The good old days; what our parents wore in the early 1950s

Parents and friends in around 1955
Parents and friends in around 1955

My father Druce Barlow second on the left, with what looks like Princess Margaret, and my mother on the far right, next to Johnny Clough, the short man to her left. The picture was sent to me by Simon Buckley whose parents are also in this photograph. His mother Paddy is in the centre of the sofa, and the shot, and her husband Graham is two to my mother’s right. I spoke to my mother about this picture and she said that her dress was emerald green. How wonderful.

When they weren’t wearing dinner jackets and ball gowns how did the youth of yesterday dress? Here are some more everyday pictures of my parents from the 1950s.

Margaret Barlow, my mother, early 1950s, wearing her suit and blouse
Margaret Barlow, my mother, early 1950s, wearing her suit, with  blouse and pin

I have a second picture of her in the same suit, caught by a Galway street photographer, when she and my father went to look at a horse. I love this photograph as it is one of the few in the collection that is not posed. Here are a young couple just walking down the street, both with tailored (not off the peg) suits, in grey. Both of them look composed and serious, business-like but companionable. My mother is wearing a jumper, a small peal necklace and a brooch. We can see that her jacket and skirt are both rather long. It also has got quite exaggerated shoulder padding and the silhouette is rather masculine. The skirt seems to have four box pleats to make for ease in walking. She has a plain leather handbag. Father’s trousers have turn-ups, which were fashionable at the time. He is wearing a slim, dark tie, and carries a package – maybe a newspaper. They appear to be wearing sturdy lace-ups, suitable for walking, rather than fashionable shoes. Maybe his have crepe soles?

Druce and Margaret Barlow walking in the street Ireland, 1950s
Druce and Margaret Barlow walking in the street Ireland, 1950s

I don’t know where this final picture is taken, but Mother is in the same outfit she had on in Ireland, but Father is now wearing a sports jacket and dark trousers, with a wide tie. They look really happy. I am sorry the photograph is so blurred. It is a very small photograph and doesn’t zoom out well, but you get the effect. She described wearing cardigans back to front so that they looked like jumpers!

My mother and father, 1950s
My mother and father, 1950s

My mother loved clothes and I think she had quite a few, certainly for the time, and compared to less well-off families. But the fact the suit is in each of these photographs implies it was the only one she had and that it would have been an expensive item. She told me that “We all wore suits then. We thought they were practical.” I agree that suits are practical and I wear them all the time, often separating the skirt and jacket. I have set myself the task of making three or four over the next 12 months to replace my rather worn out wardrobe staples. This is a big job and will keep me busy. I just read on Pattern Pandemonium that Jay has sewed 46 patterns over the last month. I am in awe of her efforts – she is such a brilliant seamstress – but I just wonder what you do with so many clothes!

3 Responses

  1. Simon Buckley

    The people on the photograph are from left to right:- dramatic looking woman; Druce Barlow; Joyce Eckersall; Phil Crompton; Sis Crompton; G Kenneth Whitehead (look him up on Wikipedia); Paddy Buckley; Brian Healey; Pip Healey; Graham Buckley; Chris Clough; Bill Eckersall; Margaret Barlow; John Clough.

  2. Stephanie

    Wow…what a lovely post and lovely photos. Your mother’s ball gown is stunning. I can imagine it in emerald green. The suits are also terrific. I almost never wear the jacket part of suits, though I should try this more often, as they do look extremely polished. I also agree with you about having many clothes. I think about this quite often in the context of sewing, because I already have more summer dresses than I have time to wear, for example. There is a limit somewhere and I don’t want to be excessive, although after each new make I want to make something else. This piece makes me think more about focusing on making only a few more complicated pieces that take time! Thanks for sharing the wonderful photos!

  3. Joyce

    I like to wear a jacket, I like the structure. In the 50’s it was cool to be thrifty, my mother once told me .
    Great post as always… gets me thinking about what I should be tossing out… I find when I keep less, it makes getting dressed easier…… however I still don’t have all the pieces of a basic wardrobe I really need…….time to make a list I guess.
    Thanks Kate

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