Back in the day you wore wool or silk or pure cotton and linen, depending on your status. If you were poor you wore, hand knitted things, and flannel. The cloth had to be durable if you worked, fine soft muslin did not stand up to work in the fields.
Kitchens were full of greasy pans and fires that needed tending, so not a place to wear delicate material.
Also washing was done by hand, there was no clever machine spinning away in the corner.
It was just hard work leaning over a tub with a scrubbing brush and lifting huge baths of hot water. Most servant girls spent from dawn till dusk carrying coal or water or waste, hardly a chance to dress elegantly.
Early fashions were all excessive. Huge skirts, layers of material and corsets to nip in the waist.
Little kid boots dainty and smart… but if you were working class you kept one best dress perhaps for church or visiting on your day off.
However below stairs you wore a tunic, a rough cotton skirt, and a thick underskirt and boots. In the north of England factory girls wore clogs and a scarf over their heads, which contrasted with the feather and flower embellished hats of the rich, it was always so.
You were defined by your working life, or by your bank account. Shoes of dainty design were strictly for those not needing to work.
Wartime made a huge difference, it changed things. The First World War started the trends; By the second world war women were living a very different life, they worked on the land and in factories, fashion gradually became more casual. No place for flounces and frills, this was serious.
Trousers and dungarees, boots and simple hair styles. A scarf with the hair covered, or a roll with hair wound round it. What women wore had to adapt to the work they did.
Land Army women came from all walks of life, even Princess Elizabeth worked on the land, and also drove a truck. In fact for her the service life meant a chance to be free and live a more normal life.
Today how do we tell your social status ? Well, we don’t!!... The rich and the less rich try to look like stars in films or on TV. So everyone has a perfectly enhanced figure, pouting lips and long nails.
Well the easily led do, they are swayed by popular culture.
People like us, who live less glossy lives are not; I have no delusions and am natural...
Apart from make-up! I am also an inverted snob as I wear charity shop clothes and then I boast about my bargains.
I do not have false nails or other parts. I do have a couple of small tattoos but that is another story!!
Now the other side of things, wearing designer jeans and carrying a handbag worth more than some cars is not for me, you could buy a small country for the price of some garments, I would not want to spend it on one garment.
But if I found it lurking in a charity shop, I would pounce on it. I often find dresses that have cost several thousand dollars and are then unloved in an op shop.
For some women it has to be shoes, a wild obsession my daughter has; whenever she comes to stay, I make sure we see at least a few shoe shops. Her husband was shopping with us once, we had a few drinks and I asked if he was OK walking about, he made a remark I loved, He said he was ‘delirious with shopping” as we went to the 5th shoe shop. 😊
Gradually when life after the war settled, women wore the same styles, imitation was easy to buy.
If you were less affluent, there was fake jewelry. Hats with feathers and costume jewelry, embellished with adornments like diamonds, fake gold and pearls. If the working-class woman wanted the same things as her rich friends she could buy a great copy.
Class no longer has a place in our world, although there may be some die-hard types who try to keep it going.
A little like the ‘emperors clothes’, as anyone who watched the recent music awards would have seen!! A certain young man and his date wore clothes that any thinking person might find hard to envy, over- sized, and I am sure very over- priced.
So, wear what makes you happy. I love clothes and am on a very tight budget, have a mortgage to buy a new outfit. Which pleases my husband.
Life is short, just make it fun and remember wine and friends usually cost less than a designer outfit. Enjoy the good times.
© 2022 Jacqui Lee
Photo: WW11 Ladies - © womenslandarmy.co.uk