Sunday, 23 November 2014

Fashion is the way you walk, talk dance and prance

From the comprehensive guide to everything you ever needed to know about the decade that created "posing", Shapers of the 80s, a marvellous article first published in 1981:

Who are the New Romantics, what are their sounds, and how do they dance?

The new dances
Four basic styles have emerged since disco went elektro. They owe more to stylish swaying motions than pelvic gyrations. Control is essential: the chin provides a focus; footwork is immaculate. Above all these are personality dances where your own variation wins.

1 ELEKTRO HUSTLE Easiest style, solo or for two. Began with Moroder’s The Chase as development of The Hustle (1976). Lots of posy swaying. Variations include high steps, waxed feet and jelly knees. The Ballet Sway is the live concert variation for a restricted space near the stage, featuring wobbly heads and twitching shoulders. Devoted audiences move as one when syncopating the from-the-waist, sway-and-pause-and…

2 THE ROBOT Self-centred hi-tech technique for the committed non-dancer. Features raised elbows, hand-passes and other frozen extremities. Ideal with Kraftwerk. For obsessive posers and geeks.

3 THE WARREN STREET JIVE For born dancers and style-leaders such as the Blitz Kids of Warren Street. Adapted jive with exaggerated added sway and knees rising to waist level, while partners keep both hands clasped to each other’s. Ideal to Don Armando’s I’m An Indian Too. Variations include reverse kicks, jack-in-box bounces, giant whiplashes. Measured not frantic, yet exhausting to watch.

4 THE GROUCHO French import that arrived with the Ze label from the Bains Douches club in Paris. Learn with B52s: knee bends on beat, rise and fall, moving knees and shoulders in opposite directions. A cross between Groucho Marx’s famous creep and Cossack leg-kicks while crouching. Exposes dancer to ridicule unless ultra-cool.

The Look
“Style is not what you wear but the way you wear it. Fashion is the way you walk, talk dance and prance,” says Perry Haines, editor of i-D, the movement’s magazine. Hairstyles are a focus, and anything that breaks the rules of fashion: blue lips or an 18-inch rise on trousers. Take a theme – and twist it. And never copy anyone else (even Steve Strange). Strange says: “Within days of my Bonnie Prince Charlie look appearing in NME, I passed myself three times in King’s Road. So I dropped it right away. The idea is to express your own individuality and ‘fancy dress’ is not the answer. Dressing up for me is a way of life; everyone should experiment for themselves.” Since Strange can’t please all sorts, three basic camps have emerged:

1 ROMANTIC From the wilder elements to the outer limits. Colour comes first. Choose from pirate/minstrel/doxey/nymphet etc. Ingredients: make-up, scarves attached randomly, rags in hair, doublets, breeches, cocktail dresses, old lace. Girls favour through-the-hedge-backwards hairstyles or straight tonsures. DIY or shop at PX, Axiom, World’s End, Kahn & Bell, Martin Degville, Judi Frankland, Stephen Linard, Stephen Jones hats.

2 THE BIG MAN The Rusty Egan broad-shouldered 40s suit, silk printed ties, fob-chains, no sideburns, Brylcreem. Favoured by former soul boys. Partners wear rock’n’roll party frocks (from Costumes Set The Mood in Kensington Market).

3 POST MODERNE Progressive art tunics in neutral colours or black. Severe, understated, geometric, includes unisex dress/tabards. Bespoke from new generation of designers: Melissa Caplan (who dresses Toyah Willcox), Willy Brown, Simon Withers. For none but the brave.
Ah, memories...


  1. Wonderful! The DJ and living art work Princess Julia (who's pictured above) is a glamorous survivor of those New Romantic Blitz days and is still very active in east London's gay bohemian scene, thankfully.

    1. Isn't she just? Check out her cock-tail favourites! Jx

      PS Glad you enjoyed John Waters - so did I...


Please leave a message - I value your comments!