To all the girls that grew up in the early 70’s - Would you have been seen
wearing something like this? Navy blue Crimpolene, a ruffle of lace, and large
pink buttons. Believe it or not, it was fashionable back then, but you wouldn’t
have been able to buy this dress anywhere on the high street. And how about
that bright pink hand knitted cardigan?
Crimpolene and nylon, flowery patterns and psychodelic prints. I remember
them all from my childhood in the 70s. Home made dresses, created by my
mum and worn by me and my sisters Fiona and Emma.
All the dresses were made by hand on a second hand Singer sewing
machine. The machine was black and gold and sat on top of a small wooden
mount. There was a small wheel at one end of the machine that she turned by
hand and a clunky, browny-black plastic pedal underneath that was operated
I remember her laying paper patterns out on the floor, pinning material to the
patterns and clipping carefully around the edge before threading the machine
and feeding the material through to a sort of buzzing, trundling sound.
There seemed to be no pressure back then to be seen wearing designer
labels. Dresses made for me were passed down to my sisters and I remember
wearing a hand-me-down dress, from a neighbour’s daughter, to a school
disco and feeling great because everyone loved it. We got real use out of all
our clothes back then, my mum darning and stitching and patching holes or
tears that appeared in our clothes. A stark contrast to the £400.00 Mori Lee
prom dress we bought last year for our daughter’s prom. We certainly don’t
begrudge paying to get her the dress she wanted and she looked absolutely
fabulous but it’s now hanging in a dress cover on the back of her bedroom
door, likely not to be worn again.
I remember, when drain pipe jeans were fashionable in the early 80’s,
unpicking the seams of my favourite straight leg trousers, putting them on
inside out, pinning the material as tight as possible to my legs and hand-
stitching them up again - instant drain pipes. I imagine most young people
nowadays would be horrified at the thought of altering their clothes in that way
to fit a new fashion trend, more so, conditioned to go out and buy new,
relegating their old clothes to the back of the wardrobe forever.
I also remember my mum making a clippy mat. It took her quite a while to
finish, very fiddly and time consuming. It has a sort of Hessian type backing
and she cut short lengths of old rags which were pulled or poked through the
backing. She only ever made one, but it was exhibited proudly across the
hearth by the coal fire in our home. Do people still do this, or is it a dying art?
In general, I’d say we definitely ate healthier in those days. From what I
remember, there was no such thing as a ready meal, certainly not in our
home. My working mum made all our meals fresh every day and we always
sat at the table together for tea. Bar the odd occasion, this tradition continues
with my own family.
I know times change and you inevitably have to move with the times but in an
age of debt, recession and recycling maybe we should all be thinking more
about home-mades and hand-me-downs.