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
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
  • Get to the point
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

    Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

    £18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

    £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

    Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

    Day In a Page

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own