This post is by Nancy Jardine
My earliest memories of Easter are not so much of hand painted hard-boiled eggs, of chocolate eggs, or of hot cross buns. What I recall most during my growing years of the 1950s was that regardless of whether the Easter weekend fell in March or in April, it was a symbolic time to shed the winter clothes and showcase those for the summer.
Brrr….Freezing cold legs and short ankle socks! That’s what I remember most.
The aunt I was named after, Nan (usually called my Nana) generally made my sister and I an Easter outfit every year. She was a kilt/ tartan clothes maker to trade and worked in the Glen Har factory in Hillington, Glasgow, Scotland. Glen Har was a prestigious clothing outlet which sent tartan and tweed products to worldwide destinations. Highly skilled seamstresses worked there, so Nana’s wages weren’t brilliant but they were a little above average for the sewing trade.
Nana was my mother’s unmarried sister. She looked after my grandfather who was 78 the year I was born, my grandmother having died in 1950. Regardless of having her full-time 5 days a week sewing job and caring for a cantankerous old man who lived till I was eight in 1960, Nana also loved my sister and me to bits, spoiling us rotten whenever she could afford it. This was just as well because my mum and dad couldn’t buy many new clothes for us; everything we wore was well cared for and intended to last a long time.
Unfortunately, I’ve no photographs of any of our full Easter outfits but this first photo is of my lovely Nana, my older sister and me. I’m about 5 years old in this one: our skirts made by Nana were no doubt quite stylish for that year. (1957?)
But every Easter, Nana went the whole hog. Our brand new outfit got its first airing on Easter Sunday at her local Church of Scotland where my sister and I were enrolled in the Sunday School. Rain, hail or shine …and maybe even snow… we wore our new outfits on Easter Sunday regardless, Nana included as she kitted herself out as well! She would have been ‘black-affontit’ if we weren’t presentable from inside out so, on Good Friday, our cosy and well worn liberty bodices went into storage for the next winter. Nana replaced our scratchy woollen winter vests with strappy white knitted-cotton ones which sometimes had a lovely, but itchy, lace edging. Below that we had brand new knickers. Don’t ask what they were like – lets just say they were cotton utility with wide elastic!
Even though my sister is four years my senior, we tended to get the same design in a pretty cotton dress, or a matching blouse and skirt set. On top of that we would be given a new cardigan, often ones Nana hand knitted. A new cotton jacket or coat completed the outfit, generally shop bought, though I do recall the ‘Duster coats’ she made for us on at least one occasion.
The following photo isn’t an Easter one but my sister and I are wearing blouses and kilts made by Nana. The kilts Nana made for this photo are Dress Stewart (I think) although we technically only can claim to be affiliated to the Mackenzie, or the Fraser clans. I’m guessing that Nana couldn’t acquire Mackenzie or Fraser tartan at that time because I also remember wearing a Dress Stewart, Mackenzie and Anderson tartan kilts when I was older.
Woollen socks were the order of the day for the kilt outfit and though not in the photo she knitted us Aran style zipped wool jackets with matching Dress Stewart panels to the front of them. I think I’m a bit less than 4 years old in the photo and the kilt outfits were probably part of our Christmas present from her.
But back to those freezing legs memories. At Easter, we got brand new white cotton ankle socks, sometimes with a little frilly pastel lace edging, and new shoes. Into the storage cupboard went the knee length woollen or cotton socks that had done their turn for us over the winter months. (We had no thick tights or leggings in those days)
My hard wearing Clark’s Torflex winter shoes were replaced by summer sandals, or finer summer shoes. I remember at least one pair of my summer shoes being made of fine white kid leather which had to be carefully buffed up with a special white polish. Scratches on those shoes were a nightmare to remove. The summer sandals below were more usual and came in different colours. I remember loving a royal blue pair. My mother, on the other hand, hated them because the blue polish for them dyed her fingers for days after the application.
Of course the Easter clothes and shoes didn’t magically appear at the Easter weekend – a lot of preparation went into the affair. For reasons I now understand better since I became a grandmother myself, my sister and I were taken to Nana’s to ‘stay over’ most weekends while my grandfather was alive. This meant both he and Nana could see us regularly. Deposited every Friday night at Nana’s meant we could go out on Saturday to buy anything that was shop-bought for our new Easter outfits. Nana claimed to love shopping with us and always made it fun.
Reading the descriptions of our outfits above, you might be thinking that Nana liked cotton an awful lot and you’d be correct! As well as ensuring we looked neat, and were a credit to her, she was also extremely practical. She knew that after Easter it would be my mother who had to wash the clothes and that was quite a palaver in the 1950s. My description of that washing process runs to a lot more pages with images but not here! (If you’re interested in reading about my first childhood home (aka slum tenements of Glasgow) and my mother’s laundry woes you can read about it on my BLOG )
But back to my lovely white ankle socks. Nylon ones were available by the early 1960s, as you see in the photo at left taken maybe in 1962 at Dunoon, on the west coast of Scotland, but they tended to go all stretchy after a few hot washes and they lost their pristine whiteness fairly quickly.
On the other hand, those trusty cotton ankle socks could withstand a lot of boiling, battering and could be bleached to a new whiteness over the months of use.
We did have some sunny warm days back in the 1950s and 1960s but for some amazing reason I remember the cold leg feeling a lot more!
As I write this my laundry is birlin’ aroon nicely on my drying line in the garden. However…it’s only around 8 Deg C/ 46.5 F and I really don’t fancy getting out the ankle socks this weekend.
Did you get a brand new outfit at Easter?
Have a lovely weekend whatever you’re doing.
Nancy Jardine writes:
Contemporary Romantic Mysteries
Historical Romantic Adventures
Time Travel Adventure for Teens…and older
You can find Nancy at the following places:
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