Freedom in the late 60s and early 70s: How we dated, socialised and danced 80



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I came from a rather conservative family so it was a major effort to be allowed to wear something that did not look like Bombay bloomers or slightly revealing interesting outfits at first when I started to go out with boys. Breaking parents into knowing the fashion and having to convince them what was fashion in the day became an ordeal. It was 1966 before I was allowed a very small heel on my shoe. I bought a purple waisted knit dress with a gold chain belt and it was as if I had suddenly changed from tomboy status to “needed to be locked up” status. Makeup at first was out of the question. “Maybe a little lipstick” my mother would say. I was 15.

I went to a private girls’ school so uniforms included hat and gloves, beret and gloves, with a winter uniform, and sports uniform, much of which or variations of are still worn today. The sports uniform had a lovely pair of brown bloomers that would enhance the outfit (so nothing would be revealed when doing gymnastics). Under the school uniform the girls often wore step-ins or elastic pants that came half way down the thighs. Over this was a silky pair of pants which would come half way down the thigh over the step-ins Šthese silky pants would have a number of rings of lace sewn around them so when your dress blew up in the wind all you would see was lace. Dress length had to be below the knee.

You did not meet boys at school so on weekends we would attend the rowing or the football games that were run at the local private boys’ schools or local associations. Often going with groups of girls, we would spend the afternoon at the event returning to school the next week to see who met who. At first the boys were too shy to talk to large groups, so we found we had to divide up into smaller groups if we wanted to meet new people. We eventually got to know boys from a number of schools and started to be asked out.

Parties were at first chaperoned and permission had to be obtained by parents, someone had to drive you there, and you were picked up generally well before midnight. Some of the schools had dances, which you would generally be invited to by some member of the boys’ school. I can remember the first outfit I wore to a dance at a boys’ school was a yellow dress with a square neck that was fitted at the waist and had a flair skirt. Mum had spent a lot of time making it and I felt I did look good. Individual dates did not happen until I was nearly 17, and even then it was like a programmed event, fully planned and executed by Dad. As I became more social, my father was buying me a dress a week to go to the football or parties. Eventually Sundays were often spent going to the beach for the day if we were allowed, but driver and parents were also checked out. 

Once I reached the ripe old age of 18, I was allowed more freedom to roam; however the pub drinking age was 21 so I ended up at cabarets at the university, sporting club parties, or private parties.  Getting into the pub was not regularly checked and you did not need ID, however I was asked to leave a number of times on different occasions as the Manager got to know me and realised I was not of age. Women were only allowed in the Lounge Bar at the pub, although I do remember a couple of ladies chaining themselves to the chairs in the public bar.

Things have so much changed these days and I look at the kids moving out of home so early and having all that freedom. I often wonder whether I actually missed anything or did I just have sensible protective parents that wanted me to meet somebody who would look after me the way they did. My kids did not actually believe that there were no drugs in our schools and really I had no exposure to them in that era. But that was very true. You could hear of some of the pop stars getting caught with drug possession, but that did not seem to be in Australia and certainly not near us. It was all drinking and dancing and fun. 

So I am interested in knowing how did you actually fare through these school years? What sort of restrictions or odd fashions were you wearing in your school days and just after? What did you do with your weekends? And how did you meet boys and girls?

Gill Johnston

  1. I fared very mum was beautiful and very 1st highheels she bort me are stil in fashion 2day..AND..she had beautiful hands, always manicured n painted..a gift all my sistaz n i share..

  2. My first date I was 13 years old 🙂 an older boy, he was 16 years old asked me if I wanted to go to the Newcastle Show. I asked my mum and she said yes but only in the day and if other kids are going. It was all very innocent, we rode rides all day and swapped items from our show bags. I married the same boy when I was 17 years old, the marriage lasted till I was 40 years old and he found himself a younger model. My mum was pretty cool, she let me wear what I wanted ,provided I was not running around naked

  3. Oh my goodness! My mother and I fought over what I would wear almost from the day I was born!
    I had very definite ideas as to what I liked and didn’t like and my mother and I had extrememly different taste!
    It got to a point when I started working that I wore what I wanted regardless.
    She was horrified at mini’s!

