The Colour Collaborative : August ~ Vintage


Once the word vintage referred to a time only dimly remembered by one's grandparents, a time before electricity, indoor plumbing and motorcars. Now it not only refers to my own childhood but more alarmingly now includes the 1980s and one day, sooner than you think, it will refer to now.

I was born in 1965 when life was very different. We were still using old money and everything was Better. Except there was no internet. Or cheap wine. Women were paid less than men, racist jokes were considered ok, and it was illegal to be gay. So not really better at all. There was colour though, lots of strong colour, and girls were allowed colours that weren't pink or purple or sprinkled with glitter. Girls' clothes and toys were multi-coloured, bright and bold.

Red and black are the colours I remember best from my childhood. Red and black in the form of everyone's favourite beetle the ladybird.

There were the books of course. Four and half inches by seven, costing 2/6 with their brightly coloured spines and backs and colourful illustrated covers Ladybird books were familiar companions to the nation's children throughout the 60s and 70s.





For those of you wishing to wallow in nostalgia I heartily recommend this book . Absolutely packed with fabulous colourful illustrations from ladybird books.


Childhood in the 60s and 70s certainly wasn't drab.

It was technicoloured.


There was another Ladybird in my childhood. Ladybird clothes. We had a Ladybird shop on our high street (a high street, incidentally, exactly like the one in Shopping With Mother) from which my mum would buy clothes for my brother and myself.

All my underwear came from the Ladybird shop; white pants and vests* with the embroidered Ladybird label in them with its loopy L. You needed nice underwear if you were aged between 4 and 7 in the early 70s because you had to do PE and music and movement lessons in your vest and pants.We also got lacy white knee socks and coloured tights from there. My mum was very keen on coloured tights for little girls.

One of the most famous of the Ladybird advertising graphics features two children "checking the label"
click image for link 

When I was in the reception year at school mum often sent me to school in an outfit bought from the Ladybird shop which consisted of black tights, a black polo neck jumper and a red tunic. My teacher, Miss Jeans, used to say that if only I had black spots on the back of my tunic I would look just like a ladybird. Then one day the school had a fancy dress competition and my mum knew exactly what I should go as.
She sewed  a little black cap, which buttoned up under the chin and covered my hair and ears. She attached black pipe-cleaner antennae on the top, she embroidered a bold black line down the back of my red tunic and appliqu√©ed big black spots on either side of the line. With my black tights and jumper I was a perfect ladybird. Off I went to the fancy dress competition and won first prize. It may well have been my mum's proudest moment as a mother, if only there had been such a thing as the internet and blogging in 1970 what a great blogpost the ladybird costume would have made. Never mind, I am blogging it now but I do wish we had a photo. Suffice to say I looked pretty damn cute in my red and black.


*Translations for North American readers
A vest is an undershirt I think. It's a sleeveless top worn as underwear particularly by children. What you call a vest we call a waistcoat.
A jumper is a sweater and a tunic is a jumper. A polo neck is a turtle neck.
Reception year is the first year of schooling for 4 and 5 year olds.



What is The Colour Collaborative? All creative bloggers make stuff, gather stuff, shape stuff, and share stuff. Mostly they work on their own, but what happens when a group of them work together? Is a creative collaboration greater than the sum of its parts? We think so and we hope you will too. We'll each be offering our own monthly take on a colour related theme, and hoping that in combination our ideas will encourage us, and perhaps you, to think about colour in new ways. We're excited by where this might take us, click on the logos below to find out!

Comments

  1. Wonderful. My 2 girls were born in the 70's and grew up with Ladybird books. I still have a huge collection of them in the attic and my grandchildren love to go up there to choose a few to bring down to read. I. too, dressed them in Ladybird undies. I remember going to the Ladybird shop in London with my eldest, aged just 2, to buy her first 'big girl pants' before we moved to Germany. I bought 1 dozen pairs, and regularly ordered more to be sent out to me as she grew out of them. They saw great service as they were always passed on to my youngest, and then got passed on to my niece. Because they were cotton, and boilable, they stayed brilliant white right up to the day they were confined to the rag bag, unlike today's modern nylon counterparts.

    Thanks so much for this trip down memory lane.

