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Don't Use it Lose It

It would be the summer of '79. My soundtrack of the time included Boomtown Rats and Squeeze (I'd only recently progressed from Bay City Rollers and Gary Glitter). I pored through copies of Disco 45, avidly learning song lyrics and looking for clues as to what I should be wearing in Fab 208.

I'd saved enough money from my paper round for a skirt with a split in the side and was making my way into Brum on the train with my best friend Lorraine. It was an adventure. Our first solo outing from Tamworth into the centre of Birmingham. Both children of the Brummy overflow we were like homing pigeons, tuned into that city centre vibe. We knew there was something more than our hopeless high street with it's Foxy Lady Boutique and Bambers. During our formative years we'd been ferried in and out of Brum headed for family in places like Small Heath and Northfield. Only glimpsing the shops between bus stops or our Moms' hurried trips into M&S. This time we were on our own, free to try and buy.

Earlier attempts at a self styled wardrobe had included some multicoloured wedge mules from a jumble sale which my Mom promptly binned (in next doors dustbin as she was so ashamed). A foray into DIY fashion didn't end well when I tried attaching bric a brac to my jeans which resulted in a look more Playschool than punk. A bag of hand me downs from the cool kid across the road was gratefully received until the prize tie-up espadrilles were pilfered during PE and I had to walk home in my black pumps.

As the offspring of born and bred Brummies we knew exactly where to go, our cousins had instructed us on the only place to shop, Oasis Markets. With it's dark, cave like retail spaces, housing indie sellers touting slogan painted teeshirts, fantastic footwear that no Foxy Lady would be wearing and my next peek at real vintage clothing following the jumble sale disaster. Lorraine and I lost ourselves in this underground treasure trove of trendsetting style. It wasn't only the clothes but the people wearing and selling them. Coming from a small town, it wasn't easy to stand out from the crowd and if you did, it often meant being fair game for ridicule.

Unfortunately, aged 11 our research hadn't been thorough enough and we still had to 'grow into' much of what hung on the rails. Having failed to find pencil skirts that didn't slip straight past our non existent hips we travelled home with a teeshirt each, printed with the CB radio slogan "Got Your Ears On Big 10-4 For Sure". Don't ask...?!

I dragged up this reminiscence after seeing a tweet this morning from my 'go to Brummy in the know' @Midge_UK It carried a story by Birmingham Live about planned new development in Dale End which will likely see the demolition of the Oasis Markets. I'm aware they've been on borrowed time for a while and haven't helped as, on recent visits, I've not spent money there. Sadly, like much of what I seek, I find it either online or at car boot sales and rare charity shops that haven't been sorted through by eBay aficionados. I'm pretty much back to square one with my jumble sale shopping.

It's still sad to know that another piece of my pop fashion history is to be lost, this was a corner piece too, one that held together other bits of the teen style jigsaw. Oasis was a haven for trendsetters from all tribes, punks to new romantics, rockers and mods. Maybe when we lost the tribes, we lost the battle against High Street sheep? Whatever the reason for this latest project proclaiming progress, regeneration means to grow again, improve. Why not start with what is already there rather than sending in the bulldozers?

Or maybe I'm just getting old and nostalgic and the past should remain with those memories of journeys home on the 110; bags filled with Oasis alternative fashion finds. I still have a few but 40 years on I've unfortunately 'grown out' of them :-)


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