Glossy, bossy, spicy, pretty, wicked and witty, our convalescent columnist.
The gods extract a certain amount of unnecessary satisfaction and amusement in showing me up as untruthful and misleading. It happens often and it isn’t a bit nice. No sooner have I made an announcement of gasp-making proportions than they display me as a fraud and a false prophet. I will really have to get out of this business and take up something safe like writing a nature column or small-folk magazine.
In the last edition of this otherwise wholly admirable column (now read in 46 countries and translated into six languages including rubbish) I was twittering on about the demise of good SBR, intoning the funeral obsequies and wondering how we are going to keep dry in future years, when suddenly along came a most charming lady dressed in – Stop Here. Move your eyeballs to the left and take a look at the picture alongside. Isn’t that nice? Now come back and read on.
That coat is made in a superb SBR and the lady bought it in Bloomingdale’s famous store in New York, where, she said, they had rack upon rack of them in various colours. As you can see – unless the printer has made a cock-up – the coat is in a lovely shade of autumn brown, full skirted and fashionably draped. The rubber knee boots from the same store are a matching brown. You have to take my word for it because John Sutcliffe’s camera was having an off-day and one of them definitely looks black. I assure you it is not. Smart, yes, waterproof, yes, envious, yes.
Bloomingdales imported the coats from France and what I would like to know is why there is no firm here bothering to import them? I confidently expect that the answer I will get from any wholesaler or retailer is that there is no demand. These people will point to the racks of military style, showerproof poplin coats which seem to be just about everywhere these days. The pop colour, as you have no doubt observed, is a faded khaki and the material is about as waterproof as a MacDonald’s hamburger. A friend of mine, who is something of a whizz in the marketing world, tells me that the popularity is due to the application of epaulettes and the addition of D rings to the belt and cape, so that when worn with a loose tied belt, the wearer can feel that she is reflecting the new alleged social freedom of women and their personal assertion of masculinity. You don’t believe? O.K. let’s hear your explanation.
The lady in the photograph is one half of a charming couple with whom we correspond through the ACS system. They arrived from Texas on a first visit to Britain, anxious to meet as many enthusiasts as possible while they were here. We suggested that they went and joined the party in Devon, taking our place as unfortunately we were compelled to refuse the invitation as I was poorly and there was talk of my going into hospital at that time (no, not a brain transplant). It was at this splendid party that John took this picture along with other super pictures in this issue of this very auspicious event. (That is not a sentence to try audibly if you’re just home from a period on spiritous liquor.)
I have been wrestling with this column for eight years now. Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun? I have watched the change in attitudes with absorbed interest. In the first years of writing the column, the common comment from men seemed to me that their wives – although admirable and loving in other ways – considered rubber and leather to be kinky and sexually suspect and they would not wear it either publicly or privately. Their fear, totally unfounded, was that they were catering for some kind of dangerous perversion. This attitude has changed; perhaps not totally but significantly. For fashion has changed. Conformity has now completely disappeared and within certain bounds of decency a woman can wear anything she likes without widespread critical comment. (cf. Hippo Culture in this issue.)
I noticed too, that at the same time as Atomage was opening up the subject for rational examination, the words ‘kinky’ and ‘fetish’ had been added to the vocabulary of fashion writers as terms of approval. They were even being used in advertising copy. Pop artists adopted leather, vinyl and rubber in quite an astonishing way and latex-inspired artists like Alan Jones produced pictures on a calendar that became a much soughtafter collector’s item.
Against this kind of national, continuous publicity, only the old and very stupid could hold to their entrenched beliefs that leather and rubber and vinyl (and dressing for pleasure) could be considered a dangerous deviation, catering for masculine sexual aberrations that led to mental illness or the divorce court. (Sorry about the long sentence, the brake pedal on the typewriter got stuck.)
I get very few letters now asking me if I can advise them how to persuade their wives to dress as I, and so many others, do. I now don’t get abusive letters from women accusing me of promoting unnatural practices. Instead, I have a correspondence with many women seeking to improve the styles and garments available in this material. And also with other ideas – see letter from Mrs. P.T. Disappearing, too, is the request not to use a picture with an identifiable face. Dressing for pleasure and dressing for pleasure parties have become socially acceptable, even being reported in society magazines such as Queen. It is no surprise to me that if you leaf through the pages of Harpers and Queen you will see fashions as bizarre as anything that appears in these pages.
Back in the 70s, the Beatles made a delightful musically and visually inventive cartoon – The Yellow Submarine. A lovely little character in that cartoon, dressed in black, was ‘Kinky Beast’, who went around stamping on people’s toes. I like to think that among them were the toes of the reactionary and the insufferably conservative.
