Tuesday, December 13, 2005


In the olden days farming people had two sorts of clothes. These were their ‘good’ clothes and their ‘wearing’ clothes. Good clothes were for outings; high days, holidays and Sundays while ‘wearing’ clothes were for working in. In our house my father talked about ‘good’ clothes and ‘ould’ clothes. Usually ‘wearing’ or ‘working’ clothes had been good clothes once. A farmer’s outfit then would most likely have been a pair of old tweed or heavy cloth trousers worn with an old suit jacket. These need not necessarily be matched, as trousers would wear out quicker than jackets. Belts were uncommon and trousers would be held up with galluses but if the elastic in these should perish the trousers could be secured with a length of baler twine and no one would think any less of the wearer. The look would be finished off with a cloth ‘kep’ for there was no such thing as heated tractor cabs then.

Women who worked at home would wear an old skirt that had once been a good church-going skirt, a layering of jumpers and cardigans and a flowered apron. When outdoors she would add a headscarf, an old coat and a pair of wellington boots. Trousers were never worn, as these were not considered ladylike.

Bert’s mother still adheres to these ancient dress codes. Whilst at home she wanders around in an assortment of ill-matching garments, which will include a layering of polyester and acrylic skirts. She always wears a flowered apron and a pair of Bert’s old deck shoes. Many of her clothes date from the early acrylic years and are indestructible as long as they are kept away from naked flames. Being canny (and Cully) she sees no need for replacing these vintage garments. Her other better clothes are kept for special outings, Church etc.

Last week Pearlie asked Bert to take her to visit her sister Lizzie. As it was only Lizzie she was going to see she decided against changing out of her ‘wearing’ clothes. On the way she asked Bert to stop at our local garage to stock up on wild bird tucker. She gave him £10 and instructed him to spend £5. Meanwhile she waited in the van. But then she had a change of mind. Bert said he was gathering up her purchases when she suddenly appeared in the shop foyer screeching at him, “Bertie, Bertie, ye may spend the whole ten poond on the wee birds!”

This is what he told me.

God it was strange to see her standing there in her old wearing clothes. Y’know I never give her clothes a thought when she’s at home for I’m that used to the odd way she dresses. But to see her standing there among normal folk looked so rare. Back in the van I was having a giggle to myself about it and she said, “What are you laughing at?” and I said, “You! And the cut of you standing in the shop with your apron and all the rest of it,” and do you know what she said back?

“Those that knows me knows I hae better; and those that disnae, disnae metter!”


Hageltoast said...

It's amazing what baler twine can be used for. Gate hinges, a belt, to burn through other baler twine to open a bale, it's just endless. BAler twine and a hoofpick and you are set for any adventure. :)

Nelly said...

Spoken like a true countrywoman ;)

Ronni said...

My MIL went around in an assortment of what are called "house coats," zippered polyester smocks that will go over a nightie or to the store. Her "good" clothes were mostly pretty old, and she loved the doubleknit slacks with the crease sewn in.

Indestructible indeed, but many of the garments have burn holes from cigarettes.

Nelly said...

Do you know what has become common daytime apparel among some young women? These are the stay-at-home welfare mums sometimes called 'pramfaces'. These girls wear their nightwear all day long and go out to the shops (to get fegs), or out to visit fellow pramfaces in their jim jams and nighties.

mquest said...

I must admit that I do not know what the word 'pramfaces' is. But I love the word.

I like your story. It was well writen and made me laugh.

Nelly said...

It's a derogatory term associated with young single mothers on welfare.

mquest said...

I tried to use the word pramface a few times this week. I got blank looks from the people around me. I do think I can make this a catch phrase for the next generation