Posts Tagged ‘post-war Britain’

Death of a Friend

March 6, 2013

ImageMy friend Brenda has died. But she will never be dead to me. She is too much part of my childhood, influencing who and what I am.

I recall the day I first met her. We were about eight years old. She was skipping outside the huge gate and high walls of her big garden. Her big ‘mansion’ house — posh to me — was the other side of the road from where I lived with my family in a modest late Victorian semi. Her garden is stuck in my memory too. Not just the profusion of fruit growing on trees and bushes — apples, pears, plums, raspberries, loganberries, gooseberries, and such — but the grass on which we played silly games, practiced three-legged races, played tennis with each other and her brothers, pretended we were famous entertainers. And, oh, so much more. It was another world where make-believe became almost reality. Plant pots were moulds for making sand cakes and pies. The sand having been carried back from the river a mile away, no easy task for a couple of young girls.

But if the garden was another world, so was the attic room where we played on cold and wet days. Her lovely mum would even light us a little fire occasionally, which we would huddle round and daydream. As we grew older, we even danced to my sister’s old wind-up gramophone, eventually turning our efforts into concerts for the family.

We bought our own records. Over the years, we developed our tastes through visiting the cinema a lot, sitting in the gods at the Nottingham Theatre when a ballet was on. And attending concerts at the Little Theatre, and generally ‘picking up’ our musical tastes from what we saw and heard. But not just musical tastes: we enjoyed the cinema and had our favourite films and stars. We saw one 1947 film — Song of Scheherazade — so many times that we wrote out the script then acted the parts at Brenda’s house. We saw all of Jean Pierre Aumont’s films.

As young teenagers, what a pair of dreamers we were. We carried the wind-up gramophone to the local gravel pits by the river. There we played our Swan Lake record to the swans gathered there.

As young children our amusements were quite simple: Skipping, hop-scotch, ball play, pencil and paper games, including battleships and cruisers. We collected wild flowers and pressed them in books. Wanting an Arrowhead flower that grew in the local canal, I dangled Brenda over the edge of the tow path and sat on her legs while she picked it with a garden rake. We drew and painted pictures. And we made our scenery for our little concerts. A large hall mirror flat on the attic floor, with flowers and leaves around the edges, made a lovely pool to go with Dance of the Flowers. Coloured paper over a bike lamp, plus sticks for the ‘fire’, and a bowl of water to throw liver salts into for effect, was great when dancing the Ritual Fire Dance (her young niece screamed when the liquid suddenly ‘bubbled’ up sending froth over the floor.) Bolero was a favourite too. We made our own costumes.

We lit too many candles one day and the wax ran all over the concrete floor. Brenda was very good at scrubbing, she was a methodical and steady worker. I soon gave up patient scrubbing and quickly mopped my part of the floor. Brenda cleaned the outside of the window by sitting on the outside cill with me holding on to her legs. We trusted each other.

There are so many things I could talk about concerning our childhood. (Many things are in my little illustrated book of childhood memories — When Phones Were Immobile and Lived in Red Boxes, extracts are on my various blogs) In our teens we had holidays together — Prestatyn, London, Isle of Wight.) I could write a chapter on each one! It was meeting my husband-to-be that eventually separated us. We moved to a different part of the country but we always stayed in touch.

Dear Brenda, you will always be a part of who I am — the gentler part.

Photo — Brenda (on front horse) and me, having a go at riding while on holiday at Little Canada Holiday Camp IofW 1952

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So You Want To Be A Designer — Part Two