With the more open attitude to dressing for pleasure comes a sad irony. Eight or so years ago when I began this work, I had a list of sixteen firms who specialised in making up rubber garments, and twelve produced custom made leather clothing and boots. My address book also had four names of firms that supplied a range of good quality vinyl and all sorts of small firms and specialist craftsmen who could be called upon to produce, at reasonable cost, garments to cater for every whim, fantasy and specialist taste. Now there are just a few firms, almost all of them advertisers in Atomage. What is so sad is that so many of the firms that struggled to survive in all the difficult years expired just when things were changing.
At the present time, the rubberwear fans are better served than those, like me, whose first love is leather. Shiny vinyl lovers have no chance at all. I have not seen any good quality vinyl for at least two years now.
One long established firm that has not only survived but has enjoyed a recent growth and expansion under new management is Sealwear in Bournemouth. I paid a visit to Bournemouth a year ago, and a report of my visit was published in A13. As the printer managed in that issue, very cleverly, to transpose all the copy destined for one page on to another, my beautiful prose was not articulous (new word?) and readers must have found it exceptionally difficult to follow. They also managed to leave out the name and address of the firm and the news of their new catalogue, so the whole thing was almost a fiasco. This led to some very strained relations with the printer who I wanted to be subjected, as a guinea pig, to some of the more bizarre pieces of bondage equipment recommended by readers.
|A double breasted raincoat in a military style and a single breasted cape with cowl from The Sealwear Collection. It is available in several materials including the satin rubber.|
Now I have an opportunity to make amends and Don Hayes has sent me some delightful and exciting pictures of some of his latest creations. So, instead of looking at all those boring pictures of me in leather and rubber, I thought you would like to have a look at my choice of garments from his two new catalogues. If you want to see more then I do suggest that you write to him straight away for your own copies of ‘101 Best Sellers from Sealwear’ and ‘Have Fun with Sealwear’ and his advert is nearby so that you know how to get them (page 23).
Since Don Hayes took over Sealwear I must say that the quality has not only improved, but the attention to detail and also the reliability of meeting delivery dates – the common complaint of readers using other sources of supplies.
I speak with some personal feeling on this subject because ten years ago Robert and I ordered latex catsuits from the first management of Sealwear. The results, after a three month delay, were that mine was so small that I couldn’t get into it without extreme suffering, and Robert’s was designed for someone 7 ft. tall so that large rolls of rubber formed folds around his waist. The latest garments though are superb, and I must say I have developed a great deal of respect for Don who tells me that trying to work out customers’ exact requirements needs a great deal of skill and understanding. Many seem to have difficulty in using a simple tape measure; others make their instructions so obscure that it requires a great deal of patient correspondence to achieve an understanding of what is wanted. The sort of problem that arises is where the customer sees a particular garment illustrated, but then wants to know if it can be made with a belt rather than loose, trousers rather than a skirt and other ‘minor’ modifications. In fact, one customer picked out a catsuit and then asked that it be made without zips but fitted with feet, gloves and helmet, and couldn’t understand Don’s query how entry into the suit was going to be possible? Fortunately Don is a very understanding and patient person and if you can pay him a visit – and take the lady with you – you are assured of a very friendly welcome and you can have the garments designed on the spot and measurements taken and all the queries resolved.
Most of Don’s business, though, is mail order and when I was there I was very impressed at the skill of the staff dealing with the correspondence, and the care taken in checking the garments against the order before despatch was made. There is nothing more annoying than excitedly opening your parcel to discover the wrong size, or the wrong colour, or even the wrong design.
So the Helen recommendations for latex and rubberwear are Sealwear, Rubber Fashions and Weather Vain – all of whom have produced satisfactory garments. (There is also a new firm but I’ll come to that in a minute.) My choice for leather wear is, of course, Atomage and Cuera of Bond Street. I am looking, of course, to expand my list and am open to suggestions from readers. I will, of course, continue my own investigations and report to you in this column.
|Sealwear’s ever-popular one-piece catsuit and their Djelaba with inside bust ties and drawstring hood.|
I used to pride myself on being quite a good correspondent, but I have to admit that I have fallen from grace very badly in the last nine months. A lot of my friends must be waiting for replies to letters, some of them received by me back at the beginning of the year, and my only excuse is that as well as trying to complete my book and working on Atomage, I have had a bad health problem over the past few months.* If you have been waiting for months for a letter please accept my profuse apologies, especially all my TV friends and I do promise to try and catch up with correspondence once I have got the book completed and the new magazine to press.
