I remember when I was young and my mother would sew my clothes and spend evenings knitting pure wool cardigans and jumpers. It was often out of need, through financial necessity, but it also allowed women to suit themselves.
Yes, seamstresses. As a young girl, I — and many of the girls my age — used to wear flouncy skirts, with rope petticoats underneath, with white sand shoes, or stout leather sandals or shoes. Our frocks were sewn with Peter Pan collars and set-in sleeves. Over these we used to wear hand knits, cardigans and pullovers, multi-hued. To complete the ensemble, our hair was usually parted at one side, held in control by bobby pins with a big bow, or by a hand-sewn elastic and ribbon hairband.
Boys of our age at primary school uniformly had ‘short back and sides’ hairstyles, and topped shorts and shirts with hand knits too, even for football guernseys. We all looked alike in lots of ways. Then we and our siblings all grew up. There was backcombing of hair, beehive hair styles, experimenting with make-up — even white lipstick and black panda eyes. Miniskirts exploded into the fashion world, complete with slingback high heel shoes.
Flower power in the 1960s meant beads, Roman sandals, blue jeans, unisex caftans, and long hair everywhere. There were psychedelic colours all around, not to mention all that incense burning. Though it wasn’t a look for all men, many grew long hair and sideburns with beards. It was their ‘revolution’ against their ‘short back and sides’.
Another fashion wave arrived in the early-’70s. The maxi-skirt competed with the minis. Old and young had shoes with platform heels (and more than one or two sprained ankles). The boys looked prettier than the girls, with afro hairstyles, paisley shirts, chest hair and plenty of bling. Fleecy lined never crossed our minds, tracksuits for total comfort appeared later.
Through all this, when it was time for wedding bells, some of our mums sewed their daughters’ wedding dresses. Plus the bridesmaids’ frocks! Plus the flower girls’ dresses! One lady of my acquaintance even sewed the page boy’s shirt and shorts, and bow tie. Then came the mother of the bride outfit. These were all home sewn. Every frock had set-in sleeves, and a perfect hemline. It’s hardly surprising that some of the ladies never sewed again; swore off it forever.
These days, anything goes in the fashion world. Sitting with a coffee, gazing at passers-by, I note young ladies with hippy skirts, fashion statements of any coloured hairdo, even blue, red or multi-hued, and Roman sandals. Everything old is new again, fashion fads sure do come in waves.