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  2. No picture at all? I'd love to see you as a ladybird ;)

    Brilliant post Sue ... I'd forgotten all about the underwear! But Not Shopping with Mother and On the Farm ... those were my favourites :)

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  3. What a lovely post, Sue. I always love seeing your Ladybird books - I remember some of them from my own childhood, especially the Elves & the Shoemaker. I grew up in the 1970's, and my family owned (and lived in, 2 up, 2 down, with an outside loo and no bathroom)the newsagent shop on the high street, next door to the Cobler and Butcher, across the road from the very pretty Post Office. The high street of my childhood sadly disappeared when the local council decided on building a bypass around the town. My dad lost his shop as a result, and family life as I knew it changed completely. My dad went off to work miles away for a big distribution company, so I hardly ever saw him. My aunt had worked in the shop, together with my mum and dad, and my grandmother would come and help look after my brother and me. Even though I was only quite young, I can remember everything, even down to where various sweets were stocked. Very happy childhood memories :0)

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  4. We call them singlets in Australia! I remember those books from my teaching days!

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  5. What a wonderful post Sue, you've stirred so many childhood memories. I had my own little collection of Ladybird books, but the school collection was wonderful and how I loved it when I had worked through the different levels of the reading books and I could go and choose my next story.

    I was born in 1960 so we have lots of similar recollections, of course in the cold of Winter I had to wear a 'liberty bodice' over my vest, I remember lots of little buttons down the front, but a distinct feeling of cosiness. PE time at school definitely meant lots of little children running round and skipping in vest, pants and bare feet, something that would never be considered today, when little PE outfits and trainers must be purchased and worn as part of the school uniform!!

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    1. I was born in 1981 and a lot of this is familiar to me! Particularly prancing about the hall in PE and music and movement with bare feet and stripped to our knickers. We never kept our ladybird vests on, even aged 11!

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  6. I didn't grow up in this country... but what a great post! Loved it.

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  7. Lovely memory stirring post - although I am older I remember some of the things you mention and it brought back memories. I went to a fancy dress party once as Off the Ration which was the year sweets came off ration so must have been 1953 when I would have been 9!!!

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  8. I have just popped over from your childhood board on Pinterest to this childhood post! I am sorry to say I have commented on lots of your pins with far too many exclamation marks. I got a bit over-excited...
    I am also sorry not to be looking at a cute little ladybird girl from the 1970's. Miss Jeans reminds me of Miss Honey in Matilda. She has a perfect name for reception teaching.
    Ax

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  9. I was born in the seventies, and grew up in a different country - but hey, we had books back then that were not a million miles away from those pictured in your post. If I recall correctly, the imprint was called "Squirrel Library" (Biblioteka Vjeverica), and they were utterly fabulous.

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  10. This post immediately made me think of my most prized possession in 1978---a lady bug record player....all you had to do was take off the lid (its wings) and there was your turntable. So cute.

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  11. I had ladybird books in the 1940s too, so much better than Enid Blyton's books.

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  12. I remember Ladybird books and Ladybird clothes and doing music and movement ( which I loved!)in vest and knickers. Thank you for a lovely post.

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  13. Sue, since I am twenty years older than you, lots of my remembered childhood bits are very vintage. By the time 1965 came along, I was a young adult, enjoying all the newness of the 60's! Those years certainly seemed very modern to me.

    Your Ladybird reminiscences are charming, particularly your mom's clever costume creation for you.

    xo

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  14. Ah yes, I remember Ladybird books and doing PE in my knickers. It has all come screaming back to me.

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  15. I've been groaning at what counts as 'vintage' for years now. It does seem to have been a much simpler time to have been young, though. Internet and instant communication does not seem to be doing the young many favours at the moment.

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  16. What an enjoyable post! Especially the tale of the little ladybird Sue, a fine moment for your mother indeed. I too loved those books. I remember I have the Elves and the Shoemaker too and a Cinderella one, which I poured over time and time again. The pictures of her dresses were enchanting to me, I used to stare at them for ages.

    S x

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    1. Oh Cinderella's dresses! She had three because the ball was a three night event. Blue, pink and white for the last night. Sigh.

