Monday 13 February 2012

Shift Work

Mea Culpa! So much for ‘no more clothes’ - I was walking back to the car park and had to pass the Hospice Charity Shop. So I went in, just for a browse, and the opportunity to wind down after teaching [last week was a good one - 2½ days of work after a spell with none]


There was a Next dress on the rail, and I pulled it out to look at it. It looked unworn, and I liked the shape, and the neckline, and..

After some discussion with the volunteer assistant, I decided to try it on. I was wearing lots of clothes because of the weather, and it took ages to get to the point where I was in the dress. But it fitted well. Except…it had silly little cap sleeves which were totally unflattering. I suspect that the original owner had bought it and then hated them too.


The assistant, and the other customer both agreed it was the sleeves that were the problem.

I slipped on a jacket – and looked again in the mirror. The three of us felt that the dress looked excellent like that, and just needed a belt.

I slipped out of the dress and got back into my wintry woollies. Studying the construction carefully, I realised it would be quite possible to unpick the sleeves and re-sew the lining, to make a sleeveless shift. I parted with my £4, and brought it home.

I have modified the dress, and it not only works fine as a shift on its own. but also sits well over a shirt or polo neck sweater.




It is a rather ho-hum grey-beige tweed fabric but I think some bright accessories or jacket will liven it up a little. And it is such a good neutral basic garment I can see me wearing it a lot.

jackie oThe post-weight-loss Next dress I bought in September has already been worn so much. I hope this one will be in and out of the wardrobe too. The false placket on the front makes it a little more interesting, and the fuller skirt makes it comfortable to wear. It feels suitably ‘professional’ to wear for teaching or preaching. It’s a good ‘Sunday’ dress.

My modified shift has a wonderfully sixties retro vibe to it – I found a picture of Jackie Kennedy in a very similar one. I’m beginning to think I am fifty years too late with my fashion choices!

Such smart girls

PanAm is back on a Saturday night, and I have also been busily watching ‘MadMen’ which is also set in the Kennedy era. Liz and Steph had recommended MadMen, and I was able to reserve the Series One DVD set free from the Library the other Saturday. MM is all about the Mad [ison Avenue ] Men who work in the advertising industry which really took off in the States after the end of WW2.

Men in suits, looking cool

As far as I can see, there were two major downsides to 1960s styles.

First, the dreadfully uncomfortable underpinnings required – women squeezed themselves into their ‘girdles’ to get a smaller waistline and a flat stomach. The sales of tights [pantyhose] did not exceed those of stockings until 1970.

Second, the fabrics- terylene, polycotton, and lycra [spandex] were still relatively new – clothes were expensive to produce, and maintenance and laundry was not so easy.

But now, if you need a little help with your figure, then there is softer, washable “Shapewear”[personally I prefer to be comfortable, not compressed]. And automatic washing machines and washable fabrics make the whole business of laundry so much easier.

I have friends who would love to float around in Jane Austen Empire Line dresses, and others who prefer the Edwardian style of the Downton Abbey frocks – but give me the chic styling of Jackie Kennedy shifts and Audrey Hepburn LBDs and the sheer fun of Mary Quant shifts and Twiggy’s miniskirts any day!

What’s your preferred fashion era? Why?


  1. I love what you've done with the dress - turning it from something with fussy sleeves into a fabulous versatile piece! If I had to choose a clothes style I'd go for 60s/ 70s 'hippy' style - something I was wearing in the early 80s when I met J. At heart I'm still 16 - a time when I could be found wearing patched and hand embroidered jeans, Indian cotton tops or dresses,handmade flowing smocks( I used to go into my favourite very expensive shop, try on what I liked and inspect the construction of it so that I could replicate it!), flowers in my hair and bare feet when the weather permitted. My clothes were so comfy - other than the 'sprayed-on' jeans that I wore!I'm still to be found in skinny jeans and I have some flowing tops, but no flowers in my hair or bare feet these days!

    1. At what point do we get too old for flowers in our hair? I gave up the barefoot thing very early on, after sustaining a nasty cut!

  2. i must have a go at altering something to turn it into something else - love froogs xx

  3. I think your new dress is a bargain, and it does look so much better without the cap sleeves.
    I loved the 50s when we all wore our exaggerated full skirts over a million petticoats!

    1. I alway did suspect you of being a stylish Grace Kelly lookalike in your younger days.

  4. I'm not sure when is my period of choice for fashion - but certainly NOT somewhen you had to be constricted in any way!
    I do love your altered dress though - it looks fab. Well found!
    We're enjoying Pan Am, very much, but I didn't get on with Mad Men quite as much. I kept falling asleep and missing great chunks of it!

    1. I think MadMen is 'slower' than PanAm, and I can understand why you might fall asleep - I have to knit whilst watching TV in the evenings to keep myself awake.

  5. For daytime smart..1960s shift dresses,casual 1940s trousers and blouses, evening 1930s bias cut gowns.
    Jane x

  6. The dress looks great - well done for altering it.
    I often find myself looking at clothes in a shop window only to realise that it's a charity shop. They sell good stuff these days. Personally I have banned myself from buying any new clothes until I can get back into the ones I already have !! Then I can step out in my 1990's collection in style !! Being in fashion doesn't worry me too much these days but I did love the 60's styles - I made most of my own clothes then.

  7. It's a great dress make-over, Ang, and I can see it's really going to suit you! I favour a faintly pre-Raphelite look, interspersed with stripy sailor-style stuff! The latter was my mum's look, too...

  8. I notice nobody is admitting to Dallas style big hair and shoulder pads.

    Floss- I think navy and white always looks crisp and smart, and smart striped teeshirts look SO chic [on slim women, that is!]

  9. I think my preferred fashion era was whenever it was acceptable to slouch around in a sack, more then one in cold weather. LOVE the dress! Happy Valentine's Day!


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