The Clothes Our Parents Wore

Having recently embarked upon designing my own textiles, I asked Mum and Dad to look through their photo albums and send me any snaps they had of Mum’s dresses in the late 1950’s. Well I wasn’t disappointed. Mum and Dad appeared looking out of the vintage, slightly crushed photos looking massively stylish…and look at the printed textiles.

These photos were all taken before I was born but I clearly remember the colours, designs and even textures of the cloth Mum and Dad both wore while I was growing up. It made me think how we all subliminally influence our children. The designs Mum and Dad chose are imprinted in my mind and have certainly affected my own taste as an adult (interestingly my eldest teenage son has just bought spectacles which are exactly the same as the ones my Dad, his Grand Father, wore in the late 1950’s).

How clearly I remember interior textiles that surrounded me too. The curtains that hung in our houses tended to be flat blocks of colour in varying but simplistic shapes, something I still crave and indeed base my own designs around. They favoured Danish furniture, something I do too. And then I started thinking a bit harder about my childhood interior and I remember a cylindrical copper suspension lamp shade that Dad (who is a scientist, not a designer) made for the dining room – all before Tom Dixon was even born!

The 1950’s and 1960’s were of course extremely creative decades where people had the confidence to experiment, customise and have fun with clothes and interiors. A time before the dominant big huge brands  that many seem to crave now. However, a wave of bespoke and individual designers which have global platforms like etsy and t.v programmes such as The Great British Sewing Bee have shown the public a glimpse of how much talent is out their and believe me, if you have any spare time, surf through etsy and be prepared to be amazed.

Do you remember the textiles your parents wore? If so, do you think they have influenced your choices as an adult?

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13 thoughts on “The Clothes Our Parents Wore

  1. First of all, wow, your Mum had (still has?!) a tiny waist! This piece has got me thinking about my own childhood home. Living in southern Florida the influences were different: Cuba and Spain, with their dark woods. Mercifully my parents didn’t go in too much for the dark woods and matching, heavy colour schemes/fabrics. My grandmother (who lived in Nashville) was a quilt-maker when she wasn’t cooking for farmhands or doing the myriad tasks required of a farmer, and her handiwork, beautifully intricate and extremely tasteful, was a part of of our Florida home. We didn’t have wallpaper or carpet, just cream textured walls and parquet flooring; oak furniture (a bit twiddly for my liking, but I don’t recall any Scandi choices until the 80s) and chandeliers (!). I would never say it was stylish, but it was inoffensive. I am still drawn to a simple look, although sadly the quilts are too heavy to bring here to Scotland. My sister, who lives in Florida, has a house remarkably influenced by our childhood (and she has all the quilts!), although I have only just realised this. Great post, Niki.

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    • Thanks Kellie and you got me thinking…your Grandmother in Nashville, you have mentioned some of her recipes before and I would love to see you post a blog with one of her recipes with some pics of her on the farm, that would be great!
      I love the sound of your Southern childhood and how cool to have been influenced by Cuba and Spain.
      I am glad your sister displays your family quilts, they sound amazing and I am sure you could write a book on the story behind each square. Wonderful heritage, we are so lucky to draw from our childhoods as I guess its not so for everyone.

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  2. Hi Niki – Those are some very stylish photos! Wow… You’re making me wish I had some of those textiles, or more photos from long ago. I did post one of me and my mother, both in cotton fifties dresses…they’re plaid not print and the photo wasn’t in color, but it certainly has that look. It’s at the end of this post –
    http://bluebrightly.wordpress.com/2012/10/24/photo-challenge-city/
    One influence for me is fabric quality – the feel of real cotton and good strong wool – something I really appreciate that I’m sure is linked to childhood. On the other hand, I was taught very strict rules about combining elements of dress and those restrictions, along with my rebellious spirit and the 60’s, influenced me to break away from thinking the only thing that goes with navy is light blue or white…so it works both ways. I’m much more adventurous than my mother was aesthetically.
    I love that your father made that lamp – very cool! Mine was a scientist too, and he loved to take photos as an aesthetic outlet. I suppose that’s another influence!

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    • I know, I love looking at their photo albums and lapping up the artistic life they lived (and still do – you would love their garden, they have been working on it for over 30 years and they have an amazing collection of plants.)
      I adore the photo you have on your blog too, of you and your Mum visiting New York, it’s full of intrigue. Old photos seem to capture so much atmosphere, don’t they.
      Interesting your Dad was also a scientist, I love the way Dad is so logical and just figures things out (unlike me who jumps to conclusions with only a gut instinct!) but he like your Dad is very keen on photography, perhaps its that need to catalogue.
      I totally agree with you regarding good cloth and wool, its a must!
      Lovely to hear your interesting thoughts, thank you.

