Portrait: Queen Viv

Even in her youth, Vivienne Westwood would respond to criticism of her style with regal indifference. What would you expect from the woman whose fashion creations range from punk to twinsets and pearls?
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Indy Lifestyle Online
As a child I had a sense of being rather heroic. I can remember once, singing in church, I had a wide-brimmed hat with a ribbon tie, and I wore it on the back of my head because I thought it looked more romantic. People were laughing, and I knew they were laughing at me, but I didn't mind because I thought I looked really good.

My mother loved clothes and always dressed us up very nicely. Everybody sewed. An auntie used to make dresses for my sister and me. And we once had to walk round the reservoir to an isolated house, to a lady who made coats for us.

For Sunday school we had lovely white dresses, and we would go for walks afterwards, over the hills - still in those dresses - and meet other people in little white dresses. I didn't think I was pretty. I always thought it was a bit pathetic that everybody liked golden curls - I know I've got golden curls now, but they happen to suit me, I believe. And I had stick-out teeth, which weren't really fixed till I was about 12.

When I was 14 or 15 I went to Manchester for a music exam and saw, in a shop window, a pair of black stiletto shoes with gold buckles. I don't think I've ever been more impressed with anything in my life. I bought them, took them to school and had them on my desk when the teacher came in. He said, "If God had meant us to walk on pins, he'd have given them to us." I liked him very much, but I thought that was silly of him.

It was when I came to London that I really got my look together. At teacher- training college I made all my own clothes. I'd copy things I saw in magazines and shop windows. We had to go into schools to do teaching practice, and it would take me ages to get ready in the morning because I had to go there all dressed up, with my beehive hairstyle. These sharp little cockney boys would say, "Don't sit like that, Miss, we can't concentrate."

When I met Malcolm McLaren I was a dolly bird. Long, silver hair; old, ratty fur coat; Biba-type clothes. He sent me to have my hair cut, took me to the school department of John Lewis for dresses, and I went rather classic. I remember walking down the street thinking I was not the nubile pin-up I had been, and rather regretting it.

We then discovered Mr Freedom and the space-age princess look. Velvet leopard-skin trousers, fantastic little shirts. I was their best customer, apparently, although I was living on a teacher's income.

When everyone was still in flares, we did all this S&M as fashion. By punk times I had two children. Ben, my eldest, used to walk behind me - he didn't want people to think he was with me. I had a crew cut, bleached it and let it grow, and as it grew it stood on end, which is how I developed the punk hairstyle.

I used to attract a lot of attention, but I don't like shocking people. I just don't want to look less than I can. I'm not doing badly for my age [58]. I certainly don't think I look so great without clothes on, but I've got a good figure, well proportioned, so I can wear fashionable clothes, still, and make the most of myself.

I do my hair myself. About once a month I bleach it and put henna on it. I can't be bothered with hairdressers, although sometimes at a fashion show one might give it a quick twizzle. And I can do full make-up in five minutes flat. I am very much aware that I'm ageing quite quickly. Every so often you find you've aged about five years overnight, but it doesn't bother me at the moment. I certainly don't mind my wrinkles or the fact that my face is a bit saggy.

I'm not jealous of other women. I want nothing more than to make the best of myself. I don't think I'm vain, I must just always be questioning things. I expect my clothes are a proposal of an alternative to conformity. And I'm glad to be able to do that.