Monday, 8 July 2013

There was a fascinating photograph

on "The History Girls" blog yesterday. It was put up by Adele Geras and showed a group of young women from St Hilda's College, Oxford in about 1963.
A lot of people would just look at it and say, "Oh yes, a group of girls..."
But the photograph is interesting for a number of reasons, not least the clothes these young women are wearing. Every one of them is wearing a skirt or dress. That would have been obligatory for the photograph.
They are also conservatively dressed - or appear to be. Skirts appear to be a "sensible" length. Cardigans are worn over open neck shirts.
It reminded me of the dress code at my teacher training college some years later. The mini skirt, the maxi skirt, the "sheath" and all manner of things (think Carnaby Street?) were "in" - unless you went to teacher training college.
Looking back now it was extraordinary how we were regulated. Girls were not permitted to wear trousers to college at all. When we had "gym" we were supposed to wear "bloomers" that had been designed pre-WWII (if not WWI) but we were firmly informed that we were to change before leaving the gym area. I was, of course, totally useless at gym and the bloomers just added to the misery.
As for clothes, I shudder at the memory.
I had two dresses for the summer. One of them was made from a remnant of blue floral cotton that my mother had bought for 95c. The other was made from plain green rayon. That was much more expensive. The remnant had cost her $1.20. I think the cost of those two dresses will be forever etched in my memory. They were both made from the same pattern. There was supposed to be a zip down the back of each of them but my mother decided that was an unnecessary expense. She made them with a button opening at the top instead. The buttons were constantly catching in my hair.
My winter outfits consisted of the "good skirt" I did my teaching practice in - a remnant of men's wool suiting that my paternal grandfather gave my mother. My mother made a plain A-line skirt from that. I wore it with my old school blouses and a cardigan I had knitted myself from wool my grandmother gave me. I also had a "college skirt" which was made from another remnant. It was brown and the same A-line shape as the other skirt. I wore it with a brown and yellow jersey my mother had worn as a teenager.
The other girls wore similar clothing, although it was a good deal more attractive than mine. A few of the more daring girls shortened their skirts - only to be told it was not acceptable. One girl was failed on her "teaching practice" because she insisted on wearing a mini-skirt.
It seems almost unbelievable now. At that time medical and legal students wore suits (even the women) to university. They had to "dress professionally" right from the start. All the staff were formally dressed.
Now many of them dress in jeans, t-shirts, sweatshirts, "microfleece". My constitutional law professor sometimes wore blue or red running shorts and a string singlet - although we did consider that "eccentric".
I do wonder what those neatly dressed girls in that photograph wear now. I am wearing jeans and a hand knitted pullover - but I am not going anywhere yet.


Anonymous said...

As late as 1967, there was a dress code in my UK teacher training college - imposed by the girls themselves!
I was nagged and pestered into wearing a girdle - I had thought that they were going out as tights came in
A girl who wore pretty home-made cotton dresses with wide skirts - she looked stunning - was bullied into wearing skirt and blouse instead.
I could go on - but I won't. I lasted there less than a year

catdownunder said...

Our dress code was imposed from on high - later than 1967.
I wonder what sort of teachers they eventually became?