Clothes we wore back then: The garments that have almost become extinct 156



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The liberty bodice was worn like a singlet, only we also wore a singlet under it. Have you heard of it? It had little tapes sewn in rows vertically. My mother said it was to protect me from chills, though I expect it was a purely English thing. Perhaps she was right, but I was so happy when I was old enough to cast it aside. I was soon into tight sweaters, and skinny trousers, wide skirts and low cut tops, and yet compared to today’s fashions we were quite reserved. In fact, demure almost.

Girdles, aprons, suspender belts, liberty bodices, silk underslips, waistcoats, smoking jackets, white gloves and smart hats for everyday wear. All of those listed once had a place in our wardrobes, well perhaps not the smoking jacket! Smart hats for shopping,- and gloves? It seems so alien now.

Girdles and other tortuous garments were worn by all teenagers in the 50s. The very time when most of us were slim and didn’t need them we were encased in elastic pull on corsets! I wonder how many women still wear a ‘slip’? I only wear a half- slip, stowed in the back of the wardrobe, when I am wearing a filmy skirt, these days filmy see through skirts are rarely part of my clothing choices. Wide elastic belts were also part of the way we dressed. Oh for the waist I had then, with my black belt tightly emphasising it!

Aprons are probably still worn as a normal by some, but once every woman had a few to wear, some were the all covering type, usually floral and with such useful pockets, I could do with the pockets now, so few of the things I wear have pockets.

So as we get a little more mature we find other items are not really suitable. Out go the sleeveless things, unless you have wonderfully toned arms of course. Skin tight dresses just make the excess around the middle a bit more obvious. Feet also suffer, bits stick out, corns hurt and wearing really high heels is not a good idea. Recently I was out for a night with a great lady who looked fabulous for her 84 years but she had high heeled boots and the ground was wet, she took a tumble and then experienced a few weeks of a painful wound to suffer. Balance is not as good as the years advance on us. Shorts can be worn by those lucky enough to still have a good pair of pins. I have the reasonable pins but an ankle that swells, so can only wear shorts if I spend an hour with my legs elevated. Crop tops would look just plain scary, unless you are a Helen Mirren look alike. Mostly they draw attention to the horrible bits. Sit in any shopping centre and you will see examples of the roll over tops. Enough to put you off your ‘flat white’.

Ball gowns and cocktail dresses,’ Mother of the Bride dresses’, my theory is either buy good second hand or borrow, or they will be in the wardrobe unloved for too darned long. If you have to buy one for a special event that is a different case. I would be looking to sell it on eBay soon after I think. At 60 and beyond you only get the wear from it on a cruise.

Fashion can be anything you want it to be; I love the variety and the scope. There will always be fashion mistakes and in my quest I have made them! The young boys wearing their jeans down below their underwear might look back and shudder when they are 60. But for now they are happy with it. For me the very short skirts I wore in defiance in my late 20s and early 30s are a bit cringe making. At the moment I am wearing a $25 outfit: gold sparkled top I bought in a charity shop, some leggings with a thin gold pattern down the side (Rivers sale) and a long red cardigan. I am still crazy after all these years.


Do you remember wearing these types of clothes? What are your memories? Is fashion better now or was it best back then?


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Jacqui Lee

Jacqui Lee is 75 and now retired but the last ten years or so have been some of her busiest. She worked at a hospital, where she took several Certificated courses, she cleaned a school, helped to run two conventions, wrote short stories, started painting, and in fact is never bored even now, "I honestly feel we are lucky to still be upright and breathing, and my motto is, Remember yesterday, dream of tomorrow, but live today. I love fun, clothes, food and friends."

  1. For goodness sake!! My legs haven’t looked like that for 20 years or more! Try posting photos that are relevant to us ! Stop us feeling bad about our body issues.

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    • I think you missed the point June, and I know I certainly didn’t try to make anyone feel bad about their body image, come on! I am 76 no spring chicken. The whole article was not about us being astounding and slim it was accepting things change. Embracing what we can wear now … I expect even you wore some wild things once?

  2. Omg! The dreaded Liberty Bodice! My mam insisted I wore this hideous ‘body warmer’ she called it my teddy vest obviously to make me feel better (didn’t work) think it might have been a northern England thing?

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  3. Well, I still wear aprons..always have, always will…and I still wear silk slips..some dresses are very see-through!!! And I wear gloves in winter to keep my hands warm…so I guess I really havent moved on in the fashion stakes!!!!

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  5. Used to wear witches britches to cover the gap at the top of your stockings.

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    • I remember witches britches – red with black lace was one memorable pair – that showed when we bent over because our skirts were so short.

  6. The Liberty bodice could have been a northern England thing Kathleen Eldred,I am an ex Lancashire lass !!remember them well and those little rubber buttons !! Hard to believe it’s probably nearly 60 yrs ago,also remember having to. Dig you’re way through the snow !! All before central heating .

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    • I wore liberty bodice as a child growing up in Edinburgh Scotland. I believe it was the usual practice all over the UK. .

  7. Yes suspenders for stockings,used thripence if rubber piece broken. Easies(elastic girdles), seamed stockings we had these for school, seams were checked to see they were straight. As for aprons I still use these and Spencer’s or the equivalent. Who remembers pancake makeup, mascara you wet and used a little brush with, pink Gibbs toothpaste in a tin, mercurochrome, gentian violet and stingy iodine for cuts etc. bread and milk for breakfast and dripping on bread.
    What about expressions like “it’s snowing down south” for when your petticoats were showing, oh yes and stiff petticoats to make our dresses stick out. Dreaded romper and romper suits for PE at school and long navy blue bloomers! I am in New Zealand so some things might be different where you are.

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    • Yes I remember all of the above and I was in England now 72 Years old. some things were world wide even then.

    • The book I am reading at the moment,has just had a girl spitting on her mascara and applying – I can remember this. Still use and love mercurochrome

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      • Oh dear I used to do that, its a wonder we didn’t get infections! I also remember we had horrible perfume you could buy from a machine a squirt at a time in the ladies toilets. We thought we were so glamorous too! All trying to look like Twiggy and failing.

    • I loved the frilly stuff petticoats. I had several black, red and white. I made my own full skirts and knitted my own jumpers. I liked to Match colours, still do.

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      • I am a bit pedantic about matching colours I would also not mix patterns although the so called ‘experts’ tell us we can… Love clothes and can only buy in sales and op shops, but still try to look good. Its how you put it together I guess,

    • Well don’t all these things bring back memory two lol had all those things .The good old days ah lol

    • Remember them all. Did you also have to kneel on a desk to have your gym frock measured to see it wasn’t too short. You regulated the length by loosening the girdle.

  8. I remember pan stick makeup Loretta, and the toothpaste in a tin, it had a picture of castles on the lid. That would have been 60 years ago. God, I’m old! However, I am getting up to go to work in a minute, there’s still life in the old chook!

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    • Pan stick make up was a popular choice, and the false lashes, I could get them on then, but beyond me now anyway i would lookfaintly weird I suppose.

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