Love thy neighbour: Margo Leadbetter enjoyed the sadomasochistic sport of Surbiton social climbing

 

Every now and again, fashion alights on the old cliché of the bourgeoise woman as a focal point. Generally, it means primness, plenty of pearls, maybe a bit of free-falling georgette and a pussy-cat bow. It's a look Miuccia Prada loves, hence the rest of the fashion world does too. It smacks of old Saint Laurent, a bit Belle de Jour. All terribly French. But personally, I can't see those bourgeoise stalwarts without thinking of Margo Leadbetter in The Good Life – opening the style up to a very different interpretation indeed.

Margo's fashion sense may be the BBC Costume Department's finest contribution to style. Forget the am-dram, drab Empire lines of Pride and Prejudice, or even the dodgy early-Nineties reimagined flapper frocks in The House of Eliott (although I do harbour a deep affection for those). Margo wore geometric prints, furs, flowing hostess gowns occasionally matched with a turban. Penelope Keith, who played her, stood five-foot-10 tall – add the towering platforms that characterised the series' run from 1975 to 1978, and you have a true-to-life glamazon.

The Good Life and Belle de Jour aren't that different, really. (Bear with me.) While Séverine poured her passion into sadomasochistic sexual encounters, Margo channelled it into the equally sadomasochistic sport of Surbiton social climbing. Both require one hell of a wardrobe – an expensive one, apparently. Keith and Rita Reekie, the series' costume designer, trawled Regent Street and Harrods for Margo's costumes.

Tom and Barbara wore the same clothes throughout, so Reekie spent the majority of her budget on Margo. And it shows. There are chiffon kaftans that recall Jean Varon, neat tailored suits with matching hats that put one in mind of Karl Lagerfeld's early days at Chloé, and a huge dash of YSL. When Margo leaves Jerry over his failure to fork out for a musical spinning-wheel, she does so in a fox-trimmed ode to Saint Laurent's 1976 Russian collection, with matching fur ushanka.

I'm not completely insane. Others share my fixation. "I adore Penelope Keith's character from The Good Life," says Giles Deacon, a designer who is no stranger to a pussy-cat bow himself. "Her outfits still look great now. A favourite of mine is a bright yellow three-quarter length A-line shift, that looks like it came straight from Nina Ricci."

Nina Ricci didn't give me a Margo vibe this season, nor Prada – far too rumpled and unkempt for Margo's pin-neat perfectionism. Marco Zanini's Rochas collection, peopled with silk-crepe lounging pyjamas, capacious camel coats and fur-cuffed cashmere cardigans, seemed perfect, as did Deacon's pre-collection with its bow-necked tent dresses and slender maxi-skirts.

I suppose this is more a catalogue of my obsession with Margo – and my ability to spot her look lurking in the most unlikely of places. I doubt Miuccia has been watching Margo. But I like to imagine she does.

Alexander Fury is Fashion Editor of 'The Independent'

News
Jennifer Lawrence was among the stars allegedly hacked
peopleActress among those on 'master list' of massive hack
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Voices
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
Al Pacino in ‘The Humbling’, as an ageing actor
filmHam among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
News
Fifi Trixibelle Geldof with her mother, Paula Yates, in 1985
people
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey fans rejoice, series five returns later this month
TV
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Upper KS2 Primary Teacher in Bradford

    £21000 - £30000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: Upper KS2 Primary Teacher...

    KS1 Float Teacher

    £90 - £130 per day + Excellent rates of pay : Randstad Education Southampton: ...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree are seeking Trainee Recruitmen...

    KS1 Primary Teacher in Bradford

    £21000 - £30000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: KS1 Primary Teacher in Br...

    Day In a Page

    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor