Our changing dress code – Part Two

Words by:
Maureen Sutton
Featured in:
January 2011

Maureen Sutton takes a look back at how uniforms have evolved through the years
In the 1940s and ‘50s my teachers always looked very clean and smart. Some wore their hair in a bun or had a short hair style. A few, usually the head mistress and the deputy head wore a suit, often rather drab, rust, brown or grey colour. Most of our teachers wore a long skirt and a smart blouse, never a shirt. Some of their outfits (a blouse or skirt) were hand-made because of a shortage or expense of materials. Cardigans were worn more than a jacket and in colder months a twin set was popular or a hand knitted thicker cardigan. Our domestic science teachers wore white coats with short sleeves but they occupied the warmest area of the school. The PT mistress wore a very short skirt and cool top. Our PT uniform consisted of navy blue knickers and a seersucker green top, they were ghastly but the knickers did have a pocket for your handkerchief. Swimming costumes were very modest by today’s standards. Our swimming teacher wore the largest black one piece I ever recall; she used to resemble a beached whale.

Those who are young enough to remember the ABC Minors in Clasketgate in Lincoln will remember the doorman’s outfit; a maroon coat, if I recall correctly and a cap with a badge on it. I think he also had gold coloured braid on his outfit. Oh, how he used to love to throw his weight around. The manager who was on duty for an evening show wore evening dress, a black suit and very smart white shirt and shiny patent leather shoes. He also wore a bow-tie or dicky bow as many people called it. The usherettes wore a light-weight coat and the girls serving the ice-creams wore a cap or wide hair band, some, like circus people were the same ones doing a different job. The trays were carried around their neck on a braid and a good choice of cold drinks and ices were available. Perhaps their most important item was their torch. Any hanky-panky on the back row was caught in the beam of the torch, and out you went, or, you were told to pack it in. Gentlemen’s grey gabardine macs and a hat were a must for the back row. Theatre staff also wore similar uniforms.

Even in the 1960s and ‘70s ladies liked to dress up when attending the theatre. Sadly most of us no longer do so, unless it’s a special event like a classical concert or a Ball. Going to a dance was a wonderful opportunity to show off your latest dress, gloves and stole, especially if you went to The Hunt Ball or similar Ball. Ladies of course still wear their best at such functions (we see pictures in this magazine of very nicely dressed ladies and gentlemen at a number of events) but perhaps less glamorous than in the 1930s and ‘40s.

Women wore their best clothes to attend church on Sundays, high days and holidays. Hair was covered when attending a church service in the 1940s and ‘50s. This gave ladies the opportunity to wear or even show off a nice hat, especially at weddings and christenings. Many women however, wore a headscarf. Posh silk ones were known as a headsquare. Gloves were also worn: lace, cotton or nylon in summer months and wool or leather in colder months. In my days, low or revealing necklines or short skirts were not seen in church. Trousers would have made the men faint.

My mother wore a number of aprons for different jobs: a sack apron when leading the grate with Zebra Polish or when cleaning the kitchen tiles with Cardinal Red floor polish. A pinafore when baking or light housework took place and a dainty embroidered apron for afternoon tea. As with her neighbours my mother would never have dreamt of going to the corner shop in her pinafore. The apron or pinafore was always removed before answering the door. Even today I wouldn’t dream of answering the door or going to put out the bins when wearing my apron.

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