Way back when, Wednesdays

Suit up Seventies style

Cord suit

At first glance you might think that the clever lady in the photograph has recycled some bathmats and sewn herself a tailored outfit. This is certainly not the case. In the edition dated 14 July 1971, the North East Leader tells us that Mrs June Cooper is in fact, modelling a stylish suit made from jumbo cord. This photograph on page 19 was taken to promote the Witchery Boutique at Tea Tree Plaza. According to the North East Leader, it was a modish outfit that women would have wanted to wear in the early 1970s.

Corduroy fabric has been used in the manufacture of workwear since the 18th century in Britain and Europe. During the 20th century, factories in many other countries started produced clothing made from corduroy, often for the working classes. In the 1970s garments made from corduroy became incredibly popular. They were easy to launder, soft and warm in winter and affordable. Corduroy garments could also be dressed up or down. Both men and women could wear a corduroy suit to the office or wear the jacket or pants separately on weekends.

Corduroy jeans, jackets and skirts are still worn today. In the cooler weather, corduroy always seems to be a popular choice for jeans.

 

corduroy-fall-2017-2

Corduroy on the catwalk in 2017.  Image:  http://corduroy.in/corduroy-news/

 

If you are not familiar with corduroy, it is a durable cotton or cotton blend cloth, which is basically a ridged form of velvet. Corduroy comes in a multitude of colours and it can be plain or printed. Multiple cords are woven into the base fabric to form ridges or wales, which lie parallel to each other in clear lines. Sometimes you can see channels where the bare fabric between the cords is visible. Corduroy fabric with a standard or wide wale (jumbo cord) is used to upholster furniture, such as sofas, or it is made into trousers. Fabric with medium (midwale) narrow, and fine wale (such as pinwale or pincord) is used in the manufacture in garments worn above the waist. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corduroy (http://www.fashionencyclopedia.com/fashion_costume_culture/Modern-World-Part-II-1961-1979/Corduroy.html).

 

Corduroy Fabric

Different wales of corduroy.  Image:  http://market-research-explore-report.blogspot.com/2018/02/world-corduroy-fabric-market-2018.html

 

The 1970s was revolutionary for women as it was the first time in history in which it was acceptable for women to wear what they wanted. Asian women had worn pants under tunics for many years. Now western women seemed to prefer wearing pants to dresses and skirts (https://www.retrowaste.com/1970s/fashion-in-the-1970s/1970s-fashion-for-women-girls/). Women wore pantsuits to the city, and some could wear them to the office. A trendy or elegant pantsuit was just the thing to wear out to dinner. As the 1970s progressed, pants for both men and women became low rise and firmer on the hips. Legs widened out and were sometimes cuffed. Eventually, flares came into fashion (http://www.thepeoplehistory.com/1971fashions.html).

This issue of the North East Leader also featured an extensive sales promotion for the St. Agnes shopping centre. Take a look at this advertisement for Witchery which was printed on page 11 and the funky bohemian image that this brand was trying to sell. In the 1960s and 1970s Witchery opened retail outlets at many suburban locations such as at the St. Agnes and Ingle Farm shopping centres.

Witchery advertisement
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Way back when, Wednesdays

Funky fashion arrives in the North East

The days are getting shorter and the Autumn/Winter fashions are now in the stores. Let’s have a look at what people were wearing in 1971. The North East Leader, a Messenger Newspaper covered the coolest threads on offer for men, women and boys, from pages 36 – 37 of the edition dated 14 July 1971.

Knitted suits for men

Yes, these photographs are real. Perhaps these brands of menswear should have been labelled with a hazard warning “Wearing this garment may compel doe-eyed women to hang themselves precariously off your person at any given opportunity.”

Mens fashions knit shirt

These articles focused on how it was essential for a man to be stylish if he wanted to be admired and attract a lady companion. The photographs are over the top by modern standards but we all know that the advertising industry still uses sex appeal and prestige to sell products! John Brown’s smart knitted suits for casual and weekend wear were styled following overseas trends. Note the focus on Australian manufacture, no doubt using fine Australian wool. Maybe these women are not really gazing adoringly up at the male models – they are really just feeling the texture of these garments. For as the article states, women might be coveting the clothing for themselves!

A married man would make his wife’s life at home a lot easier if he chose to wear modern, easy care drip dry fabrics. Synthetic fabrics had been popular during the 1960s. These colourful and distinctive knit shirts in the ‘Summerknits’ range by John Brown were made from high tech fabrics such as Tricel and Teteron.

 

hotpants in crimplene

Conversely, the ladies modelling a new range of women’s clothing don’t need men as accessories in these photoshoots. Wearing funky hotpants, this girl is confident, in style and ready to have fun.

During the 1970s fashions changed greatly from the beginning of the decade to its end. In 1971 the fashions were very much like those of 1969. Garments made from polyester were popular as they were inexpensive and did not need ironing. Bright colours and bold prints were still in demand. Checks and tweeds were in vogue too.

 

Lady with silver buckle

Distinctive fashions by young Prue Acton, the first Australian designer to break into the American market.  Prue embraced both new synthetic and natural fibres, to create her bold and colourful designs (https://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/articles/2377).

 

Young women still liked mini-skirts but long, flowing skirts were also worn. Fashion continued to be influenced by the hippie era and ethnic influence of the late 1960s. Women wore long bohemian print dresses with billowing sleeves. Men’s loose shirts in floral patterns had ties around the neck or an open neckline. Not forgetting the leather sandals and scarves tied around your head. And hippie men wore beards and long hair.
Turtleneck jumpers were popular with both sexes and every woman owned at least one cowl neck jumper, to wear with pants or under a pinafore dress. Ladies still liked trendy short hair styles. But long hair might be worn down loose, plaited or dressed in a soft, bohemian up-style for a natural look. Or you could set it in waves.

