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.
They hung out with dangerous boys.
They lived among the rubble of a bombed-out, postwar London, which kind of makes the Pink Ladies from Grease look like candy-stripers.
And they did it all in style.
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.