chelsea and me


second-hand sensibilites and label loyalties, by frances may morgan

I’ve never met anyone called Chelsea. As a name, it belongs a strange category of brand names which sound human, yet very few humans actually have them.

I mean, I’ve met a Tiffany, and a Tammy (Girl), and I’m sure there are some real-life Dorothy Perkins and Miss Selfridges out there, but chainstore names are so ubiquitous, so inextricably linked to their shop that, even if I were to meet someone called Chelsea, I’d perhaps assume her mum had named her after the shop. Like Tiffany Chase in Diamonds are Forever.

Shop names and brand names are our incantation - meaningless to some, yet, to the enchanted, full of significance and promises. Cross the threshold and say the name enough times, and you might get your heart’s desire.

The charity shopper can subvert the power of the shop name by enjoying both the obsolescence and the diversity of the brands she wears, revelling in Côte à Côtes, Jeanne Weiss, denim by Jollybird, Bibi and Baba and Nightrider (Marks and Spencer’s), Highlights, Alexon, Devonshire Lady and those jumpers made ‘in the British Empire’.

But, almost inevitably, second-hand girls become loyal to a label too - although often by accident, and quite slowly - and right now my favourite brand is Chelsea Girl.

It’s a shop I know little about, other than it was fashionable in a cheap, teen kind of way in the 1970s and 80s. I’ve never been to Chelsea Girl; my memories of it are limited to just one item: a really cool Chelsea Girl black and white paint-splatter effect filofax my sister had, around 1986.

But I don’t, I swear, go CG hunting with a gleam of nostalgia in my eye - and I don’t want to write about it like that either, so strictly no more about ‘my sister’s filofax’: don’t worry, I won’t go there.

No, what it is, I’ve found some great CG tops lately, one of which (red jumper with slightly puffed 3/4 length sleeves and slash neck) is amongst the Best Tops I’ve Ever Had. The others (white, knitted rock-chick/Club Tropicana vest thing and faux-Victorian blouse with ruffles and lace - a 1970s CG item, I believe) are exactly what I was looking for when I found them.





They're in three of my best colours, and are of surprisingly high quality, contrary to the 1970s myth that Chelsea Girl was so cheap and nasty that you got fleas from their afghan coats. I’ve yet to find a CG skirt, but if I do I’m sure it’ll be red. With an interesting detail (that’s all I’m saying or it won’t come true).

I’m cautious of advising anyone to look for one particular brand, because, if you, like it, it’ll come to you. It’s also more fun to say ‘today I feel like a 1970s librarian’ and then come home from the charity shop with Canda skirts, than to go out looking for Canda skirts full stop.

But if you fancy looking like the big girls looked when you were a little girl, or if you want to go around with the title of an Andy Warhol film/Nico song incongruously pressed against your skin, choose Chelsea Girl. Her tops are the tops - and they don’t half go with your Gloria Vanderbilt bottoms.

When not chazzing, Frances May Morgan writes and performs with the band Now. Listen out for her radio show, Mink and Mandrill's Radiophonic Workshop, on Resonance 104.4 FM on Friday evenings.







W H E R E ?
Scope, Camberwell.
W H E N ?
Late 98.
W H A T ?
I'm just about to try on a silver frock. 'Please don't go in the changing room', the manager says. 'Why not?' I ask. Silence. Finally he whispers 'A woman hung herself in there this morning. With the curtain.' I leave the shop, never to return.

Everyone's got a thrift trauma... what's yours? Tell us!


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The Perfect Score
Obsession, desire, and the perfect white fur coat.

Chelsea and Me

Explored: second-hand sensibilities, label loyalties


Then again, there's always BARTERING. Have a clothes swap in your front room and give the leftovers to charity. No cash involved. Revolution!!!!


Madge Chazzes!
Yup. It's true. Spotted in Oxfam in Goodge Street buying a 7 quid blue jumper and dropping off a big bag of old stuff. Respect!