Another trend emerged – the 1970s was the first decade where women wore pants and pantsuits for work and leisure. Women could wear jeans at home and elegant or trendy pants to a nightclub or restaurant. Some dress codes allowed women to wear business suits with pants to the office. By the end of the decade, women could basically wear what they wanted, which was revolutionary (https://www.retrowaste.com/1970s/fashion-in-the-1970s/1970s-fashion-for-women-girls/).  Trousers for both men and women were low rise, firm on the hips and with a wider leg which was sometimes cuffed. Corduroy clothing or men and women such as jeans, and sports coats with wide lapels, were seen everywhere (http://www.thepeoplehistory.com/1971fashions.html).

 

boys 2

Knitwear and shirts by John Brown for little men, made from machine washable wool.

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Way back when, Wednesdays

Out there on my own

International Women’s Day 8 March 2018

 

It’s the early 1970s. Imagine being thrown out onto the street by your family because you became pregnant – they no longer wanted you. You only had the clothes you were wearing and some loose change in your pocket. You were homeless and you had no way to support yourself. There was no Parenting Benefit in existence at this time.
In the edition dated 25 August 1971, the North East Leader, a Messenger Newspaper told one woman’s story, which highlighted the plight of young unmarried mothers. In a special report, made up of two articles on pages 1 and 3 the Leader sought to raise awareness of the financial issues, condemnation and social isolation single mothers experienced. A new South Australian organisation called ‘The Council for The Single Mother and Her Child’ could offer these girls help.

Unwed mothers

We have all heard the horror stories of young unmarried women being coerced or forced into giving up their babies for adoption during the 1960s. Children were also put in state run institutions such as orphanages. The Commonwealth Department of Social Services was created in 1939 and became fully operative in 1941. However, the Government did not introduce a supporting mother’s benefit for single mother’s pension until 1973. From 1942 in Australia, a single mother could only receive a small pension if she had been married and was widowed, deserted by her husband or divorced. You were also entitled to a benefit if you husband was in prison or a committed to a mental hospital, Seeing the lighter side, A history of the single parent pension in Australia.

“In 1973 supporting mother’s benefit was introduced for single mothers not entitled to widow’s pension. The new benefit was payable after a six-month waiting period, during which time the States remained responsible for the single mother’s income support under the Commonwealth-State cost-sharing arrangements introduced in 1968. The supporting mother’s benefit was extended in 1977 to single fathers, including widowers and divorcees, and renamed supporting parent’s benefit. The six-month waiting period for this benefit was abolished in 1980 when the States withdrew from the Commonwealth-State cost-sharing arrangements.”  Australian Bureau of Statistics

Unfortunately the Australian Bureau of Statistics does not hold data on the number of babies born in South Australia in 1971 but“1500 illegitimate births” does seem quite high for the population of South Australia. So you might think that having a baby ‘out of wedlock’ was not uncommon. However, Society viewed an unmarried pregnant women as having loose morals.

Birthright

A woman seemed to experience most of the shame, rather than the father of the child. It could also be difficult for the mother of an illegitimate child to find a man to marry her and adopt her child as their own. Living together in a de-facto relationship was socially unacceptable. Unless your family were willing to support you financially and emotionally, a single pregnant woman faced some tough choices.

Sometimes a girl’s parents would insist on a young couple getting married as quickly as possible before her pregnancy started to show – what is known as a ‘shotgun wedding’. This was an attempt to not only hide the unplanned pregnancy or at least regain some of the respect that their daughter had lost by getting pregnant. The girl’s boyfriend was basically threatened by her father and told to take responsibility for the baby! Adoption was a common choice. The girl was supposed to move on with her life, when in fact she would always be dealing with the loss of her child. It should be acknowleged that some  fathers also reluctantly lost their children to adoption.

Legal abortions were not readily available. Never an easy decision for the mother, abortion was legalised in South Australia in 1969. Abortion was only legal if performed in a hospital and it was deemed by two medical practitioners that continuing a pregnancy was detrimental to the physical and mental health of the mother or if there was a substantial risk that the child would be seriously physically or mentally handicapped if it was born, Abortion Law in Australia  Frightened women also sought out illegal abortions, putting themselves at risk of infection and death.

Some brave young women did decide to keep their babies. At least ‘The Council for The Single Mother and Her Child’ was in existence in South Australia to help supply them with baby clothing, and support with finding accommodation and employment. A single mother would have received a child endowment payment as the Commonwealth Government’s Child Endowment Act of 1941 had introduced the payment of weekly sums to mothers of children under the age of 16. But it would have been very almost impossible for a single woman to find somewhere to live with a baby and no other income. Day care centres and government subsidised childcare are a modern invention. A woman would have had to leave her child with relatives and friends or pay somebody she knew to look after them while she was at work.

Note also the small article printed on page 3 about the organisation ‘Birthright’ which was trying to establish a branch in Tea Tree Gully to assist widows and their children. Living on a widow’s pension was not easy either.

Most sole parent families still live on low incomes and those on Centrelink payments face a high risk of poverty. “Unemployment among sole parents is generally about twice the rate across the whole workforce. The reasons for this include their responsibility for caring for a child alone, together with low educational qualifications and the need to live in areas where rents are low but jobs are scarce (such as public housing estates). Many of those who do have a job are vulnerable to unemployment because they work in casual and part time jobs.” Fact sheet: sole parent payments

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