Nancy's fashions

Hair and beauty in another age

By Nicola Benge

Photo:What a smasher!

What a smasher!

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus archive

Nancy Kersey's turban tales

Nancy lives in Hangleton and is part of the Get Together group in the Hangleton area. She has always loved clothes and used to make her own. She is married to Wally Kersey and has been for 58 years. She says: 'I was in the 'Marguerites', it was like the Brownies but for younger girls. We wore green dresses, yellow beret and little white petals around the collar, like a flower. We looked like little flowers. I went to the church opposite where the Knoll Business centre is now, on Old Shoreham Road. That was when I was about five years old. Then I went to the Speedwell's group. We wore a skirt, a blouse and sash. There were different coloured sashes depending on your rank, and a bobble on the bottom of the sash. When I was about 6 or 7, if you gave the rag and bone man your woollens, he gave you a goldfish!'

Liberty bodices

When I was older cross over tops were very popular, although they weren't as low cut as people wear them now. Once I left school I stopped wearing vests and ankle socks, but others wore them, and 'liberty bodices' which were for young children.

Where did you get that hat?!

My mum made my clothes and she taught me how to sew. I worked in Madame Christopher's in Western Road in Brighton until say the '40s. It was a milliners and they sold handmade clothes. It was quiet upmarket, so not just anybody would walk in off the street. You could have a hat made to match your outfit. My mother always wore a hat.  She used to say you never go out without a hat or gloves.  She used to wear a beret a lot.

A stitch in time

I made all my own clothes. I had a skirt- flat front, then pleated all down the sides. Tops with tulip sleeves, v necks, sweetheart necks. I made a cross over top like what's fashionable now. I've still got the patterns. I used to wear them with three tier wedge shoes, high heels, or peep toes. I made swing back jackets, coats, and smocks when I was pregnant. I remember 'three-tier' wedge shoes in the 1940s. I had a pair of white sling backs, with three rows making up the platform and the wedge.

I was lucky I could make clothes. In the 1940s there used to be a shop called 'Bellmans' on London Road in Brighton and I got a blue and black dress there. Their motto was, 'we aim to please'. I did knitting, sewing, crochet, although I can't do it like I used to as I now have Gullain Barre syndrome which is an illness I've had since 1999.

Hair today....!

I used to have 'Dinky' Curlers to make my hair curly. You had to part your hair on either side and leave a bit in the top, then put your hair clip through, and put a wave in the front. I used to cut my own hair, into layers, so you could have little curls all the way down. The 'Dinky' curlers were for the short bits. I had two mirrors so you could look at the back view too. Sometimes I did a finger wave in my hair. There were lots of different types of perms: 'Tony' perms, 'Pinup; perms, 'Marcel wave': that was older from the '20s. Then you could keep your rollers in, put grips in to keep them in place, or something like bulldog clips that you could clamp over the roller. You used to get a shampoo called 'Trixie plus'. I learnt lots working in a hairdresser as an apprentice. I used to put a turban on to hide the curlers. If you were going out that night you had to keep them in all day. I was cycling to work once and my turban blew off, all my curlers were underneath!

There used to be a place on Portland Road, a hairdresser's called 'Kay's'. I had my first perm there. I worked in 'Maurice' on Blatchington Road, a hairdresser. He had one up in London too on Dolphin Square. He pronounced his name the French way, but he was English really.  If I was going out in the evening, I wouldn't wear much make up. Just a bit of lipstick and maybe some 'panstick', but I took a lot of care with my hair.

Changing times

I worked at a Furriers called 'Vianne' in Palmeira Square in Hove. We made fur coats - there was the shop, and I was in the workroom. I remember when fur coats came in for alteration they would often smell of moth balls. We made coats from all sorts of fur including mink. I've got a mink collar that was sewn for me from some of the mink scraps, the sort of thing that would be worn with an evening dress. When it became less acceptable to wear real fur coats in the '60s someone put glue in the door locks.

This page was added by Nicola Benge on 03/04/2008.

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