Monday, April 03, 2006


Mum is wearing a turban. During the war women went to work in munition factories and wore turbans to prevent their hair being caught up in the machinery. Then it became a fashion - very useful for a 'bad hair day' and northern girls would have their 'curlers' underneath -metal contraptions they wound their hair around to acheive curly hair.

Older women used to wear awful pink, boned corsets with laces up the middle. They could only be really relaxed after they had taken them off at night. These were replaced by the 'roll on' which even the very skinny wore to prevent any wobbly bits. Running for a bus was like wading through treacle. Laundry was done once a week on Mondays mostly be hand. and we wore 'sweat pads' under arms in our sweaters.

Men. in the north didn't wear under-pants but had long shirt laps which they wound round their nether regions - rather like nappies. Personal freshness was a different ball-game then. The fabrics we wore were natural so didn't require the endless washing man- made fibres require. Men's suits would aquire a sort of patina - a sheen which wasn't unattractive.

On the whole we were healthier and fitter - not just because of the diet but we walked everywhere - to work , to school, to church and to the pictures. And I think we were quite elegant with our gravy browning legs with a line drawn up the back, out hats and gloves and slim figures. I have a theory that natural slim figures went out with the advent of the pill.

You had to admire the French girls. They gave a Gallic 'up yours' to their invaders by piling their hair high on their heads and strutting their stuff in high wedged shoes. Vive la France!

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Nick said...

The depth of your knowledge is frightening, pi. How do you know men didn't wear underpants? I think we should be told! And what, precisely, was thought to be wrong with 'wobbly bits'? And when,come to that, did natural slim figures 'come in'? It can only, I think, have been post WW1. Before that all the painters (and what photographers there were) seemed to celebrate 'the curve', or rather lots of them, and rather big ones at that. So I think that perhaps natural slim figures - or at least the celebration of them - is a 20th century aberration and that substantial curves have merely reassumed their rightful place in the bigger scheme of things (well, men's minds anyway).

PI said...

Hi Nick: it is surprising that I would know, re 'no underpants' considering the frenetic puritanism of the working class, but I lived in a small house including two males - father and brother and was congenitally nosy.
Also no pants on the line on washday. Not rocket science.
I think you are right re post WW1. We were the cinema generation and our heroines were slim and svelte. Marilyn made life easier. The point was we didn't have to try - we were naturally slim and happy. Now we have to battle to avoid obesity although I am more tolerant of my own 'curves' now.

fjl said...

Gosh yes life without roll on deodorant and hairdryers. I should change my name ( as so may did!) xx

WriterOnMyWall said...

These photos are awesome... it's great!

granny p said...

Roll-ons....the horror - all they did to me - in the late fifties - was make the fatter bits - many at that time, lurch over the top and bottom. 'Pencil slim' was the word; I was not. (And this was before the pill..) Underpants? Kids from the slums were sewn into brown paper through the winter, my mother said. Don't think that was just a myth. I love the pics though.

Growing Up said...

I could do with a corset now to hold in the odd wobbly bit. Great post.

PI said...

fjl: We have a lot to be thankful for.

womw: welcome! You are very kind.

Granny p amd GU: Just been to the county town for my late birthday present and am horrified by seeing my Wobbly bits up close.
Brown paper had lots of uses - put next to your tummy if you are travel sick - sticking in holey shoes etc. We did get some children from the slums and their nappies would be grey - like their faces, poor little mites.

R. Sherman said...

We Americans learned about the underwear habits of "men from the north" via Mel Gibson in "Braveheart."


kenju said...

I remember turbans as fashion and metal hair curlers, in fact I still have a few of them.

PI said...

Randall: Mel Gibson? Pshaw! I'm lost for words!

Kenju: How marvellous. I haven't seen them for years. You must hang on to them - a piece of social history.
So presumably American women used them also.