Fashion

My white dress for the Confirmation ceremony at church was made out of parachute silk.

With a few exceptions, children in the late 1930s and 1940s were not aware of ‘Fashion’.  We wore what we were told to wear even if it was something we didn’t like.  There were two outfits I particularly disliked.  The first were the frilly buttons and bows ‘Shirley Temple’ style dresses; the second, a hand crocheted dress.  For those who have never heard of Shirley Temple she was a pretty, bubbly, curly-haired child film star.  As I was rather plain and plump, I felt I couldn’t compete.  The crocheted dress I now realise was rather beautiful, handmade and shaded from cream to a sparkling bronze but highly unsuitable wear for climbing on haystacks.  When my friends and I were chased by the irate farmer I was the only one caught because my dress snagged on the barbed wire fence.

Clothes were dictated by the season and day of the week. A special outfit was reserved for Sunday wear.  In summer, first came a cotton vest, then a ‘liberty bodice.’ This was a garment shaped like a vest but made of a thicker ribbed cotton with four rubber buttons on the hem for attaching suspenders.  Next came a petticoat and a dress.  Socks were white, either ankle or knee length.  Shoes were sensible for sturdy wear.  Knickers were cotton with elastic in the legs, sometimes knee length, and with a pocket in the right hand leg.  The only difference in winter was the dress being swapped for a jumper and skirt, with socks becoming full length woollen stockings.

Sunday wear was your newest, best clothes, and always included a hat and gloves – a straw bonnet trimmed with flowers and ribbons in summer, and a felt or woolly hat in winter.  As a teenager my pride and joy was a large-brimmed floppy straw hat trimmed with long blue ribbon streamers, very like the hats worn by Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind.

Because of the shortages during the War, clothes were rationed and were chosen for long wear rather than style, and were handed down the family when outgrown.  Fortunately for me, I was older than my two girl cousins I didn’t inherit their clothes – they had mine.  It was a time of make do and mend, and one of my aunts was good at sewing and another knitted beautiful Fair Isle jumpers out of scraps of wool.  My white dress for the Confirmation ceremony at church was made out of parachute silk, not the whole chute I hasten to add!

The end of shortages and the ‘New Look’ arrived at the same time as I was allowed to buy my own clothes.  I had a wonderful time and became fashion conscious but never wore a mini skirt – not with my legs!

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