Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Vintage Fashion Consultant No.1 - My Mother

See my Etsy store: Louisa Amelia Jane

Whenever I find a lovely garment or accessory and I need more information about it, I take it to Mum's and ask her about it. After all, she was a young woman going to dances and dating in the 50s, she made her own clothes, and she worked in a department store selling patterns and haberdashery. She knows what was in, what was passé, and what came later when she was a young mother.

Here is Mum, also known as Lorraine to most, as a young child in about 1940, pictured with her older sister, Joyce.
 She was so proud of her ringlets. She remembers wearing her hair to bed in rags. When she was in Fairfield Infectious Diseases Hospital with scarlet fever in 1944, she remembers being disgusted when the nurses plaited her hair, telling them proudly, "My mother doesn't plait my hair, she curls it." She was there for seven months, and not allowed to see her mother once. How hospitals have changed, thank goodness. Just look at the beautiful way the girls are dressed. Her parents had very little money, but my grandmother always took pride in having her girls beautifully dressed. Notice their matching embroidered dresses. I love Joyce's shoes that tie with a bow. Whenever I see photos in old knitting books of girls with ringlets in their hair, I think of this photo, and I think early 1940s.

My next photo is not one of sartorial splendour, and my mother always laughs about it. Here she is as a 14 year old, in the Goulburn River on a family holiday. She is modelling some not very gorgeous knitted bathers, on the right. They were daringly two-piece, and my grandmother made her wear her cotton singlet underneath for modesty's sake, as you can see. I imagine that these bathers not only went saggy when wet, but also embarrassingly clingy.

So, therefore we have... two-piece bathers - 1950. Knitted bathers still commonly worn - 1950.

When Mum left school she worked at several jobs, but as an older teenager she worked at Reed's Department Store, on the corner of Malvern Road and Chapel Street in Prahran, Melbourne. Later this store became Moore's, and is now Pran Central Shopping Centre, its distinctive dome a landmark in the local area. In this once grand store, Mum worked in the haberdashery department, and even did the odd modelling job. I was recently chatting to her about Madame Weigel and her sewing patterns, mentioned in the last post. She said, "Yes, they were very popular in the 40s, but by the time I started at Reed's in the mid 50s they were being phased out." Thanks again, Mum - Weigel's patterns - 1940s - early 50s.
Here is Mum at a dance with my father in about 1955 or 1956. Dad worked at Reed's too, also in haberdashery I think. Clearly, it's where they met.

Mum and Joyce made all their outfits themselves. Joyce was a superior seamstress and made quite complicated ensembles, and lingerie. Either Mum or Joyce would have made this dancing frock. You can see it has a halter neck, a ruched bodice and a full chiffon skirt. Mum has teemed it with a light throw and silver dancing shoes (and an enormous corsage, thanks Dad).  Mum loved to dance, but sadly, Dad hated it, so she gave it up after they married.

I love this photo of Mum sitting on a fence, on a date with Dad, (the photographer).

She made her floral print skirt, and probably the high necked blouse underneath. A cardigan was a necessity, of course. I recently showed Mum some garments which I thought may have been either late 50s or early 60s. She resolved the dilemma by pronouncing the dress "60s, because the zip's in the back. All zips, in dresses, skirts or pants, were in the side in the 50s," and added, "and only racy women wore trousers." She never did. Also, a  cardigan I thought was 60s, could easily be from the 50s, she informed me.
Here is Mum as a bride with her father in 1957.
 Her dress was a beautiful damask finished satin. The long sleeves came to a point over the top of the hand. She told me that it was the fashion in the 50s to be married in a full, mid-calf length gown, but she opted for the traditional length. It was also popular for the bridesmaids  to wear the shorter length, and often to wear matching but different coloured dresses, e.g. pink, blue and lemon, or pale green, lemon and apricot.
A friend recently gave me a lovely little straw basket embroidered with raffia flowers. Mum pronounced it "Definitely 50s. I used to sell the kits to do the embroidery at Reed's. They were all the rage. The basket is seagrass, but the embroidery is real raffia."
About some jewellery I'd found, she pronounced, "No, we didn't wear anything like that." Strike 50s, investigate 40s and early 60s.?????
Mum, I've always wondered what I would ever do without you. This consultancy is just adding another dimension to my need.

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