Fashion: Beauty school drop out

Pull on those pedal pushers: Grease is at the cinema and the Fifties are back. By Tamsin Blanchard. Photographs by Jon Mortimer
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The Independent Culture
Grease is the word and - by the time the movie is re-released on the big screen in July - the look, too. Every so often, fashion returns to the style of the Fifties. John Galliano did it with his pin-up collection in the summer of 1995 when he had his models wearing bustiers and prom dresses draped over candy-coloured Chevrolets. Versace did baby-coloured bobby socks and satin pencil skirts. Dries Van Noten had a season when he moved away completely from his usual ethnic inspiration and designed a collection of prim pencil skirts and dresses with big skirts.

The Fifties draws designers to itself like a magnet, attracted to the movie-star glamour, poring over pictures of Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly and Doris Day. They hark back to the glory days of Christian Dior, Balenciaga and Givenchy. They are also fascinated by the birth of the teenager; at the end of the Fifties, kids stopped dressing as mini-replicas of their parents and adopted a style of their own. The Fifties is the one decade that never really goes away: it is always on the brink of revival, and an endless source of inspiration, from Hollywood to Elvis.

This summer is no exception. Everywhere I look, I see pedal pushers, pastel colours, and denim. Instead of the decade's grown up couture, this season's look stems from western-style, bubble-gum-chewing prom queens and American teeny boppers. It's not just a Fifties revival; it is a Fiorucci revival. The Italian company was in its heyday in the Seventies when the King's Road store repackaged the Fifties in its own bright, brash and trashy style. These days, you have to go to Milan for the Fiorucci experience. But the look has been pillaged by stores such as French Connection who are selling out of their denim stretch drainpipe pedal pushers (like the ones that used to require the help of a coat hanger and an extra pair of hands to pull the zip up, before Fiorucci came up with the bright idea of stretch) faster than they can stock them.

Grease was first released in 1978 when the Fifties were only just ripe for revival. Twenty years later, the movie's style - a pastiche of the original high-school love stories of West Side Story, Rebel Without a Cause and American Graffiti - looks as fresh and as hip as ever. Patrick Cox thinks so, too, looking to the Fiorucci Fifties for his summer collection. The designer, who now designs clothes as well as shoes, staged a mock photo shoot instead of a catwalk show for his spring/summer collection. The wind machine blew as girls with glossy lips and Pink Lady jump suits, bomber jackets and spray-on trousers, posed for the camera.

The best way to avoid looking like a Fifties throwback is to mix the new with the old; an original satin bomber jacket from a vintage clothing store with a pair of new Levi's, cropped a few inches short of the ankle. Bobby socks are not advisable unless you are under the age of 12.

Styling: Sophia Neophitou; Hair and Make-up: Alex Babsky at Mandy Coakley, using Estee Lauder; Model: Roksanda at Storm; Photographer's assistant: Mark Moon

Main picture: Red bomber jacket, pounds 155, from Patrick Cox, 30 Sloane St, London, SW1, enquiries, 0171-730 6504; black pedal pushers, pounds 29, from Top Shop, branches nationwide, enquiries, 0171-291 2706

Top: Pedal pushers, pounds 75, by Ally Capellino, 66 Sloane Avenue, London SW3, enquiries, 0171-591 8201; ruched pink top with drawstrings, pounds 35, by Giant, from Selfridges, Oxford Street, London W1, enquiries, 0171-255 3007; stretch denim jacket, pounds 55, from Warehouse, branches nationwide, enquiries 0171-278 3491

Middle: Stretch 805 jeans approx. pounds 50, from Levis, 174/176 Regent Street London W1, enquiries, 01604-790 436; one-arm ruched denim-blue top, pounds 39, from Joseph,26 Sloane Street, London, SW1, enquiries, 0171-590 6200; cream stiletto shoes, pounds 40, from Faith, 192/194 Oxford Street, London W1, enquiries, 0800-289 297

Bottom: Blue satin tour jacket, pounds 65, from American Classics, 404 King's Road, London SW10, enquiries 0171-351 5229