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My colourful past

You might not expect a 70 year old Northern working class ‘boy’ from Scunthorpe like me to be wearing this very lovely but rather bright, custom made shirt. But that would be because you don’t really know my family background.

All the years I was growing up my mother was a hard working and very talented dress maker, working on an old fashioned foot pedal sewing machine in our dining room and making high fashion made-to-measure clothing for a local boutique and for a constant stream of friends and neighbours who came round to be ‘fitted’ and ended up having a long mumsy gossip over a cup of tea.

It wasn’t always easy. For instance, I remember a couple of particularly tough weeks, with a lot of broken needles and a very stressed mum struggling with her old and beautiful but only domestic and pedal powered machine (not really up to the job), trying to machine-sew three suede coats (!) that somebody had ordered through the boutique. That was some heavy duty sewing! And she could have done with an industrial machine.

Anyway, with all that going on in the house we all grew up sharing the dining room with a steady stream of extravagant wedding dresses, colourful and modern ‘duster coats’, skirts, shirts, trousers, jackets and those fitted satin and silk ‘cocktail dresses’ that were so popular with the like of her aspiring middle class and fashion conscious customers throughout the nineteen fifties and the early sixties.

I was the eldest of six kids and my dad was a coppersmith who worked for British Rail. So we didn’t have a lot of money and mum did her very busy bit, and enjoyed doing things for her kids and expressing her creativity at the same time, by making most of our clothes. The result was that, while we lived in a very ordinary council estate in a Northern steel town, me, Teresa, Jen, Helen, Chris and Dawn all grew up wearing beautifully made and, as we became fashion conscious teenagers, more-and-more original clothes that were the envy of our friends.

Once we were teenagers we used to put in ‘orders’ and get mum to make us all the latest fashion items of our dreams before they appeared in the shops. And I was the eldest so I was first! I wish I had the photos to show you a grey collarless ‘Beatles’ suit she made me in ‘63 or the mustard coloured heavy wool jacket, V-necked and collarless again, that I used to wear with a black hand-made shirt she finished with white hand stitching around the collar when I was 15. (worn with black sharp-creased trousers and white patent leather ‘chelsea’ boots with zips – oh yes! I loved those boots!).

My tastes became even more far out as I realised that mum actually loved making my teenage fashion dreams come true. She obviously got a real buzz out of making things for us and us having things that the other kids had only ever seen in Carnaby Street photos or on that new-fangled black and white TV that we all had once it got round to the 1960s.

When I was seventeen or eighteen she made me a wonderful three quarter length double breasted Edwardian coat/jacket in dark green heavy woollen ‘broadcloth’. I loved that coat! It was copied from one I’d seen George Harrison wearing in a photograph. And a year or two later my teacher training college student friends might well still remember the patterned peacock blue, full length satin caftan with bell bottomed sleeves and belted waist that I used to roll up in on Saturday nights while we jumped up and down to the likes of The Small Faces and Jefferson Airplane.

So it was all my mum’s fault! Not only did she give me ‘permission’ from a young age to wear unusual and colourful clothes but she passed on some of her wonderful appreciation of visual textures, interesting and unusual colour combinations and luxurious feely-touchy textiles to all six of us kids.

Anyway, long story short, fifty years on, when I saw the amazing colours and unique fabrics that my talented friend, Julian at Pacho Clothing is using to make his customised and original clothes I was instantly interested. And when I came to appreciate that the things he was making were well finished and nicely detailed I thought it was about time to encourage his creativity and buy one.

So now I have an original Pacho Clothing shirt, made for me by Julian, and all I need is the opportunity to wear it without disturbing the peace.

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