The Blue ‘Twist Dress’
My primary school career was not distinguished. My arithmetic report said ‘slow to grasp new ideas’ and I was even kept down a year at one point. The school finally gave in to the inevitable and let me re-join my contemporaries in the top class. I suppose they thought I would not be much trouble there, quietly not understanding much and lost in my own thoughts. The teacher, who looked a bit like Harold Wilson, liked to read to us in the afternoons. He always chose boys’ stories. ‘King Solomon’s Mines’ seared terrifying images into my mind of the heroes being trapped in the cave with only diamonds ‘to eat and drink their fill of’, and then on escaping, being so hungry they killed an animal and ate its liver, still warm.
The only lesson I enjoyed was painting, even though I just copied the work of a talented classmate, and throughout the autumn painted red and black leaves and mushrooms. While I painted I looked with longing at a beautiful blond boy who sat on the other side of the room, but there was not much chance he would notice me.
The only other thing I remember about this classroom is the music of the Beatles. Not that we listened to it there, but it swept across us, transforming us from 1950s schoolchildren into 1960s teenagers. Before the teacher arrived in the classroom in the mornings there was excited chatter about the latest song and which Beatle was your favourite. I did not own a record player so just had to listen on the radio, but it did not seem to matter.
At around this time, my mother finally gave in to my pleas and bought me a ‘twist dress’. It was blue, with the requisite low waist, straight bodice and full skirt. I danced in this dress in the parish hall at the back of the Church. The music was ‘Telstar’ by ‘The Tornadoes’. It was not obvious how to dance to this – not the Twist, obviously – so I just floated about allowing myself to be carried along by the song’s dreamy melody, and feeling completely happy in my new blue dress. For the first time in my life, I was in and of the moment.
Christina Daniels says
Castlecroft County primary School ..until I moved on 1961 at 11 years of age. I love Maths …because I could just do it I suppose! Also Rounders because I could catch !
Imogen Taylor says
Yes! A twist dress! In my mid- teens I worked part-time as a waitress in order to money for buying clothes and shoes. And I bought a twist dress, as you describe, with a low waist and full skirt. Mine was in a soft brown denim like material with white decoration and I was very pleased with it. Living in the country, my social life revolved around youth clubs in village halls and particularly going to dances where local bands performed. It was here that I learnt to love dancing – and still do. I remember being thrilled to win a twist competition. On one occasion I attracted the attention of the lead singer in a band and I was so excited – nothing came of it. On this occasion I was wearing another of my purchases, a light turquoise blue sleeveless dress, also made in a cotton denim. I sometimes went to dances with my friend Zena, 2 years older than me and disapproved of by my Mother who thought she was a bad influence. The only thing I remember Zena influencing me in was a purchase of high heeled shoes when I was about 14. We did not smoke or drink alcohol. My sleeveless dresses attracted the attention of my employer who reminded me that customers did not want to see my bare (she did not mention unshaven) armpits!
Lyn Thomas says
Innocent pleasures then! And very good that dancing was a joy, and still is. And your post also explores the link between clothes and (nascent) sexuality…