If I Could Turn Back Time: Titch and Faye in This Is England ’88

Whenever I speak about my relation with tv, I proudly explain I haven’t watched it since 2008. Italian tv bores me to death and I think the ritual of watching it is a thing of the past. This doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate good tv products: I watch many American and British series, which are definitely better than the best Italian tv show. I’ve already expressed my admiration for an excellent mini-series which aired in December 2011 – This Is England ’88: the plot, the characters and the setting are just impressive.

The different kinds of style sported by the female characters obviously caught my attention. After Lol and Kelly, here is the complete overview of what Titch and Faye wore. They’re very different characters, but have one thing in common: both of them are new entries, introduced in the story to bring a breath of fresh air and more drama.

Titch (Autumn Smiles) is introduced as Harvey’s (Michael Socha) girlfriend: they’re at a pub with Kelly, Trev, Gadget and Banjo, when Milky arrives. I must admit I was immediately struck by her style, much in contrast with Kelly and Trev’s. In this first scene, she sports a sort of uniform, an outfit which will distinguish her all through the mini-series. Unfortunately, we don’t know anything about her [1], which is a pity, because it would have been interesting to know more about her background. I can assume she comes from the lower middle class, like most of the characters, or at least she feels part of that part of society.

She’s not a skinbyrd and she’s not a punk: she usually wears light blue jeans, a short-sleeved shirt with a knitted vest and a dark blazer. This outfit is casual and androgynous but she turns it into something totally feminine with some interesting details.

I really love this scene, set at the pub during the karaoke night. Here, Titch is not wearing her blazer, so her plaid shirt and knitted vest are visible. Any other girl could have worn her clothes, but she gives it a twist thanks to hair and make-up. Her hair – straight with heavy bangs – reminds me of the 40s because she always wears a scarf on it: in this case, she’s wearing a white scarf with black trims  as headband (the knot is visible, another important detail). Moreover, thanks to her classy make-up – red lips and dark red nails are its strongest points – she really stands out among the crowd.

When the band goes to Shaun’s school to see him perform, she wears the same outfit with slight variations, the most evident of which is her ivory scarf worn à la Rosie the Riveter, another reference to the 40s. I love how she pulls the headscarf off and I like how it emphasizes her rounded fringe.

Her checked shirt (if you compare it to the one she wore in the first scene, you can see this pattern is different) is paired to an army green vest, blazer and jeans. These are the only two outfits seen on her, but it would have been awesome if Shane Meadows had given her more screen time and more chances to express her style.

The second new entry is Faye (Charlotte Tyree): she knows Shaun because they attend the same performing art school. She’ll have an important role in the story because she represents the chance for Shaun to escape routine – not only his friends, but especially Smell, his girlfriend. In the first episode, we can see her on a bus to school: Shaun sits next to her and comments on her curly hair.

It’s true when they say that an image can speak a million words: Faye is much more than the studded denim jacket she wears, but this particular item of clothing tells us a lot about her. In the 80s I was a teenager and I perfectly remember that studded (and embroidered) denim jackets were so much in vogue: it’s not a coincidence that Faye wears it. She pairs it with jeans, a fuchsia long-sleeved blouse and a chain necklace. Her long hair is styled in a half updo and her make-up only includes fiery red lips.

Later in the episode, Shaun pays her a visit: the apparent reason is that they want to rehearse their lines, but there’s something else going on. The scene is set in Faye’s bedroom, a small temple devoted to romantic teenage dreams and to pink. Faye is wearing a purple spandex catsuit, ripped light denim jeans and a hot pink belt. The 80s were the decade of fitness and spandex clothes are surely a symbol of it.

Faye is a trendy teenager: besides wearing a purple catsuit under her jeans (so that the purple colour can peep out of the holes in her jeans), she wears knitted legwarmers and stylish Reebok white trainers. She comes from the upper middle class, as her house and clothes show: her cultural references come from the world of pop music and mainstream cinema (just think of many films set in the world of performing arts, from Flashdance to Fame).

In the second episode, the soft spot Faye and Shaun have for each other is brought to another level. After the performance, they go to Faye’s house to attend a party. In her all-pink bedroom they express their mutual feelings and make love, but are caught in the act by Smell, who has crashed the party. In this scene, Faye is still wearing her scene costume, which includes a drawstring camisole and a long tiered skirt. Her sleek half updo is similar to the curly hairstyle she sported in the first episode.

Even if Faye has more screen time than Titch, she serves a precise function: introducing Shaun’s personal crisis and the detachment from his affections. It’s not coincidental that the two main male characters – Shaun and Woody – are going through similar phases, that bring them away from their own world. In the case of Shaun, the desire to escape can be considered a step in the path of personal growth, and Faye represents a way out from routine, another chance to be romantically involved. Despite being marginal characters, they have a great potential, so I hope Meadows will revive them in the next This Is England mini-series.

Did you watch the mini-series? Did these two characters do an impression on you as much as they did on me?

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4 comments

    1. Please watch the series because it’s simply amazing, one of the best series ever. And yes, I agree: Titch’s style is gorgeous. Too bad she has very little screen time.

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