POPISM: Style Transformation Through Warhol’s Sixties

During the pandemic, one of the several books I plowed through was POPISM: The Warhol Sixties by Andy Warhol and Pat Hackett. I generally gravitate to anything that involves the historical influence style had on the musicians, artists, and entertainers of this era. In terms of the “Silver Sixties” I had only read EDIE: An American Biography, which is through the eyes of many related or friends of the late superstar Edie Sedgwick. So, I picked up a few books at the local Half Priced Books including The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again) in which Warhol forays his observations on life through beauty, art, love, work, and celebrity. POPISM is a timeline of happenings that occur from 1960 to 1969 within the bustling grids of Midtown, Manhattan.

1960-1963: Edwardian Men, Folk Singer Gals and fanning over Liz Taylor’s Cleopatra

Brooklyn was a bustling little Burrough of rock ‘n’ roll, emerging Motown, and art galleries. Little Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, the Ronettes and, many more would play at the Fox Theater, a renaissance-like film palace. Warhol was a commercial artist in comic strip production. He started screen printing in 1962 and his early work included the famous canvas of Coke bottles by the hundreds. The gents wore frilly romantic tunics, pointed “winklepicker” shoes, and cropped Italian jackets. Upon the release of Liz Taylor’s epic Cleopatra performance, city girls were sporting long, straight, shiny hair with angular bangs and Egyptian-inspired winged eyeliner. Warhol didn’t have a “style” yet… though the black cigarette jeans, white tee, and the pointy shoe is minimal enough to be in vogue. A frequent visitor of the galleries in the late 1950s and early 1960s; abstract expressionism was on its way out as pop was on the forefront.

It was a new age of classification

Warhol on youth culture

The mid-sixties introduced a wispy folk singer looks to go with the new music entering the decade. The Shangri-Las, The Kinks and Murray the K were always packing the Fox Theater. The crisp fifties youth loosened up by wearing shift dresses, strappy sandals, and burlap pieces. Though Liz Taylor’s sleek Cleopatra look influenced folk into a more polished style that meshed well into the geometric mod look that dominated NYC and Londoners alike.

1964: Big city teen exits, enter English mod, waif style, and The Beatles USA Tour

The next year ushered a spectrum of body dysmorphia to cater to waify tomboyish silhouettes. Kids of the baby boomer generation began rejecting their parent’s posh buttoned-up daily attire and fixated their gaze on the rising stars of the music and fashion industry. The hairstyles were on the opposites of extremes: either slick little pixies or larger-than-life teased beehives. With slim clothing and mini dresses on-trend, everyone went on diets. They shed the obsession with Marilyn Monroe’s vivacious curves and favored the twig look made popular by Brit’s Lesley “Twiggy” Lawson and Factory socialite Edie Sedgwick.

This was a time when street drug culture meshed seamlessly with the high society crowd. Amphetamine being the main component of diet pills, speed became a popular vice among vastly different socio-economic classes. Society women had everything at their fingertips. Pills were so readily available they would pass it to their children and husbands to work harder… and stay out of the house. Ha! Americans took on Beatlemania like fish to water; picking up horrible impressions of English accents to attract girls who became lustrous for the Brit Pop swagger. This was around the time of the Factory’s inception. Warhol’s open-door (literally) policy for visitors to swing by, hang out or create art became the pulse for NYC’s Underground/Punk ethos. It was daily life as interactive performance art.

Teen Style Unveils Identity Struggles in Skins Generation 3

In the recent IGTV show Are You Michelle From Skins? hosted by actress April Pearson, who got her big break as Michelle in Skins she goes into the raves and rants of breaking into the business, post-Skins job market as an actor characterized as “Tony’s girlfriend”, glazing over her female lead status. She interviews fellow stars of Skins and many other younger UK actors going through their trials and tribulations of being a young adult in show business. 

Though many early Skins episodes may not hold up in today’s #MeToo era, the writers were able to attempt delicate social subjects of gender and identity politics in the latter season’s new cohort. But would it suffice? While the show had its moments, some character arcs seemed forced, superfluous, and rushed as the show came to a close leaving many viewers with quizzical looks. There were some aspects of this generation that I loved, but the total curveballs they wrote in made it ultimately less believable.

Franky, Grace, Liv, and Mini of Skins Season 5

So join me for one more examination in this character analysis of mixed emotions and a wardrobe aesthetics as we unpack the wins and losses of the third and final generation of Skins.

Minerva “Mini”

The off-putting thing about this generation is that they immediately began with the Mean Girls angle when introducing the core females. Though it’s not without a twist that Francesca “Franky” Fitzgerald would be the gender bending character that would ultimately dismantle this classic, albeit toxic arc of characters. The ring leader is Mini, obviously blonde and generally pretty, with sweet freckles that barely peak through. Freya Mavor’s portrayal of Mini’s overt bitchiness and equally fearful innocence was made for her. Her style is bold and yes, a little over the top for grade school, or at least in my small town it would be. She mixes notes of the 80s by layering an assortment of biker shorts of all kinds of patterns and materials: lace, metallic, and brights all for a “peekaboo” look over tunic fashion tops and boyfriend blazers. I especially like the knee-high nylons she wears with heeled lace-up booties. Sort of an 80s glam meets Victorian high society.

