I’ve never been a big follower of fashion. I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m short (5’1” on a step ladder) and I am, as Alexander McCall Smith might put it ‘traditionally built’. Think Anita Ekberg rather than Kate Moss. There was once a memorable (traumatic) biology lesson when, aged fifteen, the male teacher made me stand at the front of the class and went through my reproductive phsyiology; here, points with chalk, was my ample bosom, breasts which would do a sterling milk delivery service worthy of Associated Dairies and here, points with pointer, my child bearing hips. My pelvis, with its breadth and depth, the class were informed, would have no trouble in allowing a baby egress. Ah, the 1970s! How we went home and cried.
I dress to please myself. I am not into body-con or low cut and I laugh at high heels. If I had the bravado I would, most likely, wear a black tulle gown and a swagger coat and perhaps carry a broadsword. In lieu of the necessary chutzpah for that I wear a lot of linen. I like its crumpliness although my dad, a man who has his trousers held up with garden twine, did comment the other week, ‘Does that need ironing?’ No, I informed him, it is linen, it is part of its tousled charm. My daughter has commented in the past ‘You dress like a Viking’ and if you are imagining me in full ‘Berserker’ bearskin and a chased bronze helmet you wouldn’t be far wrong. That is my go to outfit for outerwear in the cooler months. I team it with chunky boots and underneath I am wearing a linen dress. Or two. Sometimes three. It is a layering style called ‘Lagenlook’ and it is my attempt to be artsy and bohemian.
When I was a child in the 1970s (I’m going for the hat trick in this blog) my mum made clothes for myself and my sister, Jane. My mum enjoyed sewing and embroidery and her machine was always whirring, in the fashion of Rumpelstiltskin spinning straw into gold. I loved her pinking shears, the crisp dry scent of the fabrics and the bright slicing noise that her dressmaking scissors made on the table. There was always the 3D jigsaw of tissue paper pattern pieces tearing as they were tacked together and pins prickled our living room carpet. This was the 70s (told you I was going for it) and so although we are not twins, we are in fact two years apart in age, my sister Jane and I were zipped and velcroed into any number of matching outfits.
My mum bought all her fabric from a stall on Bury Market. There were bales and bales of the stuff, stacked high like cloth logs, which were thudded down onto a vast cutting table and measured against a yardstick. Before you get too excited, recall; this was the age of the man made fibre, textiles dreamed up in laboratories and destined to do service in space stations around the cosmos. Crimplene was available. That is about all that you can say about crimplene, other than it made those straight and unbending trousers they call ‘slacks’. These are the kind of garment that cuts you no slack at all as it clenches at your bottom and chafes your thighs. I had several dresses in crimplene; one in a fake apricot colour not unlike the hue of a bowl of orange flavoured Angel Delight. There was a white one clustered with lilac sprigs that had a double helix style skater skirt and was edged with ric-rac braid. Lilac ric-rac braid. Did I mention the silver bits glittered through it? I feel that ric-rac is overdue a come back. It must be admitted that the crimplene colour schemes were generally based on lurid desserts from the Hamlyn All Colour Cook Book.
There was also bri-nylon, quite a lot of bri-nylon in our household actually. We had bri-nylon nighties (matching) and slept in bri-nylon sheets with bri-nylon curtains at the window. Our chairs were covered with yet more bri-nylon, this time stretchy, which created something of a spark when brought into contact with all that crimplene. There was, I seem to remember, a lot of crackling and popping as your clothing arced and earthed itself. Although we did not have as many powered gadgets in those days, the electricity bills were considerably cheaper. My mum could run the mixer for a Victoria Sponge with one shake of a chiffon sleeve.
Whilst my mum sewed, my best friend’s mum knitted. Everything Karen wore was knitted and in wool that seemed to be sourced from a nuclear power plant it was so fluorescent. Long before the high-vis vest my best friend had a high vis cardigan, a garment which won her a special commendation and a Tufty the Squirrel badge when the Road Safety Campaign arrived in school. This kudos led to her mother being commissioned to knit a series of stylish road safety beacons for the Council.
So, now I prefer my clothing woven rather than extruded. I don’t know where those crimplene creations ended up, probably in landfill ( I don’t even have to say it now do I? Insert decade here) Doubtless, in an aeon or two when archaeologists dig over the North they will recover all those yards of ric-rac braiding and my best friends glowing cardigan. Who knows what they will make of such garments. All I know is that they’ll need sunglasses and rubber soled shoes.
Do you want to be the first to know when the next in the Witch Ways Series is coming out (and maybe even get a sneak preview?) Just tell me where to get in touch – there is adventure afoot.