Why This ’80s It Girl Dressed for Fun, Not Followers

While galavanting with the likes of Andy Warhol and Mick Jagger, Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni embraced cleavage, camel toe, and uninhibited style

Andy Warhol and I talked as the paparazzi snapped away. We were at Régine’s nightclub in February 1980. He was the famous American artist and the party’s guest of honor and I was a 16-year-old schoolgirl whose full-page portrait was in British Vogue. “Who designed your dress?” Andy asked.  “Designed?” I asked. The black tulle tutu dress cost £20 ($26) and came from Ginger, a teeny boutique in Rome. Andy looked amazed. Actually, it was normal. Maybe I was being tooted by Vogue as a beauty “of the eighties.” “The world is their oyster,” or so the subheading purred. But I never splurged on clothes.

Being a socially in-demand party girl (the term ‘it’ girl didn’t exist then) meant causing a media stir whether charming that night’s star, getting the jokes, or dressing to enhance one’s assets, but not dropping a load on clothes. Nowadays, it seems unthinkable. Indeed, I was reminded of this when going to a fashionable wedding in Málaga (I was a friend of the groom’s father) where the groomed beauties were dressed in the latest Chanel, Proenza Schouler, and Valentino, yet were more interested in posting selfies than being outrageous or mixing with people they didn’t know.  

Thinking back, I had one seduction outfit during my party-girl period. It was a cropped cotton sweater and camouflage skirt that were found in Ken Market (aka Kensington Street Market), cost less than £60 ($80), and lasted a year. I wore the look on my first date with Mick Jagger in September 1980 when we attended a Stevie Wonder concert. Six months later, when a Brazilian playboy asked me out and introduced me to David Hockney and Liberace, I sported it again.  And so it continued. The cheap look hit the bull’s eye with the aging roués. I was also armed with the best accessory in the world: youth, and due to being brought up on the campaign trail (my father was a British member of parliament), could converse with a chair. Let other beauties sulk—my point was being Chatty Natty and having fun.

Recognizing this, Andy Warhol invited me to share the limo after his party. We were going to dinner on King’s Road and suddenly I was seated next to Bianca Jagger. Stunning, her cropped, raven-black hair contrasted perfectly with her green taffeta pant suit. After I complimented her on the Halston-designed outfit, Bianca revealed that her friend’s clothes were becoming available in London.

Maybe, but they were not for me or my girlfriends. Forget the price—Halston et al. were just too grown-up and serious. We were into cheap clothes that allowed us to spill out at the cleavage. I had a major rack, and well-made clothes were tricky to manipulate. Nor did the trousers allow a camel toe—an essential mating call. The snuggest fit meant lying on the bed and pulling up the jean’s zip using a wire coat hanger. I know! But it had a fail-safe success rate.

Nowadays, the It girl’s focus is firmly set on her Instagram followers. Whatever her image, she’ll define perfect. Eyes open, right angle of face, and mouth giving just enough of her pearly whites. Her fun is having trillions of followers wanting or emanating her lifestyle. In charge, she’s hip to today’s world of immaculate show and consumerism. When I was a party girl, albeit photogenic, I had no idea of my “right angle” and was often throwing my head back, roaring with laughter in photos as well as occasionally showing my tonsils. Being spontaneous mattered more than caring about my appearance. Besides, during my pre-AIDS party girl era that lasted two years, the focus was on guys.

Meanwhile, the hairdo of the cool party girl was unruly. The term “blow dry” was associated either with our mothers, viewed as middle-aged, or reserved for magazine photo shoots, popular for plying us with champagne. As for hair coloring, I did mine at home, and achieved my desired hue with a girlfriend opting for the same shade. Thanks to Brazilia, a then-popular L’Oréal shade, my hair became black with hints of auburn. (Oh, and the bathroom sink became black, too…)

Clothes were a mix of hand-me-downs from stylish relatives as well as vintage thrift pieces from Portobello market, Camden Lock, and good old Ken Market. Still, for my 18th birthday party in March 1981, I forked out a staggering £70 ($92) for a strapless dress from Whistles, the London boutique. A few months later, I wore it to a private party given for Jack Nicholson and his remake of the film The Postman Always Rings Twice.

After being snipped and ruched by me around the cleavage, Whistles’ slinky red dress became an 18-month-long hit. Never quite the case of my Pocahontas chamois leather outfit (a friend’s castoff) that was worn to the Rolling Stone’s Steel Wheels gig in 1982 and topped off by a fake braid that I attached to my hair. Like many of my party girl adventures, it was a forgivable disaster.  

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