  4. Had to be home by 11.30pm until the day I got married. Was only allowed to see my boyfriend/fiancé one night through the week, Saturday night and Sunday afternoons. Luckily we worked together. Those years were hell with the arguments with my parents about everything and back then you had to be 21 to get married. Went on until they weakened one day and signed papers so we could get married. Booked registry office, father refused to come to wedding and we are still together nearly 44 years later.

    4 REPLY
    • Good on you Sue, was similar in our Anglican home. That is just the way it was. I’m disappointed that most has changed these days & the kids think they’re adults & living together at 18 or so, wearing very mature clothes & think they’re entitled to everything. I actually liked the way it was for me.

    • Good on you Sue, was similar in our Anglican home. That is just the way it was. I’m disappointed that most has changed these days & the kids think they’re adults & living together at 18 or so, wearing very mature clothes & think they’re entitled to everything. I actually liked the way it was for me.

    • Allison Hulse I think it was the best way, we really repected our parents, not like the kids today, been married 57yrs.

    • Yes i was the same though my Father capitulated first in signing the papers Mother was not amused and predicted no good would come of it…we celebrate our 54th wedding anniversary on the 11th november so it just goes to show.

  5. I wasn’t allowed to go out in groups until nearly 16 and then only church ones. No jeans at all and no pantsuits. I believe there is a balance between caring and repressive. Most of us colluded in sneaking behind our parents backs.

  6. In the 60s, as a teenager, ” peg leg” or skin tight jeans were the go, I used to pull them inside out and pput them on, then stitch them up as close to the skin as possible , then put on my woollen knitted shirt, bomber jacket and pointy toed shoes, then as quick as possible , give my hair a liberal dose spruce, and pull the hair down on my forehead before it set like cement, my ” bodgy” or rocker image was set for the night,, then, me and the boys went to surf city( at kings cross ) and watch the up and coming artists such as, Ray Brown and the Whispers, Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs, Franky Stephens and the Vast

    2 REPLY
    • Sorry, my iPad crashed, Franky Stephens and the Castaways, the Easybeats ( a bit later) etc, the 60s were my favourite decade.

  7. My mother was so against jeans….” A lady does not wear jeans”…. Bought my own when I started working….had to save up for them….as a trainee nurse I only earnt $7.00 a week…eventually got them…my mother was horrified…. I was not allowed to date growing up….every year the goal posts were moved and then all of a sudden I was living in the nurses quarters and out of home….the majority of the girls hated the restrictions of living there….me??? I loved it…. Never had so much freedom in my life….lol…found the world was very different to what my parents led me to believe…a shock…going from a sheltered upbringing to ” laying out dead people” in 6 weeks was educating to say the least…they were horrified when I brought my long haired boyfriend home…( we are still together) They were not happy… Arguments always ended with the ” and he doesn’t even speak “the Queen’s English”!!!

  8. I remember…. In a lot of ways I think it would be much better if kids – especially girls, as boys don’t seem to be affected as much, allowed themselves to be their actual age instead of trying to grow up too fast. I really think parents could try putting the brakes on a bit

    3 REPLY
    • I am sorry to say the do gooders have allowed kids to leave home if the kids don’t like the rules. My youngest daughter is a wonderful mum. Her partner smokes maryj doesn’t work and goes off with his bikie mates. My daughter works as a cleaner. Finishes at 6.30p and has to get tea on. Eldest daughter 15 wanted to run around all the time mother would say no. She has now gone to live with her father with DOCS blessings. My eldest daughter saw her down the street with a boy on Thursday night.

    • This is so sad. I was certainly no angel and pushed the boundaries – often too far, but never as far as they do now or as young

  9. I remember my Dad wouldn’t let me wear a rope petticoat. Does anyone remember these?

    2 REPLY
    • Yes, I had a rope petticoat, I also had a net petticoat and we wore witches britches.

    • Yes, I had a rope petticoat, I also had a net petticoat and we wore witches britches.

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