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The Leader of the Pack: Follow Me Into Girl Group Style
A lot of Realizing Things in this one.
Hi! Have you ever had a style icon who you suddenly realize kind of dresses like shit? Stay with me here, because this post took a turn even I wasn’t expecting (and ended up being one of my most self-inspiring posts to date). It’s a bit more experimental than usual, so it’s free again to test the waters, but please let me know what you think in the comments or on Instagram. Liking these posts on Substack means a LOT, too, so please consider clicking the pertinent button, it really makes my day.
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As I was listening to You’re Wrong About’s excellent episode on Amy Winehouse, one of my top five favorite musical artists of all time (and my forever karaoke choice), I was getting nostalgic and misty-eyed over her style in my mind’s eye, listening to the hosts’ descriptions of her polo shirts and retro dresses. I decided to write a post inspired by her style. I Googled “Amy Winehouse Fashion” (revealing my elite methods of research for this blog), and after scrolling through maybe ten pages of pictures, remembered that most of the time, Amy was a poster child for “is it a look or are they just skinny?”
Given that her skinniness was the result of a disease that eventually contributed to her death, I’m not going to comment on that any further, but suffice it to say, I was underwhelmed. Some of her looks were genuinely bad, while others were just the most bland, generic outfits I could imagine. Body aside, the reason I’d thought Amy had a good sense of style was because of the fact that her face, hair, voice, and personality were all so genuinely beautiful and compelling that she could (and did imho) literally wear the worst clothes imaginable and make them look incredible. She was simply a vision—not a fashion plate.
There were a couple outfits that I saw potential in:
The flared skirt of the above dress reminds me of Loewe’s SS23 minidresses, and I’ve always loved (and fruitlessly tried to emulate) the way the high, nearly under-bust waistline looked so alluringly louche with the thick belt at her true waist.
I can’t quite tell what’s going on with the belt situation above, but I like its shape (and Amy looks so darling here, I had to include the pic).
Her best fashion moments were, in my opinion, always when she leaned in to her incongruent preppy side, as in her penchant for Fred Perry, whom she collaborated with on a line that has since been transmuted into a facet of her memorial foundation, and I have to say I’m surprisingly compelled by a few of its offerings, most notably its polos with the too-small standing collars. I might even be able to suffer the superfluous shoulder hearts for Amy’s sake.
The other times I saw a flash of inspiration in her look were when she leaned into her mod, 60s girl group roots more than just with the beehive:
A glove, a checkered tie, a little set. God, I miss Amy and it kills me to think of how cool she could’ve looked in 2023 with an adept stylist.
Anyway, I realized that the direction Amy was pointing me in was toward the girl groups she so loved, and who soundtracked some of the most dramatic years of my late adolescent life, starting with the Shangri-Las.
Ok, the above look is admittedly kind of insane, but hear me out: I like the under-bust neckline situation, maybe not with a Quaker-ass shirt, but like Vaquera’s looney tunes SS24 situation:
I guess that’s more under-belly, but the styling potentials of jumpsuits and dresses with necklines that ignore breast coverage interest me.
I wonder if any of these hairstyles will come back soon for more femme looks? I think they’re so cute, and I actually like the dorky Peter Pan collar + shiny vest + pussy bow situation going on here.
I’m also feeling inspired by these modish, quintessential 60s silhouettes, especially the wide-sleeved tank top, also modeled so cutely in a more casual styling by another girl group, The Blossoms:
The mod looks of Martha and the Vandellas then took me on an emotional journey:
Those STOCKINGS? I’ve never seen anything like them. The entire white look screams “Wales Bonner Shotgun Bride” to me. The neckline on the striped dress is also inspiring.
Seriously, STOP making me want the first two outfits in this picture, especially the straight-necked shift dress with the helpful crotch-locating arrow. I also love how the red, white, and blue (it might be black, but let me pretend it’s navy) in the outfit to the left doesn’t read as Americana, more as Britney Spears flight attendant from the “Toxic” music video has to fly alien-Britney in “Oops!… I Did It Again” (side note: what an insane grammatical choice for a song title) to the moon to meet her wojak astronaut boyfriend.
Back to the Shangri-Las, I noticed the above petal-y collar…
…but the Supremes…
…and The Marvelettes did it better. I love the lettuce-leaf effect, especially in pink in the Supremes’ pic. The red sandwiching the pink is also good, confirmed by…
…The Chantels, who got screwed out of writing credits for one of the best songs of all time, which was later essentially credited to the Shangri-Las in like the 457776th instance of Black women getting screwed over by the music industry, but that’s not news. Neither is the winning combo of pink + red, but I love to see it!
Martha and the Vandellas, above, are in some fits that stood the test of time so incredibly well—something about the look on the left reminds me of Brooke Callahan’s color blocking cardigan + trousers vibe, the collar on the leather coat in the middle is immaculate, the headband right on the hairline is making me emotional, and the flats + stirrup pants is due for a moment now that flats have been dominating the footwear stage for a few years.
The Supremes, above, should have taught my art school freshman color theory class, and maybe I would have learned more than how to paint an apple using any color but red. I always forget about pillbox hats because my hair is hardly ever right for one, but Bagtazo is the plug and is having a 50% off sale right now (they also do great straw skimmer hats, which Maroske Peech suggests might creep back into our sartorial vernacular). Also, WHAT is going on with the shoes on the left and right? The left is especially inscrutable, but I think I love them both. And another fabulous pink collar (perhaps the same one from above?).
Martha and the Vandellas again (possibly the most fashionable out of this entire girl group lineup) with a lovely shade of creamsicle orange I now want to wear in every season, plus that perfect fur-trimmed v-neck, plus two of the best pairs of white kitten heels I’ve ever seen. The left is giving
better Nicole Saldaña, I love how the bow pulls the two sides in like a gift bag, and the right has me back on the Carel slingbacks page, very much *just looking.*
Now some M + the Vs gowns:
The backwards scarf is so underrated, and I love this murky shade of teal-ish green.
I’m so glad I took this journey, or I only would’ve known Martha and the Vandellas for their perfect music, and not for their flawless style. Transitioning into the stripe zone with a very Beetlejuice x Elle Woods suit, and continuing…
…to a great color combo by The Marvelettes, maroon + powder blue should be juxtaposed more often, and finishing with more long short sleeves (a length of sleeve that I don’t see often and have grown to love through these photos)…
…the cutest, chicest (and you know I hate that word), easiest look ever: a vertically-striped boat-neck tee with a scarf in the lighter color tied carelessly around the neck to halt the stripes in a face-framing fashion, courtesy of sleeper hit girl group The Cookies. Hoop earrings optional, but extremely welcome.
Thanks for following me down this sartorial street at night, in the dark, alone…On second thought, maybe you should be more careful? JK, I’m happy you’re here. Let me know if I should make a shoppable post based on these fits, or if anything above inspired you. I wonder if/when these looks will start popping up again—if they do, just remember I was the Leader of the Pack.