Get Ready – A Photo Essay Through the Ages

February 2024
Photos courtesy of the Museum of Youth Culture

Sometimes, getting ready is the best part of the night. From crowding your mates into your tiny bedroom to help you pick the perfect outfit, to the imperative mirror selfie on your way out. The music tastes, fashion choices and hair styles may have changed over the years, but some things stay the same. With the help of the Museum of Youth Culture, we’ve journeyed through the years, exploring how we all get ready for a night out.

The 1970s

A decade of social and political strain meant that nights out were more necessary than ever. Sugary cocktails were poured into tiny Babycham glasses and looks were seriously bolder. From the glitzy extravagance of disco and psychedelia, to the DIY styling of punk, getting ready in the ‘70s involved some serious outfit prep, with pre-night drinks hosted by your mate with the best record collection.

The 1980s

The 80s saw the start of rave, with free parties dominating nightlife, calling for casual clothing that kept you out ‘til sunrise. Punk made way for the new romantic and goth scenes during the late ‘80s, and the distinctive styles and sounds of hip-hop made their way into popular culture. Make-up was bold and hair crimpers were a mainstay of bedroom dressing tables. Cassettes were in, offering a more portable solution when you wanted to bring your music collection to your mate’s house.

The 1990s

In the 1990s, Britpop reigned supreme, with supergroups like Blur and The Stone Roses dominating the music scene. Acid house morphed into the high-speed sounds of jungle and garage, with London clubs throwing big weekend parties for champagne-drinking punters. What you listened to dictated your outfit choices, with comfy trainers, tees and track jackets the perfect get-up for a weekend gig. If you were out clubbing though, it was a different story, and outfits would be planned out long in advance, with CD’s picked out for the pre-drinks (and after-party), and the night documented on a disposable camera.

The 2000s and 2010s

Post-millennium, the internet brought about social media, and subcultures splintered and merged. Rules and dress codes became more fluid, with individuality celebrated more than ever. From emos and chavs, to hipsters and skaters, new countercultures grew from old ones, with kids picking and choosing the best music, styles and dress codes of the past three decades. Nights didn’t happen unless they were documented – extensively – on a flip-phone or digital camera. Getting ready always ended with a photo shoot, with all your mates crowding around the living room to get in the shot, the latest tracks playing on an iPod speaker in the corner.


Today half the fun of going out is the preparation and anticaption of what’s to come. From choosing which Fred Perry Shirt to wear, to planning with your mates. Compiling joint playlists, to last minute fit checks. For 2024, we invite our community to tag us in their getting ready photos with #GETREADY.

Want to get involved? Share your stories of youth and become part of history as we team up with the Museum of Youth Culture to document the rites and rituals of British youth. Find out more here.