Helen is lyrical about luxurious leather, lectures on living with love, the lewd and the ludicrous.

The leather discovery of the year is a remarkable craftsman/designer, who has his workshop in Glasgow, which for the benefit of our overseas readers is a wet and windy city on the West coast of Scotland. The centre spread of A28 showed one of his marvellous designs and more grace the pages of this issue, including our front cover.

Together with two pages of colour pictures from Pittards who make the best clothing leathers, Atomage 29 should satisfy all those readers who have been complaining that this magazine has been the victim of a take-over bid by the rubber-lovers.

Despite his name, Joe MacDonald tells me he was born in Southport in Lancashire and didn’t emigrate to Scotland until 1955, He trained as a engineer and served in the Merchant Navy for two years before giving up the sea waves for the air waves, lending his talents for engineering design to the BBC Television Studio where he became celebrated for his special explosive effects. Joe tells me he never had any fashion training whatsoever. A leather cowboy belt and holster whichh he made for one of his children was the unlikely cause of Joe taking up a fashion career. A friend who owned a boutique saw the holster and asked Joe if he could make leather chokers for sale and Joe said yes, then found that he enjoyed the challenge of working with ‘this incredibly, versatile material’.

In 1976 he opened his small shop in Glasgow where he works single-handed – well actually he uses both hands. In 1978 his leather clothes were featured in a Paris fashion show and he has designed for TV and showbiz personalities including Pan’s People, Fenella Fielding and other star names. He has designed a white leather wedding dress, punk rock outfits, clothes for fancy dress parties, fencing jackets and period costumes, and various items of leather bondage equipment. His most popular item is leather bikinis and Joe answers the obvious questions by saying that “leather is an ideal material for almost any purpose … it is practically indestructable … deerskin can be washed and ironed … it does not mind how wet it gets (after all animals wear it in all weathers), and it is beautifully supple and versatile.”

Joe gets most of his skins in Scotland and works out all his own designs and patterns. He will make designs to customers own specifications but he prefers to get their ideas and then submit his own designs for their approval “because I know from experience now how to get the best out of the skins so they look right on the wearer”.

Joe thinks it is quite wrong to take a design for a fabric garment and then make it up in leather. “So much can be done with leather that it deserves its own special design”. A fashion that might look strange in a fabric can often look outstanding in leather, and some of his pictures in these pages emphasise the point.

Joe is very fond of suede which he thinks has unique qualities. He has designed some beautiful suede evening skirts and suede, he says, is very good for classic styles. I do so agree with him, as I have a black suede coat of which I am extremely fond, and I always feel very good when wearing it.

Joe’s prices are reasonable, especially when you consider he is making to measure. A long leather skirt would cost from £75, and a woman’s suit about i100. For more details I suggest you write to him at 98, Queen Margaret Drive, Glasgow.

And if you want one of the cowboy belts with holster that started it all, he will make one complete with a brass studded belt for about £30.


I have been taken to task by M.S.D. of Oxford and other readers for not encouraging a serious approach to the designing of outfits for dressing for pleasure. My ‘His and Hers’ outfits shown in A25 were, I admit, intended only to highlight the humour which I believe is inherent in any intimate relationship based on love, trust and a secure belief in each other. If you cannot laugh together then you cannot, in my book, love together.

What I did not quite expect was that the editors should present me with such a selection of drawings, sketches, pictures and descriptions of, for the most part, outfits for Her designed by Him; and some designs by ‘Hims’ for me! (Some readers have a very flattering idea of my anatomical features!)

I was, I suppose, being rather optimistic in expecting ideas from my sex showing what She would like to wear to please Him, or She would like Him to wear to please Her. The ‘hims’ sent in ideas – two have been published – that ranged from the possibles through the ridiculous to the plainly lascivious. The ideas were admirably imaginative but I preferred some of shiny, vinyl designs from the reader in Scandinavia whose letter and drawings are elsewhere in this issue.

I roughly divided the designs into three groups. First came those readers whose clear intention was to protect their beloved from the elements — rain, wind, flood, frost, snow with, in some cases, additional protection against the worst of World War III.

The second was the group that sought to dress their lady in their ‘turn on’ material usually in a manner that emphasised or highlighted their erogenous zones. One or two readers surprised me by showing a psychological inversion in their designs which effectively disguised their e.z.

Reader Jay (who shyly refuses to give me his address) often designs his outfits with sharp spikes and horns in all the particular places. All they need is a notice saying ‘Do Not Touch’. Another reader fits heavy studs and buckles here, there and everywhere.

The third group is concerned with what the lady will wear in the bedroom or boudoir. This is the group that shows the most vivid imagination and suggest sexual pleasures and pastimes that leave me faintly breathless. The majority seem to involve some form of bondage or restriction. Reader E.P. sent six drawings headed ‘lust lingerie’ and I could see certain snags immediately that would even daunt the most compliant of partners.

To him and the others may I make one or two salient points: 1) there are limitations to the female anatomy recognised even by the disciples of Yoga; 2)she does not wish to feel she looks ridiculous even in the privacy of her own home; 3) she wants to feel she is still a woman and not a sexual invention; 4) she wants to wear something that fits, not something that was made for an Amazon or a midget. I would add the word ‘comfort’ but it seems, looking at some of the outfits, that it is the very thing that is anathema to the designer. It is not as I see it, an emphasis on cruelty. In not one design did I see any intention to injure the lady. It was rather more the intention to encourage her to enjoy a pleasure that he feels she is capable of experiencing — a matter to me of grave doubt despite correspondence on this subject.

