weren’t drinkers. We’d go to milk bars, have a peach melba and nod to the music, but you weren’t allowed to dance. It was just showing off: ‘Look at us!’ We called the police ‘the bluebottles’ – you’d see them come round in a Black Maria to catch people playing dice on the corner. But we’d just sit on each other’s doorsteps and play music.”

When the Girls Came Out To Play by Susannah Price for The Sunday Times

Images 1 & 7 Roger Mayne via // Images 2 – 6 Ken Russell via


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