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  17. That was fascinating. You were born in the decade before I was, but life looks quite different for you. It's interesting that you had PE in your underwear; can you imagine the scandal today? I actually think it makes sense though, you could probably move around more easily and kept cooler too.

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    1. Also less stuff for small children to lose and less laundry.

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  18. Lovely, lovely post, Sue...with much I can relate to even tho' I grew up in the US. And thank you for allowing the light to finally dawn upon the "polo-necked" sweater. My mind would always stumble over that in a Rosamunde Pilcher book as I tried to imagine a *sweater* with the sort of neck I see on the shirts that polo players wear. My brain thanks you in advance for the next time I come across that description!

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    1. My pleasure. One of the things I like about reading American or Australian books is the unfamiliar terminology. I was disappointed to hear that many of the British terms in the Harry Potter books have been translated by Scholastic for the American market -surely reading about jumpers and rubbish bins is part of the charm of reading a book set in a different country? It's fun to work out what they all mean.

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  19. I grew up in Canada, but being born in 1961 and in a former British colony means a lot of my childhood was very similar to yours. Such nostalgia. Yes, so many things were worse then as well as all the things that were better. But why couldn't we have kept the good things while getting rid of the bad? Why is any change at all considered to be progress?

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  20. Anonymous6:00 pm BST

    Charming post; fun for an American to compare what we have in common and what is unique to the UK. Regarding colors, I am terribly sick of pinkpinkpink with glitter on top. Refreshing to see the red, black and other bold colors in your post. I'm intrigued by the Ladybird books, which I've never seen, even though my two oldest brothers lived in the UK when young (one born there). We still have some old children's books from there, but I don't remember these--maybe too old for them, though we had some Rupert books, which fascinated me. The Ladybirds offer a fascinating time capsule of times gone by.
    Which brings me to the question, what do you do with old children's books once your children have outgrown them? Pitch them, donate them or keep them? Some? All? I can't bring myself to get rid of my son's, and included in them are books from my childhood. DS knows he's going to inherit them, but I feel guilty burdening him with such a huge pile (hundreds and hundreds). I could only save the best of the best, but then I look at these Ladybirds, which were not really meant as heirloom books, and I think what a treasure they are. I think the American equivalent, roughly, are Little Golden Books. I still poke through them at book sales because the "vintage" ones are so charming.
    With the advent of digital books, will there even be printed children's books in the future? Does this make our childhood books that much more valuable?

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    1. Interesting question. I kept a few of my childhood favourites but not many. I'm not a collector and don't like to be burdened with too much stuff. I've kept more of my children's books because I like the pictures and look through them quite often. Shirley Hughes' books are particular favourites.

      I am convinced that there will always be printed children's books. I think despite the growing popularity of digital books people will always want and appreciate printed books.

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  21. I was born in the 1950's but have many similar memories - except we had navy blue thick cotton pants for school with fleecy cotton lining! (at least I escaped the liberty bodice which my older sister had). Long white socks were a wonder when they appeared in the shops, up till then girls had long fawn socks and boys grey. Only ankle socks were white. I had alovely red ladybird dressing gown with ladybird shaped buttons - and lots of Ladybird books. I've started buying them again at fleafairs for granddaughter.

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  22. But do you remember the excruciating boredom of Dick and Dora reading books? I was reading Little Women at home (no Harry Potter etc or even Roald Dahl then) but you weren't promoted to a new reading book at school until the teacher had heard you read bloody Dick and Dora, one sentence a day ... how I would have enjoyed Hogwarts!

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    1. Mary my school used the Rainbow reading scheme in which you progressed from red books through all the colours of the rainbow and then rainbow striped books. Finally you made it to hardback silver and gold books. I still remember the thrill of reaching gold books.