August 28, 2010

So You Want To Be A Designer — Part Two…

Sketch on pad and pencils — lingerie like this came later


When I first started designing it was for the wholesale trade. This meant a time gap between design and the dress appearing in a shop. These shops were often called Madam shops, many of which claimed to sell exclusive designs. Wholesale buyers would come to the factory showroom before the actual season began, to choose the garments they required for their exclusive label. They would be bought in large quantities but in different shades and sizes. All would have the customers label stitched inside. (Some surprising names too) As soon as a garment was sold exclusively, it was put aside, but that did not mean we could not use it again in a different form. A little addition or something removed and it was fine to sell it to another customer. But garments were also sold with the firm’s own label. And salesmen travelled with samples too. So we had orders large and small.
Cutting would be done in bulk. The girls working the different sewing machines received bungles and, according to style, would perform their contribution ready for the following process. It is unlikely that many, if any, of these factories have survived over the years. Once trade was opened up some years after the war, cheap imports killed of much of our garment industry. The factories I knew in Nottingham have either been pulled down or turned into expensive apartments.
I suppose it is a bit like books. Mass production means a cheaper product, especially if manufactured abroad. Garments from China and elsewhere are produced far cheaper than even making one’s own clothes. Clothes are thrown away rather than be repaired, and many women throw out what they get bored with.
Looking at the clothes worn by many women, it is hardly surprising few fit properly because they are cut to allow for a wide band of sizes. Fewer sizes mean easier and cheaper production. So too, lack of fitting to the figure and the use of stretch fabrics.
I saw a dress in our local factory shop that I thought was for a slim six-year old. Not so — it was an ‘all-size’ woman’s dress cut in a tube of stretch fabric. Now I really did have a job keeping a straight face. This tiny garment was indeed incredibly stretchy, but pull it outwards and it became shorter in length. Now, it stands to reason you can’t have it all ways. I imagined a gang of girls out for a Saturday (or Friday) night booze-up, walking through town each wearing the same one-size dress tube. Miss Skinny’s dress tight over her size A cups and downwards to just cover her thighs. While Miss Buxom’s dress looking almost threadbare and barely covering her crotch. (Her bosom somewhat exposed too.) The rest of the girls in-between.
I myself cannot go by dress sizing today. I have clothes varying from size 12 to size 18. The size 18 I bought today. It looks as small, if not smaller, than a size 12.

I ask myself if it is possible to get a job as a designer in the UK these days. Of course you get the fashion houses turning out their usual freakish dresses, which are copied in a more toned down style for practical use. Our presenters on TV generally dress with restraint, but few seem to wear clothes that actually fit. Ah, maybe they do when the girls get up in the morning, but eating, travelling and sitting down can alter the shape of the body. Tight dresses ride up legs and buttons pull across chests and breasts.
Very few clothes look good when sitting down if tight at the waist. And how amusing to see tops constantly being pulled up to cover popping-out breasts, and pulled down to cover the bulging fat at the waist. And pants that open up at the back when the wearer sits down, as if giving an airing to what lies lower down.

Clothes used to be made to standard sizing with a certain tolerance to allow for movement and slight difference in size. Of course, corsetry, light or heavy, help preserve the figure’s shape, which clothes were designed to enhance. Film stars all had these lovely shapely figures. We girls wanted to look like they did — desirable. Big floppy bosoms were rarely seen. Cross-your-heart bras were meant to shape and separate. Firm breasts were enhanced by the cut of garments. Likewise waists and hips.

Firmness and standard fitting, made it fairly simple to cut patterns from blocks, knowing they would fit. Draping on a model might be possible for certain styling but they too had to have a pattern for sizing up and down. One-off designs might be okay for dresses for the rich and costed accordingly, but copies would have to be practical for the ‘masses’.

Back to my own story. Many factories existed in the Midlands and quite a few in Nottingham where I generally worked. (Further afield when freelancing). I was just sixteen when I began training at a knitted-fabric factory in Arkwright Street.
After the light and airy rooms of the Art College, where we sat peacefully designing or sewing, the noisy factory came as a shock. The design offices did not come up to my expectations, designing was done simply with sketches to show the sample-hand what the dress would look like when finished — seaming and styling. It was also a record, with a number to go with it, for orders to be placed with. The pattern would be numbered accordingly, also the lay to go with it, ready for production.
The lay was drawn on part of the pattern — that is the way the pieces were placed on the fabric for most economical cutting. When the design entered production a long piece of Swedish craft paper, exactly the width of the fabric, would have the pattern placed on and penciled accordingly. This lay was then machined with holes along the pattern lines, with a long-armed sewing machine. When placed on fabric, chalk puffed through the holes would leave an impression when the ‘lay’ was rolled away. A piece of fabric tied like a pudding held the powdered chalk. It didn’t fly all over and not much is needed to do the job. Several layers of cloth are cut at once. In more modern factories, electric cutters were used. But for soft knitted woolen cloth, hand cutting is probably better. Most knitted fabric these days is cotton, some mixed with other fibre.

