Sister Act: Joan & Jackie Collins

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Jackie and Joan Collins, 1974

We say hello to summer's style heroes inspired by the awesome 70s stylings of the Collins sisters

The 70s were an extraordinary time for fashion. Excess and colour were the watchwords, along with a focus on facial hair for men, and gigantic hair for women. The silhouette nipped in at the waist and ballooned out from the knees, slick tailoring and boho fringing jostled with Debbie Harry's punk studs and Studio 54 disco sparkle, Joni Mitchell and Diane Keaton were the postergirls and lip gloss was a religion. It was a confusing time – but two women, sisters from Hampstead, were flourishing, building literary empires, climbing the ladder to acting stardom, without losing their humour or bowing to conventions of female diffidence. These were the almighty Joan and Jackie Collins, whose decades of fame and public adoration is testament to their talent, strength of character, sense of self and awesome style.

Everybody loves the Collins girls – as shown by their Loves victory with this picture discovered by Dal Chodha – and there are so many reasons why. There's Jackie's prolific run of hyper-coloured paperbacks featuring strong-willed, "dangerously beautiful" heroines, who defy men to have it all. There's Joan's gorgeously melodramatic turn on Dynasty as Alexis Carrington that took the show from struggling soap to the biggest on US TV. There is Jackie's position at number 5 on the Sunday Times Rich List of UK authors. There's Joan's response to a journalist's impertinent query about the dangers of marrying a man 32 years her junior – "If he dies, he dies." There's the girlpower and familiy solidarity, and of course, there are the clothes. Never knowingly not bombshells, they made 70s glamour look good, and are still doing it today. So as we reconsider the question of waistcoats for S/S15 and take notes from a gallery of 70s style heroines, Chodha waxes lyrical about his enduring love for Joan.

Why did you love this shot?
I mean, just look at it. Jackie’s pursed lips and nipped-in waistcoat; Joan’s flicky flippy hair and fine shoulders. I have a real affinity for the 1970s for some reason (I read Cheap Chic by Caterine Milinaire and Carol Troy and Kennedy Fraser’s The Fashionable Mind regularly). This photograph is SO 70s. It manages to be both formal and fabulous at the same time. These two are girls on top.

Where would you keep it if you owned it?
This would have to be printed A0 and framed, left to lean against the wall of my dream walk-in closet. There would be shelves of glass bottles of fragrances that no one wears anymore like Jules by Christian Dior and Pierre Cardin Man's Cologne, lining the walls. It would be filled with piles of battered, old magazines and thick, soft rugs.

Impossible question - Jackie or Joan?
I am firmly for Joan – she is regal but raunchy, ribald yet refined. I recently saw her on screen, writhing around in the mud wearing high waisted white trousers, being attacked by a breed of giant ants in Empire of the Ants (1977). I have more immediate references to Joan than I do Jackie. I have never read one of her books, which maybe I should do now. The film is a must see for anyone who calls themselves a fan of Joan. Also if anyone hasn’t seen her selling her beauty range Timeless Beauty on QVC then head over to YouTube statim. 

Would you rather be a bestselling novelist or acting royalty? AKA The Bitch or Alexis Carrington?
No contest. I would rather be the woman who appeared naked on screen in her mid 40s, having sex on a giant swing above a swimming pool (in The Stud) rather than the one sat at her laptop, writing steamy paperbacks from her mansion in Beverly Hills.

What would you wear to dress up for a Collins themed party?
Tits and lipgloss and a pair of Joan Collins Jeans that I would have to track down on ebay.

Do you have a favourite piece of wisdom gleaned from the Collins sisters?
Two things both noted in The Joan Collins Beauty Book published in 1980. On sex, Joan says it is best to get over the guilt and just enjoy it: “Spending time on sex or beauty makes many people feel vaguely guilty. But sex is one of the best and cheapest of all beauty treatments,” she explains. Later in the book she enlightens us to the magic of lemon, dedicating a whole page to the zesty yellow fruit. It apparently aids digestion and is helpful when trying to lose weight as it has virtually no calories. To top it all she concludes: “it makes good salad dressing.” 

Who would be your dream panto part?
This might be quite an obscure pantomime but I would have to play Kay Dillon – the modelling agent Joan played in the American TV movie Making of a Male Model. Kay wears a lot of good tailoring.

What are you looking forward to about the summer?
The arrival of summer would mean that the second issue of Memorandum for Sunspel would be done and the third issue of Archivist will be off to the printers. Wine time.