The Last of the Teddy Girls

I recently surfed across a series of photographs taken by Ken Russell in 1955 and published in England’s Picture Post magazine. The subjects were called Teddy Girls. I’d never heard of them before, but after a little digging, here’s what I found out.

Teddy Girls, aka Judies, were young girls who, in the wake of WWII, quit school to work in shops, factories, or offices. They had pocket money. They smoked.

Teddy Girl Smoking

They hung out with dangerous boys.

Teddy Boy and Girl

They lived among the rubble of a bombed-out, postwar London, which kind of makes the Pink Ladies from Grease look like candy-stripers.

Teddy Girls on Rubble

And they did it all in style.

Teddy Girl with Boys

If there’s anything we can do to bring back their killer Edwardian fashion sense today, I’m so in. From Wikipedia:

Their choice of clothes wasn’t only for aesthetic effect: these girls were collectively rejecting post-war austerity. They were young working-class women, often from Irish immigrant families who had settled in the poorer districts of London — Walthamstow, Poplar and North Kensington. They would typically leave school at the age of 14 or 15, and work in factories or offices. Teddy Girls spent much of their free time buying or making their trademark clothes. It was a head-turning, fastidious style from the fashion houses, which had launched haute-couture clothing lines recalling the Edwardian era.

I couldn’t find much else about the Teddy Girls online. It appears Russell captured most of what is currently known about them and that he knew, even then, that he was documenting a small pocket of counterculture already in decline. What became of the girls in these photographs? Where are their children and grandchildren? Have any artifacts–costumes, photographs, personal accounts of the time–survived? How I would love to know.TG2

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