In that particular factory the other floors had different things going on — wool knitted into fabric up above, and wool knitted on flat frames into jumpers on the floor below. Offices and storage on the ground floor. The noise of working machinery drummed and rattled above and below, almost drowning the noise of machinery in the outerwear department. All the sewing machines, including those for embroidery and other decoration, were looped onto rotating machinery. At the far end of the huge room, a partition separated the finishers, who sat quietly sewing on buttons, press studs and hooks and eyes. In those days, zips were fairly new and some skirts and dresses had placket or fly fastening. Another glass partition separated the finishers from the pressers. Off that room could be found the ladies’ toilets. What few men working there would be using the staff toilet. Off the main room a walk-in stock cupboard held fabric ready for use. A corridor took you to the managers’ office and the designers’ rooms.
The stone steps up which I walked every day, were worn down by the hundreds of workers who, over very many years had followed the same path. To keep the workers happy, the radio played out songs for singing. Just as it did in many other factories throughout the land. Not only for factory workers, but also for the busy housewife at home too. Modern gadgets — vacuum cleaners, washing machines, dryers, mixers, or anything else that needed an electric plug — existed in most homes. When I was at school it was assumed we would be using flat irons at home, although the teacher did show us how an electric iron could be plugged into a light bulb socket.
The smell of oil and warm fabric that had been delivered from the Finishers and Dyers, mingled with the sweat of workers. The windows were dirty and the floor worn and shiny with constant use.
Underneath the long cutting benches were bins on wheels. Remnants of fabric were kept in these bins just in case a part might need re-cutting. Every so often they were emptied so as not to get different shades mixed up. Of course, occasionally pieces would be taken to make small garments. Someone made her husband a swimming outfit but the fabric became soggy in the sea and he lost it, much to the delight of the ladies on the beach.
That first day at work, I was given a pair of cutting shears and told to sort out the remnants in the bins, chopping up the smaller pieces. I spent the whole day doing nothing else. My hands became sore and blistered, but worse — when I went into the huge canteen with the other girls at break time, the men who worked in the other departments all let out wolf whistles. The heat in my face told me that my cheeks were scarlet. Fortunately, the union rep went over and told them that I was a ‘lady’ and did not like that sort of thing!
When I arrived home, it was late and dark. I was tired and weary from being on my feet the whole day and bombarded with noise. Nothing was like I had expected. My hands hurt and plasters were needed for my thumb joints. I felt bitterly disappointed, humiliated and alone with my thoughts. I fell onto my bed and wept. My mother came to ask me what the problem was. To be truthful I didn’t really know what to tell her, so I said nothing. After a while I pulled myself together and read a book.
There’s nothing like a book for forgetting your problems.

More to come…

Designing in Post-War Britain

August 26, 2010

Design while at art college late 1948

So You Want To Be A Designer? Part One

Me, age 10 (?) doing my party piece, wearing the dress of a four year old with huge hanky pinned to dress (as some young children did many years ago)

 

My pencil sketch while at Nottingham College Of Art (design course), late 1948

 

The sort of design I turned out at Nottingham Art College late 1948. Pencil lines faded with age.