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  3. Fabulous photos Niki, I love all that 50’s style especially the dresses with their full skirts. I have made a couple of the Vintage Vogue dresses for my daughter, she dances and wears them for competitions with net skirts underneath, she really loves wearing them.

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    • Wow, Sandra, your daughter is so lucky to have such a talented Mum. I couldn’t begin to do that but would love to be able to sew. I took woodwork at school purely because I thought the school was being sexist in the 1970’s separating the girls into sewing and cooking and boys into mechanics, woodwork and metalwork so being an angsty teenager I forced them to allow me to go with the boys(I was the first and only girl in my school to do so, eek)…but now I cant sew, doah….

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  4. Oh Niki! I’ve spent a good day day-dreaming about my mum’s frocks which have had so much influence on the things that I like now…I remember playing (playing!!!) in her 1950’s full skirted dresses, two particularly: thick sateen cotton printed with leaves in a myriad of greens and a dusty pink duchesse satin. And then came the seventies and those terribly chic black viscose knits with covered buttons and bell sleeves and long evening skirts with silk bouses. I wish wish wish that I still had them….And we had the furniture to match…a lot of Danish teak and shaggy carpets! A lovely post Niki x

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    • Heehee, we’ve had parallel childhoods! Yes, yes, yes, I did exactly that too and yes…the bell sleeves and the black viscose knits and all the clothes you mention, Mum had too! She had a fab straight knitted chunky mohair maxi skirt in dusty pink which I absolutely loved… the cool lining inside the hairy skirt was like drinking cold cream on top of hot black coffee (a thing we did into our small straight sided pottery coffee cups, inserting the cream over the back of a spoon to ensure it floated…) and YES! The shaggy carpets, snap! (and a feature wall in hessian from the Dundee jute mills)
      Mum didn’t keep much either partly cos she ran the local Oxfam shop and was forever putting on amazing Fashion Shows in the town hall and wanted lots of nice clothes to model! Dad being a man has kept everything and his beautifully made DJ from the 1950’s is still worn by my hubby, my son, my brother in law who rotate it! Ah, heritage is so important isn’t it…I wonder what our kids will remember about us.

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      • I have a very brightly coloured Kenzo coat which I bought when I was pregnant with no.1 and I hope they remember me in it when I’m pushing up the daisies! I love pattern and colour but I think the mucky allotment jeans and grotty old cardi might be more at the fore though….(And what was it about the hessian wall? Was it obligatory??) x

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  5. Lovely photos, which brought back wonderful memories for me. Yes, I can clearly remember many of my mom’s outfits, including her hats, shoes and gloves. She always looked so elegant when dressed to go out. That era of dressing with a feminine stylishness, is sadly long gone. To this day, my mom at 87,l always looks really ‘well turned out’.

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    • That’s lovely to hear your wonderful memories. Funny how clear they are to us all so many years later. I know what you mean about stylish feminine dressing, I never ever once saw my Gran in trousers and she always had matching skirts and jackets and if she was going up into town she would ‘dress for town’, complete with matching fur coat, hat and pearls. She would be shocked to see what is worn in town now.
      I love to hear about your Mum at 87 still being ‘well turned out’, brilliant. My Mum still wears nice clothes too, in fact I would quite happily borrow some of her clothes.
      Lovely to hear your thoughts, thank you.

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  6. Hi Niki
    Oh my goodness this all rings so true of my parents too, may Dad was hugely into Scandinavian design and wouldn’t have looked out of place today in his amazing ‘geek chic’ tweed trousers and knitwear (you’d never know it now!! 🙂 and my Mum was quite the London it girl in the 70’s and very creative, I have a few amazing dresses, shirts and skirts of hers that she was wise enough to keep which I have now liberated and wear often (or the ones that still fit!! Ha!) and I remember some of the amazing textiles and patterns in curtains amongst other things, one pair I searched for high and low when I moved into my current flat in the hope that they too may be in a case in a loft somewhere, sadly to no avail. Though in saying that there were also a few items that were questionable ‘statements’. Hehe… So I have them both hugely to thank for my career path. Thanks for the wee trip down memory lane. 🙂

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    • Hi Solii, that’s so fab hearing about your ‘it girl’ Mum, how cool is she! Loving the sound of your Dad’s geek chic too, brilliant. It’s very clear that you must have had creative parents, it certainly has come through strongly in your genes. You are so lucky to have some of your Mum’s clothes to wear – perhaps see some at the forth coming Edin Art College Degree show?
      Thanks for your lovely comment Solii, seems like we all have a lot to thank our parents for 🙂

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