My Beauty Icon: Edie Sedgwick

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Lauren Oakey on Warhol’s tragic star

Edie Sedgwick: a waiflike, dancer’s body and a penchant for leotards and tights that clung to her tiny frame. It was a tough look for me to emulate, 5 foot 10 with massive red hair, stomping around Cardiff’s Clwb Ifor Bach to The Velvet Underground on a Friday night in worn-down pixie boots, black and white stripes and 80 denier tights, clutching a bottle of ‘lemon and alcohol’ and a Marlboro Light.

 

But even though I can’t think of anyone I look less like than Edie Sedgwick, I was desperate to have a little bit of it. I got my hair cut shorter and shorter, somehow resisting spraying it silver, until it sort of resembled Edie’s messy crop. I scoured charity shops to find bits of earrings I could attach to ones I already owned to make them fall to my shoulders, knowing they’d hurt my ears so much that I’d need a shot of vodka before putting them on. Edie looked like someone you could start the night with at nine, applying jet black eyeliner until your eyes could take no more, cigarette on the go all the while, before topping off with falsies that would almost knock your eyelids shut. We’d pull an outfit from the overspill of a wardrobe crammed with tights, dresses and feathers, then drape ourselves in a faux leopard fur and, fuelled by several French 75s, dance around the room for at least two hours before leaving to go anywhere at all.

 

Much to my frustration, I wasn’t alone. Edie’s iconic image made her a poster girl for every 60s fashion revival; black and white striped mohair jumpers, baker boy caps and huge, curly black lashes suddenly appeared on EVERYONE. Edie became a fashion icon again but NO,NO, SHE WAS MINE. When you’ve put in that much hard graft and devotion, you simply don’t want people to be instantly Sedgwick-ed by pegging it through Topshop on a lunch break. Frankly, if you weren’t prepared to wear lipstick the colour of a Band Aid, then you were an amateur fan. If your black liquid liner was purely for flicks, and not for painting on thick socket lines and big round beauty marks, then you were strictly little league. If you’ve never pondered which perfume she would have worn (heady and dangerous, sexy and urgent, something that hit you like a whirlwind as she twirled past, then faded into nothing almost as soon as it appeared, much like Edie herself), then frankly you’ve got no business claiming to love Edie Sedgwick.

 

And besides, I didn’t just want to copy her. I wanted to be her friend. Edie seemed to have everything and nothing at all. Her upbringing in a swish society family ruled by a narcissistic and abusive father was full of tragedy, her huge eyes appeared to swim in sadness, her figure was in part the result of the anorexia that visited her as a teenager and never left. Her inheritance was spent in three months, she was exploited then dumped by Andy Warhol, and ended up dying of a barbiturate overdose at 28. Any image or grainy footage of her makes you want to reach in and grab her, make her a cup of tea and sit her in front of Friends. But the quiet life was never meant to be. Edie’s life was meant to be fast and ridiculous and over too soon but perhaps selfishly, I wish someone had helped her, and that we’d all got to enjoy her beautiful 71-year-old face.

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