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When Jam Jar was younger there was no such thing as a Supre or even a Zara. Fast fashion simply didn’t exist.

Here she reminisces over DIY fashion and turning up to an elegant party in the same fabric as the chairs….

When I was young peoples’ mothers would insult ladies as ‘mutton dressed as lamb’. These mutton people ‘should have known better’, silly fools, getting themselves up with fussy frills, bright, red lippy and big over-the-top hair.

But the daughters of these righteous mothers grew out of quaint smocked frocks and had nothing suitable to wear. Well, there were other peoples’ 1930s throw outs. . . . horrible hand-me-downs like a pale pink tissy ball-gown from a neighbour.

A great-aunt gave away fabulous 1920s dress-up Spanish numbers (see above) and Chinese pyjamas. And, yes, she was a snappy dresser, but in the 1950s these were just for fun.

Later many a young woman was engaged to be married by 20 and being now grown-up, some acquired a look of their mothers, that is, permed hair and sensible tailored apparel.

The 1960s, however, gave them a second chance at dressing for their age.

A girl could get through early working years by making botched and patched together DIYs. Our DIYs could be held together by helpful safety pins at the seams and hem-lines. We would all have knickers with elastic waists that had perished.

A fallen knicker would be kicked around the ballroom – the owner? No-one owned up.

Handmade dresses 1950sThese had to be held at the waist by safety pins. Still, some knickers fell to the ankle especially at a ‘50s ball. A fallen knicker would be kicked around the ballroom – the owner? No-one owned up. The knickers just got knicked.

The best materials for making clothes were usually found in the upholstery departments of the large retail stores. My best DIY effort was a gorgeous, pleated skirt with inch wide stripes in slightly shiny soft green and cream. It was worn to a very nice dinner dance. The ballroom had a beautiful armless chair in front of a winter fire. It was covered in my skirt material.

What a joke, I thought, so sat in it making the chair look as if it had feet arms and a head. The hostess gritted her teeth behind a tiny smile.

One day I dropped in to visit the same house wearing my new DIY sundress. It was crimson with white polka-dot spots. There I found the lovely owner hitching her new curtains up to the top of a large bay-window. The curtains were . . . the same material.

Who gave up first she or me?

Bridal party 1950sDuring the 1960s it was easier to DIY. Frocks were short, straight (two seams) and with boat-shaped neck-lines. They were cheap to make and fewer safety pins were needed.

Knickers stayed up without pins.

When the 1970s came most of us gave up DIYing. We’d had enough.


When I received this post from Mum I was at work. After falling off my chair laughing at her memories I realised I was wearing the very same “pleated skirt with inch wide stripes in slightly shiny soft green and cream” that had matched chair She had handed it down to me around 20 years ago. I’d just had the waist altered (hers was 24 inch!)

No mutton to be seen.