Like Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, hadn’t released anything of significance for a long time (if you discount her personal report of her cancer struggle “Farrah’s story”), but when she was at her best as one of the original Angels, she was the epitome of a style that inspires designers and pop culture alike to this day.
Long before Jennifer Aniston’s much copied “Rachel” was created, Farrah Fawcett’s billowy hairstyle, made famous through her role as Jill Munroe in Charlie’s Angels, became the first must have celebrity hairstyle. The stylish girls of the seventies swore by it (although my mum claimed I was too young to sport it) and brands like Victoria’s Secret and Gucci still favour it on the catwalk and in their ad campaigns.
But Charlie’s Angels wasn’t just about hair and three girls flirting with their boss. The Jill Munroe character’s vivacious, athletic demeanour was a welcome antidote to the stick thin waif who dominated the late 60s and early 70s. Curves were back, a look that may even have given birth to the original supermodels Cindy Crawford and Helena Christensen, and with those a more sensual way of dressing.
Farrah’s character was fun and this came across in her fashion choices.
She would go to work dressed in cute little tennis whites. Apart from the stars at Wimbledon, most of us wouldn’t be able to pull that one off, but that hasn’t stopped us (and designers) from being inspired. High street brands H&M, New Look, TopShop and Primark are selling these shorts like hotcakes and this summer you can wear them bare legged or with coloured tights.
When she wanted to be taken seriously at work though, the oversized turtle necks, the below the knee shaped skirts and long boots came out of the closet. An outfit that I, and many of my friends, have donned as independent working women. I look sexy because I chose to, but now I want my promotion because I deserve it.
She introduced the high waisted flared jeans, showing off her perfectly shaped derriere, tiny waist and long legs. Fast forward 30 years and Kate Moss does the same thing at London Fashion week. Where one icon goes, another one follows. I have never read anywhere that Kate Moss watched Charlie’s Angels growing up, but I imagine she did.
Maybe it was the image of how hot Farrah looked in the emerald green jumpsuit in a classic episode from 1978 that inspired her party outfit for her 34th birthday celebration. Instantly the Chanel jumpsuit was etched on everyone’s fashion radar and this year any brand with fashion kudos, from River Island to Stella McCartney made sure their spring collection wasn’t complete without it. Mine is still hanging in the wardrobe, unworn, but before moving back to London from the US I visited two exhibitions celebrating the jumpsuit - Elvis Presley’s collection at Graceland (now they don’t get any better than that) and 90 years of the jumpsuit - from workwear to catwalk - at Phoenix Art Museum.
But where as I remember all these trends as if it they were yesterday and recognise them in this year’s collections, my husband’s vivid memory of Farrah Fawcett is completely different, but evenly traceable in popular culture and to a certain extend in the fashion industry. The red swimsuit! He claims he never owned one of the 12 million posters that were sold worldwide of Farrah posing in her swimsuit; just saw one at his friend’s house. Maybe that was also the case of Douglas Schwartz, the creator of Baywatch, but Pamela Anderson couldn’t have paid more homage to the sexiest style icon of 70s if she had tried.
My sister, who was a teenager in the 70s, threw away her bikinis and became a one piece girl overnight. And the trend is still there. Cheryl Cole, Katie Holmes and Naomi Campbell all favour the one piece to the bikini. Farrah led the way in showing that the one piece isn’t reserved for the shy and self-conscious. Add a twist and its “sex on the beach”.
And that’s how I will remember Farrah Fawcett. A fun loving, confident and stylish woman who celebrated her curves and enabled myself and many young women to grow up feeling just like that.