Treasured memories came tumbling out of the wardrobes Jolene invited us to picture in our minds. We shared stories of clothes worn on special occasions, in our school days, of clothes made for us with love, as rebellious teenagers, and more. Some of us met online, some face to face a fortnight later, but we all enjoyed the rich theme (or should I say seam!) of the clothes we wore in the past and the lives we lived then.
Here are a few of the stories and photographs some of us chose to write up afterwards. Coincidentally, the stories all have warm memories of our mothers stitched into them.
What a great time we had this week, talking about our memories of clothes we wore and have fond memories of! Fashion might have been stretching the point a bit, but I’m sure we all thought we looked fabulous at the time.
For myself growing up in the 60s, two memorable moments came to mind, and there was a connection between the two. The first was the demise of nylon stocking and all that that entailed, and the introduction of tights. The tights became more important than just comfort as the mini skirt hit the scene. Difficult enough to convince parents that the mini was not totally indecent, without having to explain why you were walking about with your stocking tops on show like a character from a somewhat suspect revue show.
I got married in 1971 in a rather pretty suit in pale pink. The skirt was longer than I wanted, but in the demands of decency for a wedding was easily shortened to an acceptable length; just a few inches above the knee, but not short enough to cause an intake of breath amongst the guests. Worn with a large white straw hat it even passed muster with my mother who had hoped that her only daughter amongst her four children would have a traditional white church wedding, even though neither my husband to be nor me, nor my family actually, were church goers and we had strong views that we should not use a church as a decorative background for the wedding photos.
After the mini came the maxi skirt. More material and much warmer in the chillier months. A maxi made an appearance at my evening reception/party. A long dress with a brightly floral skirt was just as stunning to me then as a wedding dress would have been.
I still have that dress together with one more long dress of the day by a company called Dolly Rockers. That was also very special, in black and silver material with the floppy collar of the time. I can still get into them, but sadly fastening them with any degree of comfort is a bit tricky! Regrettably I gave my ‘wedding suit’ to a colleague to wear as a guest at another wedding and did not think to get it back before we moved house and job. Never mind, I have the photos!
My school blazers
When I read that the topic for this week’s session was going to be clothes and fashion, I thought that I would be struggling to recollect any significant memories. How wrong I was: I should have known better! As always seems to be the case, the inspiration from the opening meditation plus the stimulating effect of joining in with the group worked their magic.
The pieces of clothing I brought to mind were two school blazers, one blue and one black. Each had a very special memory associated with it. The blue blazer was bought in John Barrie’s in St. Ann’s Square, Manchester, the only shop which sold the uniform of Xaverian College. Its purchase provided for a memorable family occasion as, full of pride, I was fitted with the blazer having just passed my 11-plus exam. Looking back, it must have been quite an expense for my hard-pressed parents. Being quite a vibrant blue colour, and being matched with a much-hated school-cap of the same colour, this blazer’s popularity soon waned. As I entered my teenage years it was too ostentatious and marked one as a “boy”. Although my school blazer disappeared long ago I still have one of my old school ties and, more surprisingly, the metal badge which was affixed to the school cap
On passing my “O” levels I entered the college’s 6th form, one of the great benefits of which was that although a blazer still had to be worn it was now to be black not blue. This change definitely helped improve my self-image (so important at any age but so much more so when you are 16). In hindsight, I also believe that the cut of the blazer was different (more adult?).
The memory associated with this blazer’s purchase was a very poignant one, as by the time I needed to go to town for it my mother was in hospital and I had been told that she would not be coming home. I made the trip to St. Ann’s Square with my grandmother to pick it up but made a point of wearing it proudly the next time I visited my mother in Withington hospital. My mother was well aware of the significance of the change from blue to black and I am sure she was very pleased to see one of her sons’ successful progress.
I can see it now.
It’s like looking at my reflection through a well-placed mirror.
It’s the 1970s and there I am standing and staring at myself, opened mouthed.
I turn away thinking the image would disappear as I turn back,
but no, I’m there large as life.
I have two head hugging bunches in my hair, so tight my eyes slant slightly.
The two bunches are adorned with a ribbon so bright they show off in the daylight.
I see the smile on my lips and know I feel proud of my appearance.
I notice my breasts beneath the clothes and I also know I’m growing up.
The paisley blouse with the bell shaped sleeves dance with every move I make, they complement my outfit.
I’m having a flashback and, in that moment, I’m transported to another place, another time. I see my favourite item which would have been lovingly fished from my wardrobe.
Bright lime-green hot pants, made with the best crimpolene on sale.
My mum had painstakingly sewn every stitch by hand and had neatly positioned a pocket on the bib, finished off with a huge silver button.
I looked below the folded over hem line on my hot pants and smiled. I had on my knee high imitation snake patterned boots. I looked the perfect picture.
Mum looked at me knowingly as she could see the pleasure she had created. We both beamed as we knew no-one would have the same outfit as mine.
Memories of the feel, colours and texture of clothes from my younger days come back to me so strongly.
The soft, furry brown collar, which buttoned up into a hood, on the coat my tailor grandad made me when I was 6.
The knitted swimming costume, green with white dolphins, which sagged after a dip in the sea. The pale blue anorak with floral braid on either side of the zips, other coats and the many summer dresses, made by my mum, after we’d chosen the material from the market. I remember the crinkle of the pinned-on paper patterns before she cut them out, the tacked-together seams as I tried them on, the pins she held in her lips as she turned up the hem.
The short brown skirt I proudly made for myself, with corduroy from the remnant shop where I worked as a Saturday girl when I was fifteen. The purple midi coat, with buttons all the way down, and the black lace-up granny shoes I bought later from the market with my saved-up earnings. They made my Mum laugh, to her they were so old-fashioned, but to me, I was in fashion when I went out with friends to the Sunday soul night at Burnley’s Mecca ballroom!
The comfortable brown and fawn checked cape Mum made me in my early twenties for an Easter holiday with my sisters. I kept it for a long time.
The long waistcoat she sent me as a surprise in the post several years later, when I was off work ill with flu. I still wear it, on very cold days, or when I’m not feeling well. It’s like a hug, a warm memory of her love.