There is no doubt that interest in fashion, and dress design in particular, is a highly popular subject. Together the hits on my few postings concerned with design must top up to over 2,000, the majority on one post with plenty of sketches. I have been asked to write more about this interesting topic.
First let me say, I cannot speak for what happens in design offices and factories today. Of course, I could comment profusely on today’s fashion but I see that as pointless simply because ‘anything’ goes. The top of the pops celebrity of the week, or day, or hour, seems to set a rotating ephemeral trend. The only key theme seems to be ABSURD.
I look at some of the clothes and smile.
Many years ago when I was about nine or ten, I used to go on the stage dressed like a very young child at a concert reciting ‘A little ship’ in a lisping voice. Before getting to the end of the first verse, I would stumble and start again, and again, and again, gradually getting more tearful until I ran off the stage, accompanied by much laughter. Now, to perform my little act I would wear a small child’s dress with a large hanky pinned to the garment, usually with a huge safety-pin (see picture). Since children’s dresses used to be generous with sizing (they had to last as long as possible in those days) I could just get into one, but it was exceedingly short on a growing girl like me. So imagine the scene — girl walks onto the stage looking nervous. Her dress is short but covers her knickers, her hair is tied in two bunches, each with a large bow. She dabs her nose with the big hanky and gives a nervous grin. She gives little swinging movements as she lisps what she is going to recite.
Now open any page in a popular magazine and see that the celebs are wearing. Quite recently it was girly dresses with tiny puffed sleeves. Any one of them could have been styled on that dress I used to wear for the concert. (The main, if not only, difference being bosom exposure.) Open another magazine and you may well see baby doll dresses that look like the sleepwear I designed so many years ago when Lolita was all the rage.
The expression, ‘been there, done it, got the T shirt’ could never be more apt as far as fashion goes. For some women, T shirts — embroidered, sequined, printed, or plain and simple have almost replaced blouses, and the longer ones, dresses. Is it just fashion or a reluctance to use an iron?
I recall when I was designing in the late 50’s, we had some special expensive fabric to try out. To keep costs down we were encouraged to create slim fitting designs. The fabric, being beautifully patterned, required no extra adornments. I styled a perfectly plain dress — pencil line with split skirt. I added a square piece of fabric folded into a small shawl, which fastened in front. Simple, slick and ‘with it’. After gaining approval from the bosses, we had a little fun when returning to my room. I pulled a hat flat down over our model’s head to look like a cloche and we did a laughing interpretation of a pre-war flappers’ dance.
Nothing is new. Anyone can wear anything, all you need is confidence. If a celeb wore a flour sack deliberately splashed with paint, and fastened a wide leather belt at whatever she regards as her waist, the fashion world would go nuts — Gina Wotsername photographed in posh restaurant wearing a sack. Now everyone wants one with that special paint splashing. Wow, now Gina has her own fashion label. Years ago many of these magazines did not exist, neither did TV, but more people went to the pictures (as we called the cinema).
When I was working freelance, one of the firms took on a designer who was the wife of a well known film director. I think she might have been an actress too. The firm contracted to buy a certain number of her designs. She visited the firm to get the samples made just like I did. She was useless and had little idea how to cut a pattern. Since she was in when I was not there, she worked in my office and used my patterns when she could get hold of them (my sample hand started hiding my made-up designs and their patterns when possible). But, evidently, what she designed from them could not have been up to much, as I was told that this minor celebrity had cost the firm a lot of money. Goodness knows what she was paid but she stayed in a city hotel while she was doing the work.
But then, the sort of designs I was doing at art school in late 1948 (see pictures) would have been useless for the firms I worked for after leaving. It was more a case of turning impractical designs into ones that would be acceptable for the garment market. Clothes were not just thrown out in those days, they had to last.
More next time…

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Magpies Nest Publishing
Writing For Joy
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All my books in one place
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Ask Gran Hobson about times gone by — designing, wartime, food, play… what you will

What a laugh! A lady koala reading my book (NO she is NOT Edna Everage)

June 8, 2010
koala reads Red Boxes

Australian Lady, Janny Inkletter, reads Red Boxes — delighted!

And what does charming Mrs Janny Inkletter say about it? (No, this beautiful lady is not related to Edna Savage. She is the wife of that extraordinary ruler of Phools Paradise — Payton L Inkletter, writer and philosopher, king of wit)

RED BOXES: Easy yet moving to read real stories, innocent yet powerful memories of growing up and living in England through 1939-80
I had been anticipating reading this account of Gladys Hobson’s life, for not the least reason that she hails from England, my birthplace.
I was raised on stories of the British Depression era, War time, and post War era till the early sixties, told me by my parents. We emigrated to Australia in 1964 when I was barely 7 years of age, and I was always fascinated by the experiences my parents shared with me and my younger brother.
‘When Phones Were Immobile and Lived in RED BOXES’ was very easy to read, it made me laugh, it made me cry, it made think of my deceased mother very much, who I’ve missed greatly these past twenty one years. A lot of Ms Hobson’s experiences were very much like my mother’s, and I was especially struck by accounts of the fashion industry, because my mother’s work, before she married my father, was in the retail side of fashion. Despite war time rationing being over, it was a struggle for her to find the materials for her wedding outfit; however, one of the tailors that Mum used to deal with hand made her a beautiful tweed suit and lace blouse as her wedding present – it was a worth a small fortune. This made Ms Hobson’s account of her early career in the industry resonate with me rather nostalgically.
Thinking of the times when Ms Hobson was carving out her vocation in the fashion world, she would have needed to be quite a courageous woman; she, it should be noted, was raising her new family as well.
Even though poverty was a constant in the early part of her life, Ms Hobson’s tenacious spirit saw her overcome the struggles that a lot of her fellow countrymen shared with her.
I would warmly recommend this book to anyone wanting to have an insight into this era in Britain, and the making of our current senior generation. There is a lot to admire about how they came through the challenges of their times; things that younger people today would not understand, and maybe not cope with should – let’s hope not – such hard times return.
Janny Inkletter

