1985 was a dreadful year for fashion all round. At least, that’s my excuse.
In 1985, having a disposable income from my part-time job at the local fish and chips shop, and the ability to buy my own clothes at Target, was still a novelty. Up until I secured my part-time income the year before, my designated pocket money was around 40c per week. Growing up in a working class family of eight, in the 1970s, with 40c a week in pocket money meant most of my clothes came from “Op” shops, or were “handed down” to me from cousins. Those older cousins were a family of 9 kids, who lived on a farm and survived on one adult’s income. In other words, the clothes they passed on to myself and my sister were not going to see me feature in the Fashion on the Street pages of Dolly magazine any time soon.
Garbage bags, full of our cousins’ discarded clothes, arrived every now and then, and my sister and I would go through them seething with excitement, pulling out wind cheaters and bras. Bras?! It didn’t matter to us that every individual item was totally unfashionable, and already worn by someone else.
When I was in primary school I was barely aware that other people bought clothes brand new straight from shops. I didn’t know or care about my clothes being fashionable. From high school onwards, however, I became more aware of the yawning chasm between the fashionably dressed girls at school and myself. That was searingly obvious on the first “casual” day in year 7, for our annual walkathon, when most other girls were wearing shorts, or the 3/4 length pants that were fashionable that year, and I was wearing a second hand, mid-calf length, A-line floral skirt. With sneakers. Well, it was a 10km walkathon!
After that humiliating experience, I started to try and dress like the other girls, but with no money, and only hand-me-downs to work with, I never had a chance of looking like anything but the oldest daughter in a large, poor, repressed Catholic family. One look at me and you could tell that my parents combed my brothers’ fringes down onto the side of their heads with water for Sunday mass.
I did at time own some jeans, however my first ever pair of “jeans” (actually purchased brand new!) were beige cords, and later I recall quite a few pairs of hand-me-downs from cousins that were (gulp!) purple and corduroy, and flared. (Reminder: flares were cool in the 70s, NOT the mid 80s.) “Casual” days at school became dreaded.
In 1984 I got a part time job working in the local fish and chips shop. Having been bringing in 40c per week up to that point I was utterly astounded (and so was my dad), after my first shift stocking the drinks fridge, to discover that I earned a whopping $4 an hour! It was enough to buy Smash Hits and Dolly magazine, cassettes, and save to buy my own clothes.
But unfortunately, when I recall what I wore to the INXS concert I attended at the Ballarat Civic Hall in 1985, I can only conclude that I must still have been thriftily saving up my $4 per hour, and had not yet gone shopping!
Thankfully, there are no photos to remind me of what I looked like as I headed out that night. It’s just that the shame of it has been burned into my memory. Let’s just say that I tried to turn a lack of having anything remotely cool to wear into an attempt to look “bohemian.” I think that a red corduroy skirt was involved. It’s possible that there was also a pair of white runners, covered with colored polka dots. Yes, that’s right – with a corduroy skirt. Look, I can’t be sure, and I hope I’m wrong, but I know there was a time when those polka dot sneakers were the only pair of shoes I owned (apart from my school shoes).
Now it has to be said that INXS and corduroy are two items that just don’t go naturally in a sentence together. How does a post start out about corduroy and end up being about INXS? You are probably starting to wish you could get your money back. Well hang on a moment, because I’m about to explain. The reason I have gone into detail about my tragic outfit, is to emphasise what a pitifully daggy kid I was at that point, and really set the scene for what a friggin’ highlight in my life at that point it was to meet Michael Hutchence after the concert!
Um, yes, that’s right – daggy red corduroy-skirt girl MET Michael Hutchence after the gig. Life can seem unfair at times, can’t it, girls?
It was not hard to do. Basically, the concert ended, so everyone else politely poured out of the Civic Hall and went straight home to bed! Except for 3 people: my friend, her older brother and myself. We loitered around, near a side exit, trying to contain our excitement, trying to look casual, hoping that the band wouldn’t be secretly whisked out some other exit…….and then – OMG!!!
Through the glass doors we could see the band, casually walking down a hallway towards us! Or, in Michael’s case, sashaying down the hall towards us. At least, he is in my memory.
Now, I’m pretty sure that as he approached, the total lack of glamour in doing this gig in a civic hall in a country town became all too apparent to Hutchence, if it hadn’t been already. He could see that outside those doors there was no media with cameras flashing, no hordes of screaming, adult women, no – just 2 teenage girls – one in a red corduroy skirt and polka dot sneakers – with older brother in tow!
But to give them credit, the band stopped and talked to us – or let’s face it, probably mostly to the older brother – and, to top off that kind gesture, before they departed, Michael leaned in and gave each girl a kiss.
Hopefully, now that you have some extra context, you will have a pretty clear picture of how thrilled I must have been at that moment. And don’t worry, I was aware even then, that it was an act of kindness, or pity – or perhaps utmost professionalism – that motivated him. But for me, at least, it was undoubtedly the highlight of my
So, whether or not Michael Hutchence lost sight of his roots and let the glamour go to his head in later days, let the records show that he did a kindly deed back in 1985.
Which was to give a charitable kiss to a country town teenage girl wearing a corduroy skirt. Possibly with polka dot sneakers.