When I heard clothing brand Tammy Girl is making a comeback in 2022, the 10-year-old version of myself who lives inside of me suddenly awoke.
I was filled with excitement as I reminisced about my happy place of the late 1990s and early 2000s, where friendships blossomed and dreams were made. Not to mention the flood of nostalgia – from jigsaw best-friendship necklaces to high-heeled jelly shoes.
While the styles may look exactly the same now 20 years later, a 32-piece online collection with Asos in adult sizes isn’t quite the same for everyone who, like me, is having a quick end-of-the-week trip down memory lane.
In my day, Tammy Girl was women’s shop Etam’s little sister. In my hometown of Canterbury, it was a pokey windowless box room in the upstairs of the Etam halfway along the high street. But to nine or 10-year-old me, it was wondrous and worth making a beeline for in an admittedly limited clothing market. It was a step up from Quality Seconds (QS).
Shopping trips with my mum (thanks for all that coat-hanger holding) and sister where I could choose my own style for the first time – terrible pastel floral two-piece viscose top and skirt, and so many floaty things – graduated into the first shopping trips with friends when we were allowed into town on our own. There were a lot of pastel shades actually and we’d pick out the worst designs for each other and spend ages trying them on.
I can still recall the exact layout of the shop and my key purchases – high-heeled canvas shoes that I snuck into my bag to wear at school in Year Six because my mum wouldn’t let me, black cord necklaces that slotted together for various friendships over the years and I’m pretty sure there was a questionable blow up rucksack, which aligned with the tasteful blow up chair in my bedroom.
There were those bodies that poppered up underneath and fast-tracked some of us into our first foray in thrush. And I can’t not mention belly tops, slogan tees, baggy, low-rise canvas trousers and the abundance of butterflies and flower designs that must have influenced my questionable choices of tattoos as I moved into my late teens and 20s.
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As well as friendship necklaces, the jewellery section was my first introduction to fashion’s appropriation of the ying and yang symbol, wooden beaded bracelets with Chinese symbols and mood rings. I remember longing for pierced ears but I had to make do with a nail piercing, hair springs, butterfly clips and blue hair mascara, purchased from Tammy probably, until secondary school.
Tammy Girl was the place where one could realise their dream of trying to look like a Spice Girl, see something styled in a magazine like Mizz, Bliss and Sugar in the week and then buy it with pocket money on a Saturday. For some it was where they had their first thrill of shoplifting one pair of earrings off the multipack then feeling terrified and telling their mum.
It was the chance to springboard from multipacks of pants brought by a parent to snazzy knickers and oh god, thinking it was a good idea to wear a thong (with a Little Miss Naughty design, may I add).
Ah, it was the era of buying magazines, carefully tearing out the posters of 911, Damage and East 17 to Blu Tack near my bed, adorning school books with the free stickers. A trip to Tammy might be followed by dining out in Maccy Ds, browsing band posters in HMV and chewing gum in the Dane John Gardens trying to impress boys. Or a taste test at Woolworths pick n mix before taking an hour to choose a VHS from Blockbuster for the evening.
A purchase from Tammy was one to wear over and over again. I mean, it’s easier to have key outfits when you wear your brown school uniform five days a week.
20 years later when we’re so aware of fast fashion and sustainability, Tammy doesn’t quite have the same magic. The true experience of Tammy has faded away now, but if you know a woman in her 30s or 40s, ask her to dig down the back of her wardrobe and maybe some original treasures from the good old days will be there.