A couple of weeks ago, a conversation on the frock-horrors our mums used to dress us in occurred after the lovely mum in the madhouse blogger Jen Walshaw posted up pics of some homemade outfits from her childhood. As well as making me cry with laughter, it brought some memories flooding back...
December, 1976. I am three and at a Christmas party thrown by one of my parents' friends. I can recall it for several reasons:
1) My family don't do 'parties' so such events are etched into my memory like stone.
2) My brother – aged 15 – ate an entire platter of cocktail sausages and
3) I was dressed in bright red flared trousers and a matching red 'smock' top with a plasticy feeling teddy bear stitched to the front.
It is reason three which is most abiding, probably more so because my parents' still have a photo of me from the night, so 35 years on, I can look at it and still feel the rough slub of red fabric, and the raised plastic motif sewn on the front. Sadly, the pic is too small to scan and share.
In the picture I also have matching scarlet cheeks, whether these are through sartorial shame, or boiling-in-the-bag in a packed community hall in sweaty nylon, I do not know. And did I mention my mum MADE the outfit? Well she did.
My mum was not a seamstress, but occasionally she would make stuff. Weird stuff: balaclavas for babies, knitted socks. And bizarre flared teddy bear trouser suits.
The cringe-inducing memories I have of some of my childhood outfits meant I always vowed my son would be dressed in only the finest of togs; I had rules on baby clothing before I even fell pregnant.
They ranged from no jeans (this still holds true: to my mind there is no greater parental crime than dressing a new born baby in jeans. For goodness sake, it's like sending your nan out in a matinee jacket and bootees) through to no 'Little Monster' type slogan-wear, definitely NO sports wear/brands/logos, and nothing that was obviously a mini version of adult wear.
Because of this – and a hefty dose of New Baby Madness - my little boy spent his first 12 months in vintage smocked rompers, furry suits with ears attached, and, erm, a Peruvian alpaca poncho and matching hat.
But there was one outfit that was particularly memorable. Whilst writing this, a friend has said to me 'do not mention The Kilt Affair'. He even emailed me in capital letters 'DO NOT PUBLISH THE PICTURE OF THE KILT'. But I feel I would not be honestly confessing my sins if I did not speak of Christmas, 2005.
William was two and a half. Christmas was a big deal; Christmas outfits an even bigger deal. By this time, I had begun sourcing velvet knickerbockers and matching waistcoats from America for him, as he had passed the smocked romper and sailor suit stage. The outfits came from ranges with names like Little Lord and English Prince. America obviously thought the whole of England were still dressing their children as though they were Prince Charles and it was 1950.
In reality, only I was (oh, me and Liz Hurley – and SHE STILL DOES IT despite 'Damien' now being about 17 - or maybe nine). Honestly, Google pictures of 'Liz Hurley's Son' and behold the Little Lord Fauntleroy togs. But anyway, in December 2005 I decided a knickerbocker was not the thing for Christmas. Christmas, I decreed, called for something even more special.
Christmas day evening, we arrived at my sister-in-law's house. No one said anything as I removed William's coat (a tailored, black and white hounds-tooth affair with velvet collar) and revealed his outfit (well, not whilst we were there. I am sure MUCH was said afterwards), although when I showed my dad the pictures a few days later, he asked, "Who is that little girl? And why isn't William in any of the photos?"
He was. You can see his outfit below. My friend Lisa who lives in Fife spent hours trawling round the shops trying to find a boys' kilt aged two. In the end she sent a girls' kilt, and also hand-knitted him the gorgeous Aran jumper. I was beyond delighted. It was EXACTLY the look I was aiming for.
Six years on, I have a small amount of regret, mainly that he only got one wear out of it - I decided it was a bit impractical for day to day running around in, not to mention a bit chilly. Other people tell me it was a BAD thing to have done to a small boy even as a one off, but I really do not think a kilt comes close to the red flared trouser suit my mum made me sport in 1976, do you? Oh, and did I mention, on the basis my mum was not a very good seamstress, it was held together with tacking stitches?
Either from your childhood, or what you dressed your own nippers in?