Caroline Baker, who had previously worked as a secretary for Shirley Conran at the Observer, joined Molly Parkin, the iconoclastic women’s magazine’s fashion editor, at Nova in 1967. Parkin resigned shortly after Baker arrived, and Baker took over, despite the fact that she had never done a fashion shoot before.
Over the years, she created a unique aesthetic that defied industry norms. “I didn’t want to be this pretty girl, this toy for men,” she says in the preface to Rebel Stylist: Caroline Baker – The Woman Who Invented Street Fashion, a new book honoring her career.
Baker began looking for material for her fashion pages elsewhere, including 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, and army surplus, leg-warmers and tights from ballet suppliers. Baker went on to collaborate with Vivienne Westwood and set the tone for punk fashion and the free androgyny of the 1980s and beyond with her street style.
Charlie Chaplin’s “chaotic way of dressing” was one of the looks’ inspirations. This image from a Nova shot by photographer Sarah Moon, styled by Baker, was taken not long before Nova’s collapse in 1975, and is featured in the book.
Moon was one of the few female fashion photographers at the time, and she collaborated with Baker on a series of stories that reinterpreted cinematic nostalgia through the eyes of a woman. They traveled to Brighton to shoot the Chaplin films.
Baker says, “Sarah wanted two small children and an old car… you planned your fashion shoot like a mini-film.” Chaplin’s broad silhouette appealed to both his utilitarian and artistic sensibilities. “I was always envious of men who were so fortunate to have pockets.”
She determined that women, too, should have them.
Thanks to Tim Adams at The Guardian whose reporting provided the original basis for this story.