‘Fashions from the ’60s making a comeback with children today’

Apr 17, 2019
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Jacqui Lee reflects on life in the '60s and all the things she made for her children that are fashionable again today. Source: Jacqui Lee

How very quickly the life we live and some of the things we love can be changed forever. From birth, fashion takes over now. Little babies are like small models, with designer head bands and snazzy shoes. Remember when they wore hand-sewn and smocked gowns, rompers and intricate knitted coats and hats? Booties and gloves, little knitted singlets, golly all that work we did! Horrible to wash and dry too.

I used terry towelling nappies for my first two. Then in came the disposable nappy, which it seems may be in landfill for the next hundred years.

I made a smocked gown for my first baby and then made a seersucker one, embroidered with roses, when I was convinced the second baby was a girl too … How wrong I was when my wild-eyed son was born and changed my ideas. As the children grew they wore little bubble effect bathers, now it’s a mini bikini. Or for boys board shorts. My poor sons even endured grannie’s hand-knitted swim shorts, which, when filled with sand and soaking wet, were a frightening sight!

When I was pregnant we also wore those nice little smocks. No body hugging jersey dresses for us, it was a shameful thing to flaunt the baby bulge! I did break a few rules though, even then, as I wore shorts – and I made a string tie to keep them up – covered with a loose strappy top. It didn’t convey quite the matronly image I should have had.

I wore the sack dress at the start of pregnancy too, but it wasn’t long after the second birth that I again fitted into the slinky dresses of the early-’60s. Having no mod cons meant housework was effective as a slimming agent.

The Twist was all the rage and I played music all day. We had no television, but could go and watch our neighbour’s sometimes. The programs only lasted until late evening and were rather tame at that time.

I tried to keep up some glamour, but I had very little to spare from my allowance! Yes most women had no money of their own then, but I had five pounds a week for food etc. I had a haircut a few times a year, but mostly managed my own wild mop.

We lived on mince and cheap fish. I baked a lot and made soups. I also did spam fritters and whitebait fritters. Then the great dish, fish chowder. I made with lots of vegetables and a cheese sauce. It was tasty and lasted for two days. Cakes and pancakes and rice pudding were also staples of the menu. Yet, even with this stodgy food, it was a surprise to find we did not put on weight … Perhaps because we walked everywhere! Sometimes we’d walk for miles with the two babies in a twin push chair.

Talcum powder is rarely used now, but talcum powder and Ponds face cream were my beauty necessities. I bought Imperial Leather soap if I could get it. Our odd splurge on entertaining was helped by a plastic bottle of sherry from the hillside winery, costing only about two shillings and sixpence. If we were short of money I needed to get a knife to the piggy bank or look down the back of the sofa. I often found enough for another meal there.

We danced to Chubby Checker and other rockers from that era; a gramophone was our entertainment and the radio kept me company. It was a simple and contented life, perhaps I was lucky that those early years were spent in Auckland, New Zealand. There were lovely beaches and parks a bus ride away.

The kitchen in our new house was the latest at the time, but consisted of a very ordinary cooker and a double drainer sink. Cupboards were boring and painted brown. Yet, our house was still wonderful for us, with a huge garden and garage beneath. In moments of nostalgia I find it online and gaze again at my past and still, after all this time – from 1960 until now – it has worn well. In fact it looks as good as new!

Sometimes places we have lived can be rather depressing. We had two homes in New Zealand and about seven when we lived in England. Some have not fared well, but the beautiful old Georgian house in Bath will always be a beauty, a little worn, but still able to stand another few hundred years. When we moved in to take over the ground floor and the balcony garden, I was told by the ‘dragon lady’, I would be expected to go out to the front porch every four weeks and polish the brass lion knocker and post box. I didn’t mind, the joy of living in the centre of Bath, in a five-storey house built 250 years ago was still a pleasure. As I said some things change, others remain forever.

What things do you remember fondly? How have things changed for you over the years?

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