14 year old Jean Rayner surrounded by young aspiring Teddy Boys on a bombsite, January 1955
Teddy Girls (Judies)
The original Teddy Girls, like the Teddy Boys started in London. These were a group of feisty young women who were set on creating an identity of their own. Their choice of clothes wasn’t only for aesthetic effect: these girls were collectively rejecting post-war austerity. These were young working-class women, often from Irish immigrant families who had had settled in the poorer districts of London - Walthamstow, Poplar and North Kensington. They would typically leave school at 14 or 15, work in factories or offices.The Teddy girls would spent their free time buying or making their trademark clothes - pencil skirts, rolled-up jeans, flat shoes, tailored jackets with velvet collars, coolie hats and long, elegant clutch bags. It was head-turning, fastidious dressing, taken from the fashion houses of the time, which had launched haute-couture clothing lines recalling the Edwardian era. Soon the fashion had leapt across the class barrier, and young working-class men and women in London picked up the trend. The Teddy Girls didn’t care that their outfits shocked their families, as long as they were noticed among their peers. One of the original Teddy Girls famously photographed by Ken Russell in 1955, Rose Shine (then Rose Hendon) comments: “We got dressed up because it was always the Teddy Boys who got the look-in. We weren’t being noticed by them.” Rose, a 66-year-old grandmother in 2006 and proud to have been one of the first teddy girls states: “It was our fashion that we made up.” These young, working-class women were the first generation of their social stratum and gender to express their financial independence and fashion acumen in such a forthright style. The settings of many of Ken Russell’s 1955 pictures show the down-at-heel and often bomb-blasted neighbourhoods they hailed from, and serve as a fascinating counterpoint to the Teddy Girls gusty grace and sartorial inventiveness.