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The big picture: women’s fashion finds an unlikely style hero

·2 min read

In 1967, Caroline Baker, who had been working as a secretary to Shirley Conran on the Observer, took a job with the fashion editor Molly Parkin at Nova, the iconoclastic women’s magazine. Parkin left soon after Baker arrived, and Baker took over, having never done a fashion shoot in her life. Over the following years she developed a distinctive look that rebelled against the stereotypes of the industry. “I didn’t want to be this pretty girl, this toy for men,” she writes in an introduction to a new book celebrating her career, Rebel Stylist: Caroline Baker – The Woman Who Invented Street Fashion.

Instead of using clothes from design houses, Baker started searching elsewhere for the material for her fashion pages, using oversized menswear from secondhand shops, fitted with belts and braces, army surplus, leg-warmers and tights from ballet suppliers, chefs’ clothing, school blazers, hospital gowns and pyjamas. Her street style set the tone for punk fashion – Baker went on to work with Vivienne Westwood – and the liberated androgyny of the 1980s and beyond.

One inspiration for this look was Charlie Chaplin, “his chaotic way of dressing”. This picture, included in the book, is from a Nova shoot by the photographer Sarah Moon, styled by Baker, made not long before Nova’s demise in 1975.

Moon was one of few female fashion photographers at the time, and she and Baker made a series of features together that reimagined film nostalgia through a female lens. They went to Brighton to do the Chaplin pictures. “Sarah wanted two little children and an old car… you planned your fashion shoot like a mini-film,” Baker recalls. Chaplin’s capacious silhouette had a practical as well as an aesthetic allure. “I always felt so jealous that men were so lucky to have pockets.” She decided women should have them, too.

Rebel Stylist is published by ACC Art Books​ (​£35​)​

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