There is a basic misunderstanding by the men of the woman’s emotional reaction to sex. It is totally different from his. But this is a subject outside the limitations of this column.

There are also basic misunderstandings of the female view of ‘dressing for pleasure’ and, therefore, I am so pleased to publish a second excellent letter on this theme. This one is from Mrs ‘M’ whose husband is both fortunate and, it seems to me, understanding. His designs are shown in his pictures (pages 9 and 14).

There is not the space to show all of these His and Her designs but I am grateful to the senders. I do hope they will send more as I intend to come back to the subject, with illustrations. In the meantime, two designs for outfits from a reader who supplied them in cartoon form with lovely captions. (Yes, thank you, I had noticed the motor cyclists are not wearing the legal helmets!) The two cartoons show a nice balance between the lascivious and laughter. Indeed, why I like this issue the best of all Atomage is first the emphasis on lovely leather designs and the delightful sense of humour in the wealth of cartoons here and in the Supplement. If you want to win us over, gentlemen, make us laugh first.


Marriage, it’s been said, has many pains, but celibacy no pleasure. The pains are almost all of the growing kind with two partners developing separately at a different pace, in different directions, stretching the binding fabric of their relationship thinner and thinner.

Now, I am not a marriage counsellor; I am the least qualified person to undertake the role of adviser in any matter of human relationships, taking a sympathetic view of Jean Paul Sartre’s character in “Huis Clos” who concluded ‘hell is other people’. I make my remarks in the spirit of the insatiably curious rather than the seeker-out-of-truth.

The two intimate interviews in this issue demonstrate the simple truth that you cannot expect any partner to share any interest with a mutual degree of enthusiasm. Whether it is collecting postage stamps or ‘dressing for pleasure’, you cannot expect matching dedication. Sometimes the partners may be so well tuned to each other there is a total sharing but, in my view, this is rare. When it does happen it usually means that one partner is, to some extent, subjugating her or his personality to the personality of the other.

You cannot expect the same pace of emotional development. People tend to marry because they are in a feverish state of mind. They enter into a legally binding contract in a most irrational manner, frequently sexually ignorant, and invariably emotionally disturbed. The courtship is exciting, full of new experiences; the marriage tends to be tedium. To earn extra money so they can buy a home she usually goes out to work; this means she comes home to cook and clean for a tired husband who flops in front of TV. When the National Anthem is played he gets up refreshed, probably thinking about sex and wondering if she might wear a gasmask because it turns him on! It is not surprising to me that headaches are such a common ailment.

Women get crushed by marriage, more by the emotional pressures than the economic ones. In the days when the role of the woman was clearly defined there were not the same problems. The woman was dependent. Now there are greater job opportunities for everyone, Women’s Lib, birth control, and a sexually tolerant society, why should she, she thinks, have to cater for his ‘odd tastes’ if she doesn’t want to?

The male attitude though has not advanced much from that of his grandfather. A woman’s place is still in the home, although he is now prepared to allow her out to earn a little extra money to pay for their holiday in Majorca or the payments on his car.

I have also noticed that couples don’t even talk much to each other. Commuters stagger home to fall in front of the TV, then stagger to bed to prepare for another early start. Come the weekend, they are on the golf course or taking the kids to the football match. On Sunday they clean the car, cut the lawn, go to the pub, then gorge themselves to the gills, sleep it off in the afternoon. They might wake up about tea time and wonder if the wife might fancy a sexual encounter, perhaps dressed in a latex suit — a suit that would take her half an hour to get-into? When she says no, it is basically because she doesn’t recognise who is asking. I mean, who wants to make dressed up love to an almost total stranger?

Sexual refusal leads to sexual boredom, which in turn leads to what Robert and I call PPP. The ‘phone philanderer phenomenon’ can be observed in a town or city public house from six o/clock onwards. Telephones in public houses don’t have the same privacy as a callbox, so you can hear him saying — “It’s me, darling, been a helluva day and I’m still at it. Old J. expects the full report and figures on his desk by nine tomorrow. I may make the 8.45 if I’m lucky. Don’t wait up”. But what he is really at is something from the Typing Pool, with a sympathetic smile, who likes older men. Robert and I have spent many an entertaining hour watching the “my wife doesn’t understand me” ploy over the gins and tonics and the ports and lemons.

The other horrifying thing is how little effort the little wife makes to protect her investment. My sex don’t seem to be prepared to fight. A few don’t even seem to bother about the lipstick stains on his collars and handkerchiefs except to complain about the cost of biological detergent to remove them in the washing machine.

Reading some of the sad letters from male readers, I am appalled how easily they have swallowed the wives’ excuses. The myth of the hysterectomy reducing sexual interest – and, of course, which is why she puts on weight and feels ill all the time – is accepted without question. The remark “she was never the same after the difficult birth of our son/daughter” very often invites my cynicism more than my sympathy.

One writer made me cringe by using the word ‘independence’ three times in talking of his marriage. That is a very sad word to apply to a marriage. His wife, incidentally, cut up the SBR raincoat he had bought for her to make a cover for her sister’s pram!

Why is it, I cry out, do we make so little effort to understand one another and each our emotional needs? I only get an echo back.

What would happen I ask, if you were to get up now from reading this boring piece, go and put your arms around your wife, kiss her passionately and say “Darling, I do love you?”

Will she say “Get off you daft idiot” or “Have you been at the meths in the tool shed again?” Or will she whip you straight up to the bedroom? I suspect she would be too dumbfounded to do any of the things I’ve suggested.

My question is a rhetorical one and I don’t expect a flood of correspondence. My message is this – communicate now, it’s later than you think.