There’s a discussion ongoing on Twitter this morning between @janemerrick23, @VictoriaPeckham and @gabyhinsliff about making one’s own clothes which reminded me of a discussion I had with my 14-year old daughter recently.
Dido is very sensible in all respects but like most kids of her age, or so it seems to me, fashion is quite important in her life and much of the allowance we give her is hoarded and spent on achingly fashionable clobber designed to impress her friends (or at least, persuade them that she isn’t a total klutz).
Anyway, the point is that I was explaining to her how things had changed. When I was growing up in the 1970s, most of the clothes I had until I was probably about 14 or so were made by my mum. School uniform as well as vests, pants and socks came from M&S or BHS, but ‘casual’ stuff – trousers, shorts, jeans and jumpers – were generally knocked up on her old Singer or hand knitted by her.
We weren’t poor: my dad was a fairly senior university lecturer and my mum worked as a school secretary, but somehow the idea of actually buying clothes for her children was anathema. Maybe it was growing up in wartime and post-war austerity?
But the thing was, she wasn’t actually very good at it. The trousers generally didn’t have pockets or flies, because they were too difficult, and the jumpers usually looked like they had been made-to-measure for Quasimodo. When they wore out they were patched; and when we grew, they were extended with odd bits of cloth in exciting contrasting colours. My brother and I must have looked like Fagin’s street urchins.
I told Dido this and she flat-out didn’t believe me, but it’s true and my recollection is that it was true of a lot of my contemporaries as well. My ‘allowance’ as a teenager peaked at £5 a month, when I was 15, and after that I had to find evening and Saturday jobs which finally allowed me to buy my own jeans (cheap ‘grey import’ Levi’s from Dickie Dirt’s in Fulham), t-shirts and other basic stuff.
Anyway, the idea of wearing home-made clothes was treated by Dido with absolute derision and threats that she would call Childline if we ever tried it on with her and that was that. Kids today eh? They don’t know they’re born.