Thank you, Janny for that thoughtful review.
The (enlarged) Second Edition of When Phones Were Immobile and Lived in Red Boxes — 1939 — 1980 (£7.50) can be ordered from any good bookshop, Amazon etc or directly (post free in the UK) from Magpies Nest Publishing.
(Please note, The smaller first edition is out of print and cannot be ordered from the publisher, but second hand books are sometimes available on Amazon)

More Dress Designs From the 1950’s

January 15, 2010




Have been in the attic again and brought out a pile of drawings I did when I was freelance designing in the 1950’s (these are late 1950’s).

These pictures are not brilliant. The drawings were in pencil and I could hardly see the lines. So I photocopied them – the darkest I could use. Then I photographed and adjusted them to get reasonable pictures. It is quite obvious, so no one can say they are copies of other people’s designs. I have lots more – underwear, housecoats, nightwear, dresses, housecoats, separates.

I really enjoyed being a designer. I found it quite thrilling to have thousands of garments made from a single design. And to see them in shop windows and, occasionally, people wearing them. Now I have written about a dress designer of that period — her designing, her loves and hopes. See  Magpies Nest Publishing Books can be ordered directly from there by PayPal — post free in the UK. Or can be ordered through any good bookseller. Dress design can be done in minutes when inspired and the pattern in about an hour. I did not find it hard to sell them either. Writing novels takes many months but getting them published is a story in itself!

These are drawings I did when I had just turned sixteen in the late 1940’s. I found them in an old folder up in the attic. The pictures are elsewhere on this web site but not put together to form a video. Nice to have music background too.

Why write?

Sometimes writing pulls like a magnet. When I first started writing, I would be up at three in the morning, tapping at the keys. My design career inspired me and I was driven by the characters being formed in my imagination.

UPDATE SEPT. 2012: For those who are interested in dress design, especially post war Britain up to the eighties, my trilogy Awakening Love, Seduction, Checkmate, following the career, life and loves of a dress designer — June Armstrong (Rogers in both sequels) is to be shortly available in the USA through the publisher, Turquoise Morning Press. In the first book, she is just a young naive girl determined to make it to the top of her chosen career. The setting is genuine and closely resembles the factory where I worked, including the manner of designing, cutting and manufacture.
These sketches were done in the 1950’s — the era for Awakening Love. (UPDATE: The video was made when Dare Empire published the books. Turquoise Morning Press has now acquired the printing rights.)