*No, I wasn’t pregnant and, yes, I do like grapes, and, no, it has not affected my tastes, humours, habits and sexual proclivities – but thank you for asking.
|Trouser suit in soft latex and a rather splendid overall.|
ENTER WITH TRUMPETS
You’re going to ask, I hope, how the book is getting along? Very well, I am pleased to say. I have completed the draft and am now editing and tidying it so that it can qualify for one of the literary prizes.
As the book contains characters based closely on real people – I warned you I was writing something that was semiautobiographical – truthful and not wild fantasy – and contained some very intimate sexual revelations, I decided I needed to get personal opinions and approval. How nice people are. The drafts came back with expressions of flattering enthusiasm and encouragement, together with numerous helpful suggestions. Not one of my consultants insisted on removal of any of the characters. Indeed, they offered many more intimate, personal revelations, that I would never have dared to use.
I thought I would be criticised for the deviant style. The book has no dialogue and not a single one of those silly “”. The book has no chapters, only episodes and there are other literary inventions that may surprise. Mr. P., one of my advisers, thinks that the style is ‘almost too good for a work of this kind with a limited readership – your prose is worthy of the regular book shelves and it is a pity to think that it will probably be hidden away because of its rubber and leather theme and references to bondage. Still, it is high time we rubber lovers and bondage fans had something good to read and fantasise over.’
With all this flattering comment I shall have to start thinking about which of my leather outfits to wear for my Foyles’ literary lunch!
Yes, yes, I can hear you say, that is all very well but what is the book about and where is ‘the extract’ that you promised us in this issue? Looking through the text I don’t really see that a sample would give a correct impression of even an indication of the plot. Basically the book is about dressing for pleasure. It is the semi-autobiographical story of a woman who likes to dress in leather and is introduced to wearing rubber by her lover. She is, at first, curious, then fascinated; she meets others with deviant interests, is introduced to transexuals, bondage enthusiasts, and surprises herself with her new sexuality and sexual discoveries. To quote my friend Mr. P. again: ‘What impresses me is the view of deviation and sexual satisfaction.’
All I need now is some support to get it published.
Here, of course, is the difficulty. It is not a book which conventional publishers would risk money on and so I shall have to depend on the prompt support of readers who are going to have to pay £7 per copy for the privilege of reading it just to pay the huge printing costs. It seems like a lot of money to me, but when you consider that the average paperback these days costs £2 (and frequently more) and sells two to three million copies, a specialist book that at the best can only hope to sell about a thousand copies to the small group of dedicated Atomage readers then you can see the kind of economic conundrum that faces me.
Of course, the likelihood is that my book will become a literary classic long after I am pushing up the daisies – a common fate, I am told, with authors. The Story of O was published first in Paris by the Olympia Press and sold in such small numbers that the publisher eventually went broke. Then it was rediscovered and over six million copies were sold. It made the new publisher very rich, particularly as he didn’t have to pay anything to the first publisher or to the author who couldn’t be traced. I don’t want that to be my fate so all contributions will be welcomed and I will make no charge for autographed copies. I told you, I am after a literary award plus fame and fortune that has eluded me so far in my life.
So unless there are any major snags the book will be available early in the autumn. Full details with the next Atomage broadsheet.
Oh, I forgot to mention the title. It is ‘ENTER WITH TRUMPETS’. I am afraid you are going to have to read the book for an explanation, but I can assure you that my editorial advisers approve it.
|More Sealwear styles that I like. Imagine floating around the house in these!|
Shuffling into my doctor’s surgery the other day carrying an unseasonable load of catarrh for discussion (he seemed far more interested in my black Atomage suit and high patent boots), I happened to pick.up and read one of those expensive glossy magazines that he can afford and I cannot. A small classified ad caught my eye and, as it mentioned rubberised satin rainwear, I wrote immediately. I had such a nice letter back from Aquamac Ltd., 10 Finley Street, London SW6 6HE, together with a lovely colour picture, some samples and sketches. The letter from Sheri Laizer is worth quoting:
“As you rightly say, waterproof rainwear is only available in the shops in the form of deathless thin plastic and it is almost impossible to find a truly waterproof mac with any fashion appeal. We have seen a few in Harvey Nicholls but the prices are over £100and they are not a patch on our satin macs!
“We do not sell through the shops, but make up to order for private customers. We are also making a special offer on our satin macs at the moment, reduced from £75 to £49.
“The satin macs are really ideal for the formal outdoor occasion or even the visit to the theatre. It always amazes me how dreadful the ladies always look when it rains at Ascot – all those expensive outfits being ruined with scrappy plastic macs.
“We usually have some macs available to show at our London office – 12 Grosvenor Place – just south of Hyde Park Corner. It is usually better to phone before you come in case you miss us. The number is 01-235 6050.”
I must say, after editing this issue and reading this letter, the business seems to be looking up. I shall be a customer.