Monday, 22 November 2010

Cathy McGow-ow-ow-owan

Cathy McGowan models dresses, including one of her own design on the right, in Mod's Monthly, March 1964.

Two things have prompted this post.  The first was finally deciding to sell a treasured mid-60s Cathy McGowan's Boutique mini mac that's been in my personal collection for years.  You can take a peek at it right here.

The second was the ever wonderful Miss Peelpants, who, as well as kindly offering her opinion on my mac, posted some scans from the first ever Cathy McGowan's Boutique catalogue on her blog.

Its hard to gauge precisely how well known Cathy McGowan is these days - are teenagers aware of her in the same way that they might know something about Twiggy? - but she was, in her time, just as much of a style icon as La Moss is today (whatever you might think about her).

As presenter of Ready, Steady, Go! from 1964-66 she demonstrated an unerring sense of style that proved hugely influential to the hordes of young teenage girls who were avid viewers of the TV show, tuning in not just to see the latest pop sensations and dance steps, but Cathy's new outfit of the week.

I have four copies of The Mod's Monthly magazine from 1964, which I've covered before and no doubt will plunder again at some point, and Cathy features largely in all of them.  Quite naturally since she was famously known as the "Queen of the Mods."

In issue number one (see above) her role was confined to modelling some fetching pieces, including a dress she designed herself.  But by issue two she has virtually taken over the publication:

"Cathy McGowan Takes a Look at the Mod Scene Today" in Mod's Monthly, April 1964.

This two-page article is worth reading - well, they all are!  Click on the pics for the full size scans - for its fantastically detailed snapshot of a scene that was changing incredibly rapidly.  Trends might come and go in the space of a week or two, which is one of the reasons the magazine failed to survive - who could keep up?  Least of all a monthly magazine with lumbering print deadlines.

Cathy addresses fashions, of course, but also the music scene of which she was a devoted fan, with all the breathless, girlish enthusiasm she brought to her broadcasting.

"Mod Snips by Cathy McGowan" in Mod's Monthly, April 1964.

Towards the back of the magazine, Cathy returns with her "Mod Snips" - a kind of stream-of-consciousness ramble that demands to be read in a hectic amphetamine-like rush.  And, sweetly, she admits that whilst her over-sized bag is a "must" for Mods, "she has never been able to find anything to fill hers!"

 "Cathy McGowan's Mod Miscellany" in Mod's Monthly, May 1964.

This article from issue three has some terrific insights into the state of American youth fashions at the time, courtesy of Cathy's report of a trip to New York.  She went hoping for inspiration but was rather disappointed: "No one it seems can be bothered to step out of line and try to create an extremely new outfit.  No wonder they thought I was from another planet."

"Mod Snips by Cathy McGowan" in Mod's Monthly, May 1964.

And another babbling "Mod Snips" covers everything from Tommy Tucker to red mohair suits and a new make up for sensitive skins that Cathy carefully doesn't mention by name (but you can write to her for the details).

"Cathy McGowan's Mod Miscellany" in Mod's Monthly, June 1964.

June's "Mod Miscellany" highlights some androgynous casual fashions for the girls, including the recommendation to buy John Stephens' "smashing" hipster jeans for boys and the news that "we will all start to look very 'French' come autumn."  You read it here first!

"Mod Snips by Cathy McGowan" in Mod's Monthly, June 1964.

A very short "Mod Snips" ends this trawl of Cathy's contributions to the issues of Mod's Monthly in my possession.  "Nobody's still wearing white stockings are they?" - ouch, they certainly weren't after that!  You can sense her awareness of her own power as an arbiter of fashion in that curt little dismissal.

Of course, being so closely identified with the Mods, it wasn't that long before Cathy found herself out of fashion as they gave way to the freaky, psychedelic onslaught of the hippy movement.  If you live by the sword . . .

Sorry, that's not an awfully positive note to end on.  We love you Cathy!  (That's better).


Lizzie said...

Fascinating! The States were so far behind Britain in the Mod movement, and I think CM was correct in her assessment that people were too afraid to step out of their comfort zone. I've read several accounts of British teens who came to the US in the mid 60s and were shocked to find girls still dressing like their mums!

That mini mac is adorable!

TinTrunk said...

Thanks Lizzie! I still find this surprising, since America practically 'invented' the teenager in the 50s and led the world with specific styles and fads that were for the young only, and yet by the early to mid 60s it had all got a bit safe and conventional.

Mind you, there's some hilarious pictures in the Mods magazines of some rather less successful outfits - might be a forthcoming post! - so they didn't always get it right.

Cheers for the appreciation for the mini mac too! Someone's going to look amazing in it. And they'd better hurry up before I change my mind and decide to keep it after all!