Linda McCartney, the bohemian queen
Linda McCartney was cool. She wore pale denim jeans, faded floral caftans and waistcoats and cut her perfect blond hair into a long mullet and spiked up the fringe.
She took photographs of the Rolling Stones, married the best Beatle and gave birth to four children.
It was the late 1960s; the beginning of rock star mania and bohemian chic and Linda nailed it. Not only that, she passed it on.
The Guardian reports this week that Linda’s youngest daughter fashion designer Stella McCartney’s latest summer collection has taken the European fashion world by storm. And it’s a style that mimics the best parts of her mother’s-striking exactly the right balance between femininity and rock star girlfriend, without the trash.
“Seventies mum is the look of the summer… high-waisted, mid-length, pale denim skirts or dresses with a bit of an A-line to them and maybe worn with a blouse and brown leather belt; platform sandals; satchel bags; boxy blazers; tapered slacks… in other words, dress like Linda McCartney,” writes fashion blogger Hadley Freeman.
While that’s great news for anyone with a great pair of legs and a tiny waist, I’m left wondering what happened to the rest of Linda McCartney’s legacy because she’s more than just a fashion icon. At a time when women around her were burning their bras and questioning their place in the world, Linda made it cool to be someone’s wife.
She also made it cool to have a role in making the world a better place. Because not only was Linda independent and creative, she also chose to project her substantial talents outside of her own life and herself. She had a family, she had a career and she got involved in the business of life.
You can find an extensive list of Linda’s achievements on Wikipedia and her Facebook tribute page, but just to give you an idea, by the time of her death in 1998, after a three year battle with breast cancer, she had been a professional photographer, an active voice in the animal rights movement and a business entrepreneur who published six cook books. A committed vegetarian she also established the Linda McCartney Foods, a company that’s still supported by her husband and children and that we can also thank for bringing the world’s first edible vegetarian sausage into the supermarket.
By most people’s standards that’s an example of a life well lived. But what does it mean if those achievements are the life of a woman of enormous privilege and fortune, who died at 58 years of age? I think it shows an ability for self reflection and a rare willingness to give back.
Thinking about that made me wonder if there has there been anyone like Linda McCartney since and Jane McGrath sprung to mind.
While their circumstances are obviously different, Jane was a beautiful woman who earned a kind of celebrity status as a result of her marriage and used her unique position to reach out to others. And just like Linda, Jane’s legacy lives on through the work of the her breast cancer foundation and the continued support of her husband, family and friends.
In saying all this I’m not denying that celebrity status rewards the lucky few with greater access to contacts, networks and money in amounts that we ordinary folk are unlikely to see and these luxuries certainly helped Linda and Jane achieve their goals.
But at the same time, both stories are a reminder that being famous doesn’t always have to equate with being completely driven by your own self worth and personal gain and while it’s always important to follow your dreams, you can also choose to be a role model and reach out to people for an even longer time.
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