By: Jenny Grainer
THERE SEEM’S to be a great deal of concern at the moment over young girls being too thin. Fashion houses have been asked to vet their models and make sure they don’t employ anyone who is a size zero.
I, personally, don’t know what a size zero is – when I was a young woman Wallis and Miss Selfridge were just starting to introduce a size 10, to my great relief, because all shop bought clothes were far too big for my seven stone frame.
They either had to be taken in, or the dressmaker round the corner would make clothes for me.
In inches, the standard size 12 was 34-24-36 and many girls tightened their belts to nip a 24 inch waist to a 22 or even a 20.
My skinny body, with a miserly 32-18-34, had to be helped along by stuffing cotton wool or socks down my bra and I longed for the kind of padded corsetry that was available to Hollywood movie stars with their artificially rounded rear ends.
In spite of the endless products my mother bought from the chemist to help add weight, nothing worked.
My thin frame certainly had nothing to do with either anorexia or bulimia. I was full of energy and doing classical and modern ballet every day. At 19, I no longer needed the cotton wool, but I would have been utterly devastated if my waist size had passed 20 inches and all my clothes were designed to show my hourglass figure.
Modern dress sizes have maintained the same size numbering, with the addition of a six and eight, but the measurements are totally different. The average woman today is far bigger than we were back then in the 60s and women who say they are a size 12 are, in fact, an old 14 at least. The physiology of manufacturers is obviously: “Keep them thinking they are slim and they will buy more of your clothes.”
Yes, I know that anorexia and all eating disorders are a serious problem, but there have always been thin girls in the fashion industry – it’s the one place they are considered beautiful, because clothes really do hang better on them.
Look at Twiggy, a major icon of the 60s and 70s, and then look at her today. She is still a gorgeous woman and still enviously slim, but with all the right curves for a woman of her age.
Personally I’m far more worried about obesity. Children these days are so grossly overweight that they can’t help but grow up into not only overweight adults, but often actually clinically obese.
When we were kids in post war Britain, we were out of the door and playing as soon as our mothers would let us. I was lucky and had a park nearby and the beach within a mile walk. A bunch of us would take off with a few sandwiches and a bottle of lemonade and run back for our lunch or tea.
We got battered and bruised when climbing and falling out of trees or discovered wonderful treasures on bombed out ruins. Mum washed away the blood with TCP or Dettol and kissed it better. We never had time to get fat unless we were born that way and heaven forbid you were a Billy Bunter because we could be very cruel.
We had no mobiles and very few coppers to spend on public phone boxes to let Mum know where we were and, in any case, who had a phone at home?
We read books from the library and looked forward to getting one of our own at Christmas or on birthdays. We wore dungarees to play in and got cleaned up on Sundays to go out with our parents or be dropped off at Sunday school. Afterwards we would usually sit on a pub step with a packet of crisps before we went home to our family lunch.
We learned from our mistakes and made our own entertainment, without the help of a television set, listening faithfully to our radios when permitted or playing cards and board games.
In my case, my mother took me to dancing classes to wear down my energy which was boundless – must have been that free bottle of milk at school, the cod liver oil and the ration book which controlled our sugar intake.
In all fairness, there are a lot of mothers now who spend hours taking their children to gymnastics, swimming and ballet classes, but very few of these kids have developed a sense of danger, because they are so protected. Then there are the others who spend their lives in front of a screen of one type or another eating, drinking and sleeping under its flickering light. These kids have very little chance of growing into articulate energised people and most of them can hardly speak because they never hold conversations dah.
Are the dangers from perverts really greater? I certainly believe we get to hear about them more, but I also remember the flashers of my youth and I knew about child molestation, but somehow we survived and learned from our experiences. We certainly didn’t get any counselling, but we did have a friendly policeman to run to when we needed him.
I’d hate to be a modern mum and I’m glad I was able to bring my children up here – they enjoyed the same freedom that I once did in England.
What can we do? I don’t know – I only wish I did.