My earliest memory of being aware of fashion was in the 1950s. I was about eight years and often stayed overnight at a friend’s house. We shared a bedroom with her older sister who worked in Sydney. I would lay in bed watching her pull dress after dress out of the wardrobe trying to decide what she would wear that day. Even more fascinating was to watch her don layer after layer of petticoats. How I loved those full skirts flounced out with, sometimes, five or six petticoats underneath so the skirt would flare out and spin just right.
My next fashion passion wasn’t until the early 60s. At least I think that was when I fell in love with black heeled boots, tight black pants and overlarge purple jumpers. I remember girls wearing outfits like this very clearly but strangely my research does not show any photos.
In Australia, in the 1960s, teenagers usually followed one of three groups – surfies, rockers or mods. The surfies were focussed on beach attire. Their life was centred around surfing and the dance of choice was the stomp.
The rockers were mostly motor bike groups (or those who wanted to be tough). They, naturally, wore a lot of leather. I think this is where the purple jumper fashion fitted in and probably the reason my mother would not approved the tight pants and certainly not the heeled boots for a young teenager. Although she did agree to knitting a purple jumper. It just wasn’t sloppy enough for my liking. For those who have never heard of the mods think Emma Peel from the Avengers but I’ll come back to that.
Of course, the fashion for the surfies included blonde hair and many girls would use peroxide to lighten their natural colour. There was only one problem. When the girls went swimming in chlorinated pools their hair would turn green! It was one of the times I was grateful to be a natural blonde.
Back to the mods. They were, to me, the best dressed and Emma Peel was certainly my heroine; not just her character but her fashions. Oh, how I loved mini skirts, long boots, hot pants and then as we moved towards the 1970s culottes, bell bottoms and platform shoes.
Of course mini skirts have been in and out many times since then but I think my generation were more aware of how to stand, sit and bend in them. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that pantyhose only came in and we may have mentally thought we were showing our suspender belts. I remember quite clearly trying to avoid the filing cabinet draw second from the bottom. The top two were fine providing you didn’t have stretch too far back thus raising that hemline a tad too far. The bottom drawer involved squatting down on the ground, knees together of course! But that third drawer! It was too low to bend over and quite uncomfortable to bend the knees just enough to lower your hands but we coped.
There was one other fashion I was passionate about. I always wanted a shimmy dress. The style from the 1920s with rows and rows of fringing. As a teenager I did a pretty good shimmy – I just needed the dress to go with the dance. The photo at the top of this page is the closest I ever got with its fringe hanging over cut outs in the side of the bodice.