You all know by now that we were quite poor when we were kids. Most people were quite poor, especially the larger families. It didn’t bother us kids too much, mainly because mum was so resourceful. She made and mended constantly. People would give her clothes that were good quality, but that they didn’t want anymore. Mum would take them apart and use the material to make clothes for us. That way we got ‘posh’ new dresses. Of course, with older sisters, I also got the dresses that they had grown out of, but a dress was a dress to me when I was small. We were not at all fussy back then. Not like kids of today. There were no ‘designer’ clothes in the 50’s.
Dresses were not the only hand made clothes we got. Mum had a very best friend (auntie to us) who was very good at knitting, and she would knit us nice new cardigans or jumpers. They may not have been the best knitwear in the world, by today’s standards, but they were top notch in the fifties, and they kept us warm. We even had our initials on them. Here I am, wearing my knitted cardigan. I remember, it was a mid blue colour with pale blue trim. Along with our cardigans came a new pair of shoes. Mine were the best shoes in the world, and I bet it was those very shoes that gave me my love of classy, unusual shoes when I grew up. They were not black or brown lace ups or strap shoes (which most shoes were in those days) but they were an earthy, sage green leather with a moccasin style top to them, and I adored them. I’ve digressed, so lets get back to the dressmaking.
Wind back a year or two.
My big day was fast approaching. My older sister Tina and I were preparing for our ‘First Holy Communion’ and of course we had to have our special white outfits. Mum and dad must have dreaded times like this. Two of us together, needing new outfits. They bought us our white shoes, gloves and new white socks, but there was the problem of the special dresses. Holy Communion dresses were expensive in the ‘school wear’ stores, which I think was the only place you could find them.
Mum managed to get a wedding dress from somewhere. There was always somebody willing to help out in those days. She took it apart and made us dresses, head bands and veils, that not only did the job, but were the envy of all the other girls. Most of the ‘official’ communion dresses were fairly plain, but mum had made ours very pretty. I suppose it helped that mum had been a fashion designer before she married, and I only found that out in the latter years of her life.
Some of the other girls came from far more affluent families, but they looked at our dresses with envy “Where did you get those LOVELY dresses?”
“Our mum made them”
We were so proud that day!
Though mum didn’t sew rags together, and we didn’t get laughed at, this song always makes me think of mum.