Look at Life

Look at Life was a regular British series of quirky and short documentary films produced by Rank Organisation, which informed and educated cinema going audiences between 1959 and 1968 in the UK, preceding the main feature film and providing insight into the advances of technology, the changing tastes and trends of the tumultous decade of the sixties.

Even if your part of rural England wasn't swinging, at least you could see it on your cinema screen and now we're getting slices of Look at Life as BBC4 have been showing selected footage, packaged up into themed programmes called Britain on Film (they're also available on DVD if you're interested).  The latest one to be broadcasted happens to be on the subject of fashion and I couldn't help but upload extra various clips here (I am already anticipating that these video rips will be shut down within a day or two so watch them fast!!).      

It races through some of the developments of fashion in sixties Britain, which began with the genteel overhang from the 1950s, with fashion shows at the Royal Opera House and Norman Hartnell sketching and draping away for high society.  The beginnings of fast fashion are upon us as the likes of Marks & Spencer start churning out clothes for the other end of the buying public, using the latest synthetic fabrics.  At the time apparently "Britain's mass production of fashion is establishing a reputation on the continent for good workmanship and value." 

"No matter how big or small you are, there's a skin somewhere to fit you!"  Furs and leathers are big and highly prized in sixties Britain.  The footage below takes a laughably careless approach towards the hunting of animals.  "Most are trapped in the wild.  On the whole there are so many available that trapping is no threat to the species."  

Coiffure of the sixties is discussed at length too with the introduction of Raymond Bessone aka Mr Teasy Weasy, the celebrity hairdresser who straddled film cameos and buffants.  We also see Vidal Sassoon rapidly brushing and cutting away at some seriously precise haircuts .  I'm convinced that a young Grace Coddington (who famously had her hair cut by Sassoon into his five-point style) features in this video but do correct me if I'm wrong.  I'm about 95% sure it is her as she gets her hair cut and is seen swaying about at a swinging party towards the end of the clip.  

"For anyone who thinks that the catwalk is a shortcut to a rich marriage had better forget it and stick to typing," says Penny Cotton of Penny Personal Management as get an insight into the tough business of modelling in the sixties.  

Finally, we get a fine send-up of the King's Road set, contradicting the image of a swinging London.  Just take in the hilariously sarcastic voiceover as well as the groovy/hip/way out clothes from Granny Takes a Trip as well as the Carnaby shop empire of one time-fashion entrepeneur John Stephen.   

"World's End means where the King's Road ends, which shows what the King's Roaders think of themselves.  Granny Takes a Trip, the shop behind the face calls itself, and it's typical of the non-typical.  Conforming to the non-conforist image of the 'in'.  What they used to call 'way out', and before that 'with it', and before that 'groovy' and before that 'hip', and what granny herself would have called 'The very latest thing, my dear.'"

12 Replies to “Look at Life”

  1. Oh Susie…. Thank You, Thank you, THANK YOUUUU for being the best And MOST entertaining blogger EVER ( pronounced in that creepy midwestern way)!!!!! This was truly a gem of a post! Xoxoxo

  2. Wow, this was a SUPER INTERESTING insight. It’s amazing to see those little fragments of history! I loved it 😀
    The whole thing kinda reminded me of Discovery Channel’s ‘How Do They Do It’ (which I’m addicted to LOL).
    Thank you 🙂

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