Late 1940’s Factory Life — Training To Be A Designer

July 21, 2009

This is the third part of the story of my design training and growing up into an adult.
That first day at work was painful on my hands. The cutting shears were huge and my hands fairly small and tender. The pressure on the ball of my thumb caused by the unyielding metal as it sliced through several thicknesses of fabric, was unrelenting. Binding the the thumb and finger grips may have softened things a little but it did not stop blisters forming.
The constant noise of heavy machinery above and below that huge room, as well as in the room itself, was like nothing I had ever before experienced. Noise of tanks going along the road and shaking the house was about the nearest thing but that was just an occasional occurrence, this noise only ceased when the workers stopped for lunch.
The room — almost a whole floor of the huge factory — was dull except next to the dirty windows. Plenty of lighting over work benches though. A smell of oil pervaded everywhere. The floor was worn and shiny from many years of use. Shiny knots and heavy grain in the wood stood out of the floorboards, not enough to trip us up but showing the factory’s age like the wrinkled and gnarled faces of some of the aged workers. Many of those employees had spent the whole of their working lives at that factory.
By the time I arrived home on that first day, I felt incredibly weary. My hands hurt and my feet ached. Everything had been so new to me. All my ideas about dress designing had been completely at odds with what I had experienced that day. I may have been staff, but to start with I was part of the workforce. The girls on the cutting bench were lovely, but I felt alone and gauche when talking to the staff. At lunchtime, the office girl took me down to the canteen to have lunch with her. Morning snack with the work-girls, then all change at lunchtime. I ate my pudding with a spoon. She ate it with a fork and spoon. We had nothing in common to talk about. She talked posh and had a boyfriend about twenty years her senior. I was back with the girls on my own level after lunchtime. Well, not really on my level because they were more sophisticated and knowledgeable about life as well as their jobs. (That is where I found out a lot about sex!) I felt everyone was laughing at me. Since I blushed easily, they had cause to.
It sounds daft now, maybe because my perception of life has radically changed. I was young and vulnerable in those days. I had never been away from home and even the girls at college, during my short time there, seemed above my ‘station’ in life. I had been the only girl at school without a navy gabardine coat (I only had a second-hand pea-green coat), and patches stitched over cracks in the uppers of my shoes had marked me out as a poor child. But I started work in the factory wearing a jumper and skirt I bought with my pay from the six weeks’ job I had before getting the trainee designer position. Even so, I was aware of poverty. Poverty had brought about humiliating experiences and they could not easily be dismissed from my memory.
So the evening of that first day of working in that factory, weary and disillusioned I cried myself to sleep. What had I expected? Bright offices and pleasant workrooms with genteel ladies working on individual garments. My mother wanted to know why I was crying but I could not tell her. I did not really know myself.
Teasing over blushing went on, but I settled in. Eventually I kicked the overseer on the shin because he refused to stop rubbing the knuckle of his thumb down my spine. Okay, so he called me ‘a nasty little bitch’ but he never did it again.
I became friendly with one of the cutters — May, a girl six feet in height and a big welcoming smile.
Joan, a young woman, was head cutter. She also modelled the new designs. A lovely friendly girl, she invited May and me to her twenty-first birthday party. I remember we had a lot to drink, mostly stuff like cherry brandy but also gin and lime. I stayed the night at May’s house. We had more to drink before we went to bed. Her younger brother was still up. He drank too, turned a greenish grey (I had never seen anyone turn that colour before) and threw up in the sink. Us? We ate a few large pickled onions, dropped a few and picked them up — likely with fluff attached — ate them and went to bed. We had a good night’s sleep and I went home the next day, fit and happy.
More of my adventures with May later.

Fashion and Dress Design

July 7, 2009

I find it interesting, as well as surprising, that my posts on dress design and post-war fashion are visited not only with regularity but have become ‘top of the pops’, viewings even exceeding those of Sex and the Over Sixties — and other sex related postings. Who searches them out?

Post-war Britain was an interesting time for those keen to be dress designers. Wartime (and just after) restrictions (where all clothing bore a utility label, and ‘make do and mend’ was just as much a war cry as ‘dig for victory’) were being lifted, more fabric could be used and thought given to the body beautiful. Brassieres that shaped as well as uplifted, and girdles that nipped in the waist all helped to achieve an ‘hour-glass’ figure perfect for the New Look in women’s clothing. Extravagant flaring skirts reaching below the calf gave a new elegance, and soft dropped shoulder lines were a necessary casting off of uniform dullness that we had lived with for so long.

When the New Look was introduced in Paris I was just a young teenager with my heart set on being a dress designer. I was in my second year of a two year course at a secondary art school. I remember there was a lot of buzz as to whether using so much fabric was practical and desirable. I guess we had long been brainwashed into thinking about economy and practicability. I did well at the art school and was allowed to go on to take a design course at the Nottingham Art College. I loved it. We were taught not only about design of all types of garments but also pattern cutting and making up. No silly clothes in those days. Dresses had to fit the figure, and fit perfectly. Elegance and style were important. Local manufacturers looked for clothing they could sell. No cheap clothes you could just discard in those days, and few people had money to spare for frivolity.

Unfortunately, I had to leave the course during the second term when my dad, after years of struggle with a creeping paralysis, could no longer go out to work. In those days benefits were abysmal and grants in short supply. I got a job at a ladies’ outfitters for thirty shillings a week. I hated it there. The girls sniggered when I asked a young lady if she would like to try on a suspender belt as she was not sure about the size. Corsets were tried on but no one had ever suggested anything of lesser value.

When a consignment of nylons arrived, a queue formed reaching outside into the street. My pencil disappeared as I was about to write out a receipt. The boss’s wife refused to lend me hers or replace it. I was stuck with a waiting queue — my face getting redder and redder. She eventually relented (bad for business?) and told me to let that be a lesson not to lose anything.

Imagine my joy when an acquaintance of the family, who was secretary to the manager of the outwear department of a very large clothing manufacturer, suggested she ask her boss if he would consider taking me on as a trainee designer.

I was indeed taken on, initially to assist the chief designer and to help on the cutting benches, but, within a fairly short time I too was designing for the firm. (The factory is more or less as I have used for one of the settings in ;Awakening Love where June is the young designer).

