How The West Has Won

Posted by Liz
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Sand-coloured suede jacket and pants appliqued with glace leather by Colin Bennett and Lloyd Johnson for Cockell and Johnson.



When you think about it, cowboys wore some pretty fancy clothes. They may have pulled on sweat-soaked jeans and cotton shirts for hustling horses, but in the evening, down in the saloon, there were gamblers in dude clothes: nail-studded boots, frilled shirts, velvet shoestring ties - at least, that is the way they always show it in the movies. As with all men's fashions that are halfway attractive, it was to be expected that women would adopt them. They took to the raw Wild West stuff first - Levis and rough leather. Now the ritzy, spangly clothes of the saloons have caught up with us. They may look their best with a horse, but in Britain you can skip that and wear them for parties - or anywhere else. We photographed these clothes in the land they come from - among the dunes and canyons of Colorado and the neon of the gambling town that is the Daddy of them all - Las Vegas.


I think one of my favourite aspects of the 1970s is how it became such a liberated period for fashion. In a post-war, post-modernist era, where social and cultural norms had been rendered largely redundant for many, the normal constraints on the way people dressed were also weakening. And after the 1960s had taken fashion to its farthest futuristic imagination, the 1970s had an enthusiasm for delving in the dressing up box of history and having a bit of fun. Without awareness of the potential tactlessness of cultural appropriation, you could take inspiration - or even imitation - from anywhere you liked.

This breathtaking editorial from The Telegraph Magazine in late 1970 is a perfect example of this unselfconscious attitude to fashion. Photographed against the stunning backdrop of Colorado and Las Vegas, the British Boutique designers' take on Wild West styles is as mad, vivid and luxurious as you could hope for. Most notably, the front cover features a superb appliqued Cockell and Johnson suede suit. Lloyd Johnson, who started Cockell and Johnson with his friend Patrick Cockell in the late 1960s, was a towering figure of the London fashion scene from the early 1960s through until the late 1990s, via his many iconic labels (Johnson and Johnson, Johnson: The Modern Outfitter and La Rocka!). Although he may not necessarily be a household name these days, his influence on other designers and the style of countless musicians and subcultures has been immense.

Completing the editorial are superb pieces by some of my favourite boutiques and designers, such as Mr Freedom, Baccarat (where Bill Gibb cut his designing teeth around this time) and Ossie Clark, as well as some lesser known leatherwear designers. I love the almost mystical quality in the light and location of the images, which perfectly reflects the dusty, earthy tones in the garments themselves.


Photographed by Dan Budnik. The Telegraph Magazine, 18th December 1970. 



Mr Freedom's embroidered satin shirt dress against the blazing neon of the Vegas strip.



The Nevada dunes and a soft chamois skirt and matching shirt by Sylvia.



Cool desert dawn silhouettes Baccarat's pearly grey crepe dress with with embroidered white satin.



Antique leather split skirt and woven silk shirt by John Jessel overshadowed by the ancient rock face of the Grand Canyon.



Sliver of cream satin and crepe by Ossie Clark.



Pastel leather skirt and tooled leather jacket by Pat Mariner for Shape.

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