Olivia “Liv”

One of my favorite characters in the series is Liv. Executed spectacularly by thrift enthusiast Laya Lewis, Liv’s character is a spontaneous modern-day socialite, always leading the way to the next party. Instead of being just one of the sidekicks to Mini, the various characters she meets along the way inevitably shape her personality and develop her character: Alex the gay DJ/magician becomes her roommate and ultimately morphs her into a vintage-loving teenage homemaker, who still attends school. Though her ability to mask her deep-rooted troubles with family and *spoiler alert* the death of Grace at the beginning of Season 2 allows her to slow down and take care of those around her. In the beginning, she is clad in flowy summertime layers, which always confused me since Bristol and Britain, in general, are gloomy. Again, heavily clad in jewelry: bangles, necklaces, and door knocker earrings Lily Allen would approve of. Very early Madonna and very maximalist. My favorite outfit of hers was a mid-length sweater dress that looked like it was made a patchwork throw blanket.

Teenage Tropes: Bristol’s Thrifty Fashions in Skins, Generation Two.

What became a phenomenal success from its first season, UK’s Skins continued with its core cast as they became seniors in college for season two. With such explosive popularity among young adults, Skins continued the saga with a new cohort of high schoolers as they introduced season three and four with an all-new cast. To viewers, it’s bittersweet to say farewell to the original cast, but creators Bryan Eisley and Jamie Britton crafted the story of Skins to follow authentic teen experiences through an all teenaged cast. Thus, we have Tony’s younger sister Effy (played by Kaya Scodelario), a bit more grown-up than her silent Season One appearances, as the core member of this next erratic group of friends. The way wardrobe styling relates to each character gives the viewer an introspection to their psyche, their lifestyle, socio-economic status, and their personality. I’ve never been so struck by a television show’s wardrobe decisions; it’s worth examining as we’re watching new shows that may have taken a note or two from Skins.

Pandora “Panda” Moon

My Caboodles pencil case burst open and out came Pandora. OKAY, first of all… who decided her last name is “Moon”? How ethereal. Pandora’s first appearance in Skins was in season two during which Effy’s transitioning into a new private school under a self-declared vow of silence. In short, Pandora is the bubbly counterpart to Effy’s brooding, tortured soul. The two unlikely pair become best of friends.

Effy’s not into donuts. she’s into pills.

Pandora on Effy

In her own words she’s “useless”, but as the series carries on we learn that she is not only a force of joy and innocence but a loyal friend. Her style went from being in a stuffy private school uniform with her wild pigtails to an extravagant array of mixed prints, layers, patterned socks, chunky necklaces and, the cherry on top: a funky barrette in her hair. Pandora is a lovable character; check out some of her best moments in the series.

Manic-grunge-dream girl: Elizabeth “Effy” Stonem

Once famously stated by Lydia Deetz: “My whole life is a darkroom. One.. big… dark… room.” It appears as the series progresses devious Elizabeth “Effy” Stonem transitions from stirring the pot to falling in love, to eventually locking herself up in a manic malaise of collaging… a telltale sign of amphetamine abuse. She does however control her own narrative by wearing grunge in the most millennial way. What does that mean? Grunge has always been more than a music style since audiophiles transcended their playlists into social identification. The grunge exterior is hard but also allows for soft vulnerability, with lyrics that play to your loves, loss, and daily turbulence. Effy’s aloof demeanor paired with an edgy grunge wardrobe keeps her at a distance…emotionally. Ripped tights, motor boots, long tunics, and muscle tees, boyfriend blazers classed up with pins, flannel, and leather bomber jackets are all in rotation for the cloudy Bristol scenery.

Good Twin, Bad Twin: Emily and Katie Fitch

The unbreakable connection of twins is forever foreign to me. Though however similar the DNA of twins can be, one must not assume the two are one and the same. Katie Fitch is an extroverted, loud-mouthed (at times), mean girl… though layered. Her sister Emily is the quieter, manic-pixie type that holds a personal secret: she is gay. Though won’t allow it out until she bumps into her love interest Naomi repeatedly, who coaxes her to look at herself deeply and realize she is not her sister. When searching for style photos, I came across some rare snaps of the cast in the wardrobe department, with notes on their looks for each scene. Katie: a jewelry-clad gal with fitted pencil skirts, blouses, cropped cardigans, and even wears heels to college. Think on par with the Pink Ladies from Grease. Emily: pinafores, colorful tights, loafers, large book bags and dressed up tees; A thrifty gal with her head in the clouds.

Naomi Campbell For Class President

Naomi Campbell… no not the international supermodel, but Naomi Campbell: peroxide blonde teenager who wears many stereotypical hats. At first, she is a lesbian in the closet… though comes out finally at the school’s Valentine’s dance, where she wears this 80s-inspired asymmetrical, tartan/plaid punk dress with a statement charm necklace. She is the resident feminist and undoubtedly outspoken, making her the ideal candidate for class president. Unamused by passive compliments from her male peers, she is quick to realize her attraction to Emily… though hesitant to act upon it. While she is outspoken, she is trepidatious about exposing her vulnerable side. Naomi is layered. Literally. Her style offers a range of color combinations, layering long-sleeves with t-shirts, overall dresses with leggings, and a messenger-style school bag. She is the trendy bike messenger and if she were living in today’s political climate, she would probably work for The Onion. Check out Naomi’s Lily Loveless in an interview on style, Skins, and London’s Carnaby Street.

*I do not own any photos – all are from Pinterest*