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  23. I am 10 years older than you, so I have done all of those vintage and reto-nesses in my own lifetime, including those Liberty Bodices mentioned above (with the squidgy rubber buttons) that went over our singlets in winter. Until you said this, I hadn't thought about how much less restricted in colour the 1960s were. I loved my Ladybird books that perfectly fitted my hands. I always thought that the Ladybird books must have made the Ladybird clothing. The arrival of Ladybird clothing for our family in New Zealand was the most exciting thing. In the early 1960s, this was my first experience of bought clothes (Mum sewed everything for the girls in the family). We borrowed a Ladybird catalogue and pored over it with great excitement. The wait took forever - about 3 months to get our order which we picked up from the Customs offices. In the first parcel, I got a dark brown fine rib polo shirt with a jazzy patterned gold/orange/yellow gathered skirt and a navy swimsuit. I also remember the underwear (the end of Liberty Bodices for us) and coloured tights, a first for little girls in my town. Mum made my sister and I black and white houndstooth shifts and we wore raspberry red polo necks under AND our red tights. NOT as cute as ladybirds. If only we'd known!

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  24. I loved the Ladybird books. I am older than you but there are still a lot of similarities in our childhood. I notice you favour Shirley Hughes and her books were a great favourite with my children, too.

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  25. What a great evocation of those times. I was still able to by Ladybird clothes for a short while from Woolworths for my children. Not only did we do gym (and eurythmics because it was a Froebel school) in our knickers but we had matching gingham knickers for the summer dress with a pocket for our hankies!

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  26. I loved (love) Ladybird books though they have to be the original - the ones I grew up with. I guess you are right though - the 80's are purely vintage now...but it only seems like yesterday.

    Nina x

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  27. Wonderful! I'd forgotten about Ladybird clothes, but you've brought them all back, Sue.

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  28. Thank you so much for this little trip down memory lane. I was born in Australia, but lived for a time in Suffolk during the 70's. I remember the ladybird books, I have just one tatty one from my childhood, which I treasure as they are rare in the U.S where I live now. I DO remember the rainbows reading system!!! Oh I can feel the excitement of reaching the gold books.

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  29. Love your memories of childhood! I also loved Ladybird books and wrote about my own collection a while ago, hope you don't mind me linking to it: http://www.notsupermum.com/2013/03/my-collection-of-vintage-ladybird-books.html

    I had been explaining to my daughters how much I'd loved the Ladybird fairy tales and decided to start collecting them, it took me a while to get all of them but now I have the complete set. I'm now collecting some of their history books.

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  30. Fabulous trip down memory lane Sue! I also grew up on Ladybird books and clad in Ladybird-brand clothes - no fabulous ladybird fancy dress costume sadly though! I still have some ladybird buttons saved from a series of Ladybird dressing-gowns in my button box and Shopping With Mother, Smoke And Fluff, The Green Umbrella and The Little Red Hen (which for some reason particularly resonates in my current life!) all still happily inhabit my bookcase. I like revisiting these old friends - they make very cheering escapism at the end of a stressful day! I recommend keeping childhood favourite books for this reason alone - easy childhood nostalgia hits a spot no other can! May just have to acquire a copy of "Boys and Girls"! E x

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  31. If some energetic person were to dress their children up brightly, buy the right sort of pullover for their husband, and recreate scenes from the Ladybird books, wouldn't that make the most magnificent, beguiling blog? I own a yellow dress and will volunteer my family for the 'picnic' photoshoot.

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    1. Fab idea, can anyone provide a red setter?

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  32. What a lovely post, and such nice memories. I remember belonging to the Ladybird Club when I was little!

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  33. I too remember the books and the clothes and the liberty bodices worn with thick navy knickers - the navy knickers always seemed to leave navy fluff all over me!

    Yes, I think the word vintage is maybe used too freely! Recently I saw a Joan Hickson 'Miss Marple' referred to as a 'costume drama'!! Can you believe it?

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    1. Oh no, that's wrong, a costume drama has to have long frocks.

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  34. Ladybird vests always came from Woolworths. As for the books, Snow White and Rose Red was my favourite.

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    1. Snow White had blonde hair and blue skirt, Rose Red had black hair and red skirt. Can't remember anything else about the story.

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  35. I had a few ladybird books. I think what to look for in spring is still on the book shelf in my old bedroom at my parents house.LOL.

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  36. I re-collected a little library of ladybird books when the boys were small - even now, they are still on the bookshelves, because they are so gloriously evocative of my own childhood. Great memories, Sue.

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  37. Sue, this is wonderful. I had that Ladybird book about picnics as a child - I remember it so vividly. I would pore over the illustrations for hours. What a great story about your mum dressing you up as a ladybird, thank you for sharing that with us. x

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