Where did you first go shopping for clothes? Perhaps you can remember saving up for something special? Any fashion triumphs (or disasters) spring to mind?
What about the things you did to get round the rules set by parents or schools?
Did you ever sneak out of the house with a forbidden change of clothes? Or remove a school hat or tie once the teacher stopped looking?
How many once significant items remain in your wardrobe? Even if the garments themselves are long gone, you might be able to find some old dress or knitting patterns that bring back memories.
Many people will have made their own clothes. Sewing and home tailoring skills used to be far more widespread than they are now, when few people bother (or know how) to “make do and mend”. That all may be poised to change of course, judging by the struggle going on to fashion face masks.
We didn’t always wear as many different clothes as we tend to nowadays. Indeed, some people will be able to recall a time when it wasn’t unusual to rely on pretty much one outfit for everyday and one for best.
Younger generations will find it difficult to imagine life before there was a seemingly never-ending range of inexpensive ready-made clothes to buy (and an automatic washing machine to launder them all in). But older readers may be able to recall what a typical wash day entailed, before the acquisition of a spin-dryer or a twin-tub.
New fabrics, affordability and changing lifestyles have all contributed to what we wear and when we wear it. Who amongst our parents’ or grandparents’ generation would have believed we would wear trainers, track suits and leggings outside of participating in a recognised sport? They were lucky it they got beyond a pair of plimsolls and shorts (or vest and pants) for school PE.
If you look at old photos you will see that the absence of “leisurewear” meant men often wore jackets or even three piece suits on a day out (even to the seaside), while women were in their best dresses. Many a father or grandfather would have sat stoically on the beach in his shirtsleeves with a knotted hanky on his head. British weather being notoriously unreliable, no-one went anywhere without a coat, or a plastic Mac and a foldaway rain hat.
While the cyclical nature of fashion means that styles come round again (and again) they invariably alter in subtle ways, making them relatively easy to date. It isn’t only the clothes themselves that help to define an era. Hairstyles, shoes and make-up also all have their own story to tell. Who remembers back-combed hair and Beehives? Or “Twiggy” eyelashes painted on with eye-liner underneath the eyes? Or footballers with perms (and very short shorts)?
Hats and headscarves are another example. Time was when you wouldn’t have felt properly dressed without one or the other! Nowadays really glamorous hats tend to only come out for weddings and other similar occasions. Although we do still tend to wear some form of headgear to keep the sun off or the cold out!
Handbags too have changed quite a bit from those we might associate with our mothers, Margaret Thatcher or the Queen! Once the preserve of school kids or army recruits, the back pack now appears to be welded to the backs of all age-groups and genders.
Different styles of ties, tie-pins, collar studs and cufflinks have come and gone. Older gentlemen may well still have some tucked away in boxes or drawers. Often these will help to conjure up an event or special occasion, or provide a pointer to the type of work they did.
YOUR CHALLENGE (Should you choose to accept it…)
This week is to see what old photographs you can find, featuring any (or all) of the following:
- Something special you wore to a dance or on a night out
- A hat
- A uniform of any kind
- Fancy dress
- Holiday or sports wear
- An iconic (or ironic) piece of knitwear (tank top, shawl, poncho, crocheted dress?)
Select one of these and remind yourself of the story that it tells. Perhaps it was taken at a wedding or a street party? Maybe it was taken because you were starting a new school or job, or had achieved something special? What can you recall about where you were (or where you were going) when it was taken? Who else was with you? Where did that particular outfit come from? Does anything else stand out in your memory? And finally, is it a snap or a professional job? Children who can only remember a digital world will be amazed that you had to take a finished film to the chemist’s or post it off to be developed and wait for quite a while before you got to see the photos!
We’d love to see one or two of them, if you dare to share (and all supposing you can make a copy e.g. by taking picture of the picture with your mobile phone). Whether you put the original back in the album, or add them to your personal scrap book or memory box, please check that you record the relevant information. Jot down the story of the picture, but at the very least make a note of when and where it was taken together with the names of anyone else in the photo, if known.
Currently, the lockdown situation may well be influencing your style of dress. If you are involving younger relatives in this activity you might like to suggest they start recording what they have been wearing instead of school uniforms, office wear or high fashion.
If you have anything you’d like to share with us, and are happy for us to post onto this page, and our social media pages – please email them over to email@example.com.
We’d love to hear from you, and make this a fun community activity with loads of people taking part and sharing their stories, photos, comics – and anything else!
‘FASHION WEEK’ QUIZ
Have a go at guessing the decade that the following styles or items came into fashion (e.g. 1940s, 50s, 60s, 70s, or 1980s?) Answers next week.
- Hot pants
- Platform shoes
- Padded Shoulders
- Mullet hairstyle
- String Vests
- Stiletto heels
- Brothel Creepers
- Kipper ties
For an extended activity or bit of fun, you might like to have a think or a chat about music and fashion. The two often go hand in hand. See how many songs you can think of (and sing!?) that refer to fashion or feature a mention of items of clothing. Award yourself extra points if you can name the artist who recorded it. Here’s a couple of examples to get you started.
“Dedicated Follower of Fashion” was a song recorded by the Kinks and includes references to polka dots and frilly nylon panties among other things!
“My Old Man’s a Dustman” was a song recorded by Lonnie Donegan. It contains references to “cor blimey” (corduroy?) trousers and hob-nailed boots (Daisy Roots).
Answers to last weeks quiz:
- “An apple a day” keeps the DOCTOR away
- TOO MANY cooks spoil the broth
- You shouldn’t put ALL YOUR EGGS in one basket
- You cannot have YOUR CAKE and eat it
- A WATCHED pot never boils
- It is no use crying over SPILT MILK
- REVENGE is a dish best served (or eaten) cold
- You cannot squeeze a QUART into a pint pot.
A quart is a liquid measure equal to two pints and would therefore spill over the sides of the smaller sized pot.