Jill Bullen on learning to sew

Shopping for outfits and making your own clothes in the late 50s and early 60s

Stevenage Museum



Bullen: Yeah we used to make our own sort of skirts and dresses

GDT: How did you learn that?

Bullen: At school. Cos at Barclays we had – the whole 4 years I was there, we had sewing lessons every week. At one time they were doing an open, a, like a parents’ evening and everything. I know one year we had to make something in… We had like a fashion show. So we had to make a blouse or a skirt or whatever at school, and then we had to describe it in French. And they played it over the tannoy as you walked about. I’d forgotten that until you mentioned that now. Um so yes we learnt how to do it. First thing we had to make at school in the sewing class was the cookery apron – and that again was in the colour of our houses, was a check thing and er so we had to have the cookery apron on – if we didn’t wear that or the little cap we used to get into trouble. It paid us in good stead because, with the cooking it was, it was domestic science, so we had cooking but they taught us how to launder, o course then you didn’t have washing. Not many people had washing machines. Um they told us how to sort of wash babies clothes .. but you could rub a pair of socks. Then we had to do, take in some items to iron – like we had to take a hankie I think and a pillowcase or something else you know, to show them that we could actually iron. Um they had a flat there in the school and that was, taught us how to make the bed, how to vacuum. After cooking we had to wash up, but, or do our own washing, washing up, should I say. But up in the flat it was sort of laid out as a proper kitchen and it was teacups, glasses and they sort of, she showed us how to all be careful with the glasses type of thing and I think in the last year what we did as well was 2 or 3 of us went up and we prepared sort of like a cream tea – oo a tea and the teacher then would come up with 2 other more, perhaps another couple of girls and we’d have to lay out tea for them. Then we were tested on sort of, how we made a cup of tea and quality of our cakes and sandwiches, that type of thing. But it stood us in good stead because they don’t do any of that sort of thing now do they.

GDT: They do a mix. It sounds so old fashioned but it also sounds like a really good life skill.

Bullen: It was, it was, because OK yes you helped your parents sweep up the floor and hoover the floor and all the rest of it but the way she taught us was actually to move the furniture out, um, get up into the corners. That type of thing, now I say, with the bed she showed us how to do the hospital corners, on a bed, with the blankets and all the rest of it.

GDT: So did you do woodworking classes as well.

No that was just for the boys again the sewing and cooking were girls. Woodwork and metal work were boys


This page was added on 03/07/2015.

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