More in the next post…

1949 fashion sketches for Awakening Love

February 24, 2009
June goes dancing

June goes dancing

I made this dress in 1949 for the Nottingham Arts Ball. The year before I had to borrow a dress — a horrid green bridesmaid dress. My red sandals were painted red by my dad — a tack was sticking out and laddered my stockings! No one asked me to dance and I had a lousy time! But the year after when I wore this pink dress (I had just enough money to buy some material by then) I had a great evening. I had a partner for every dance and one of them became my boyfriend for about six months. he was in  the air force and his home was in Glasgow. He was a heavy drinker and only wanted one thing (which he didn’t get!) so I was not unhappy to end the relationship

Young June in her home-made ballet dress

Young June in her home-made ballet dress

Evening-dress 1949 June Armstrong design!

Evening-dress 1949 June Armstrong design!

1949 Outfit by June Armstrong — Awakening Love

1949 Outfit by June Armstrong — Awakening Love

Awakening Love -  June Armstrong design 1949

Awakening Love – June Armstrong nightdress design 1949

Thinking of getting a trailer video for Awakening Love. I found some designs I did in 1949 — exactly right (to the year) for my book. I found an old photo about right for June (lead character) and tried my hand at sketching June in her home-made ballet dress (witnessing her trying it on sparks off Arthur’s desire for her).

These designs were done on black paper with a fine brush and paint. In those days it was the fashion to have a nippy waist (my waist refused to be nippy!) This dress is the one I made for myself.

TopTen2008d
SDC11406

SDC10927

Dressing gown

Dressing gown

Slip

Slip

SDC10924

SDC10925SDC10926SDC10928


The whole trilogy — Awakening Love,

Seduction, and Checkmate —

now to be published by Turquoise Morning Press

Doom and Gloom? Look for the rainbow!

February 4, 2009

 

Promise of light in the darkness

Promise of light in the darkness

When skies are dark with rain clouds, I look for rainbows.

 

 

Dark sky, bright rainbow

Dark sky, bright rainbow

Like many people of our generation who were taught to live within their means, we have never overreached ourselves when buying anything.. In our day, not for nothing did Building Societies only loan what a single person could afford to pay back. The rapid rise in house prices followed by repossessions has been the ultimate price of careless lending.

 

The present situation was bound to happen. It is sad for those who will lose their jobs and homes, and how infuriating that the bankers and financiers who brought the situation about get even more millions in unearned bonuses. Would we pay a bonus to a shoddy builder if a new roof fell in?

And yet, all is NOT doom and gloom unless WE allow it to be so. It is our own attitude to present circumstances that determine whether we look for, and grasp, unforeseen opportunities to work things out for the better. This we owe to ourselves and to all who will have to pay for the country’s growing debt.

It was redundancy years ago that brought us to our present location. Very many job applications all over the country came to nought until one was offered in what most people seemed to think was beyond civilisation! (But to me, a paradise!) Things were tough for various reasons I will not go into, But, we all thrived and the family did far better than we could possibly have envisaged. Yes, money was in short supply but not for the first time. I knew how to create tasty dishes on a low budget and I could sew. We never did go in for foreign holidays so nothing missing there.  We were blessed with a utility type caravan and that ensured us reaching beautiful places in Scotland each year with visits to Wales and the West Country occasionally. When things improved, we continued to live within our means — only too aware that times could not always be financially good. The country has had several lean times since then but people never seem to learn — buy now, pay later with interest!

The piper always has to be paid.

http://www.magpiesnestpublishing.co.uk

http://writingforjoy.blogspot.com

When Phones Were Immobile and Lived in Red Boxes

November 28, 2008

 

A rare collectable?

A rare collectable?

It is very gratifying to still receive an order from Gardners this morning for my little book of childhood memories 1939-53 “When Phones Were Immobile and Lived in Red boxes”. It was published over four years ago and once I got down to a few copies out of the 750 run I stopped trying to sell them as I was hoping that ‘something would turn up’ that might get a major publisher interested. This would be truly wonderful as any money made on that book has been promised to Save the Children Fund. (Well over £1,000 has been donated already). Now down to two spare copies, I decided to see if any second hand ones might be available. Looking on Amazon I find two Americans are selling that book – one for £145 and the other £143. Has my little book become “rare” and collectable?

Visit Magpies Nest Publishing for details of that book and my others (two in pen names)