Jayne Dawson: Nylon sheets, Crimplene suits – it must be the 1970s

APRIL 1973: 

Models modelling French suits from the Fabrics from France Exhibition at the Metropole Hotel.
APRIL 1973: Models modelling French suits from the Fabrics from France Exhibition at the Metropole Hotel.
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Remember catalogue shopping?

Proper catalogue shopping, not that stuff you can do today, with its online options and all that.

I’m talking a big, fat book, brought to the door by one of the neighbours and handed over to your mum.

In those 900 pages was everything a family could want and a lot more besides, all priced weekly.

The exciting possibility that you might - just might - be allowed to choose a garment from within was enough to make a teenager dance around the kitchen with delight.

Catalogues were useful on so many levels: yes, they allowed you - at a premium price - to buy what you could not afford but there was more. I’m thinking of their underwear sections which is where curious boys and girls caught their first glimpses of almost naked bodies, wearing cross-your-heart bras and panty girdles; mesh vests and Y-fronts, all accessorised with a cheesy smile.

Such innocent days.

Anyway, my ma is on the move and the packing process has revealed a treasure: the Brian Mills Catalogue, Spring and Summer 1975.

What a gem! All ‘70s life is in there, and as self-appointed Chief Seventies Girl, I should know.

And after a brief (three-hour) browse, I can reveal surprising news to you about life at that time, as glimpsed through the pages of a catalogue.

The 1970s are sometimes billed as “the decade that style forgot”. It isn’t true. That was the 1980s. The 1970s could be very stylish: a big platform sole can look great, a flared trouser can be elegant – and there were a surprising number of good hats.

There were exceptions; those men’s shirts with huge floppy collars, those wide kipper ties. And a quilted housecoat was never going to look good on anyone.

But what the 1970s actually forgot was natural fabrics. Everything, and I mean everything, was created from man-made fibre. And proudly. Polyester was not a dirty word, and neither was nylon. There was little better than a Crimplene dress and matching jacket; sheets in polyester/Vincel (no, I have no idea either) were a thing of beauty and as for Terylene - well, if your man’s suit wasn’t entirely made of it you were nobody.

“Easy-care fabric” they trumpeted. “Anti-static” they crowed. Natural was dead.

And it wasn’t just clothes: carpets were nylon and more patterned that the loudest, stickiest pub carpet you have ever seen; rugs were plastic.

In the bedroom, sheets were made of nylon and came in loud shades of yellow, blue and purple;bedspreads were nylon, nighties were nylon. If sparks flew in that room of the house it was clearly nothing to do with physical attraction.

Another thing: bottoms were small. Yep, the 1970s really was that decade when, if a woman asked that question, the correct answer was “what bottom?”

The models in this 1975 catalogue had no bums whatsoever. Their flares slid over slim waists and neat backsides and pooled around feet that were entirely invisible, but you knew were wearing really big platforms.

But though they had small bottoms, these models of 1975 were not emaciated. Slim, but not thin. In fact they looked pretty ...normal. Their teeth were okay but not toilet-bowl white, their hair was sometimes a bit frizzy; their stomachs showed evidence of a tiny bit of fat.

And prices were surprising in 1975 too: surprisingly high. A simple dress, nothing fancy, would set you back £8 then, which is £42 in today’s money. A coat would be £22 or £130 at today’s equivalent.

And as for a Bush stereo unit - start saving. In 1975 it would have cost you £132, which would be £1,000 today.

I’m hanging on to my mum’s old catalogue though. It’s a good read, and it tells me that life s a lot more ...natural these days.

My love is like broccoli...

Who would have thought it? Valentine’s Day approaches and the most exotic gift you could buy your beloved - should you be minded to take part in such a manufactured exercise as this day - would be a bunch of broccoli.

That most mundane of vegetables, hated by presidents (George Bush Snr) and children alike is now in demand and newly appreciated as a thing of beauty.

It’s the bad weather in the Med what’s done it.

Not just broccoli but most of the green and leafy things we tend to think of as “duty food” are currently in short supply.

Lettuce, courgettes and aubergines are thin on the ground too, and as for spinach - forget it. Popeye must be losing muscle mass by the second.

It has led to notices the like of which you would never expect to see appearing in supermarkets. They tell customers that they are limited to three lettuce each, or six items of greenery in total. It varies from shop to shop, but around that figure.

Puzzled shoppers walk by these signs, wondering who would want three lettuces in the one go.

But still, it is all adding entertainment to our winter months.

Especially if you love a conspiracy theory - in which case, there is no shortage and this is all a pretence, invented by “them” in a desperate bid to get us to value our greens, and therefore eat our five a day. I’ve heard dafter.

A milestone for our Monarch

The Queen is in the news having reached another milestone - she is now the longest reigning monarch in British history.

She has been our Queen for fully 65 years, and that is a long time to be doing any job.

And a job it is, despite what some people say.

The Queen might live in a gilded cage but it is still a cage for all that. Her uncle’s abdication determined both her daily life and her lifelong destiny.

But she wears it well, doesn’t she? Ninety years old and still doing her duty in exactly the same way she always has.

As the world gets faster, more shallow, more fake, more emotional, she is a still centre.

A brisk, shy, no-nonsense woman who simply says: “A long life can pass by many milestones. Mine is no exception.”

Plain and simple. Just how we like her.

PIC: James Hardisty

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