A day to remember
By Richard Sim, Visitor Services Assistant
The National Museum of Costume hosted a crowd-pulling event on Sunday 22 July when it opened its doors to the Fabulous Fifties Day. On a dry but very windy morning the Museum was pleased so many people turned out to visit and take part in the attractions. This year’s special Off the Peg exhibition of Horrockses dresses from the 1940s and ’50s was the main pull, drawing many admiring comments. Staff joined in the fun by dressing up in colourful period clothes, many of them home-made. Perhaps even more gratifying were the arrival of many visitors decked out in 1950s styles, some of them even sporting original Horrockses dresses. Music of the epoch echoed the period theme in the Tea Room where special biscuits, meticulously designed by staff, were on sale.
Older visitors were invited to write down their reminiscences of the period on blue cards and attach them to the main staircase banisters, which in no time were a fluttering sea of blue as the idea proved a hit. So popular was the idea that visitors were still adding their comments a week later. Among the many comments made visitors recalled: “How slim people were”, “All the jiving”, “Having to wear a piece of cloth tied around my neck, soaked in camphorated oil to help my cold”, “Wearing a full skirt with petticoat made stiff with sugar water”, “Frost on the inside of windows”, “Going to the ‘steamie’ to do washing”, “Making skirts on Saturday afternoons for the Saturday night dance.”
Lucy Adlington of The History Wardrobe was at her entrancing best: in her ‘costume in context’ performance she depicted ’50s woman as a “Domestic Drudge transformed into Domestic Goddess” with characteristic humour. The Bill Fleming Quartet entertained the crowds with a medley of jazz compositions. Steve Brown and Linda Mallet of Lauriston Hall provided jiving sessions, enticing many to give it a try against their initial expectations.
Dress Up and Smile offered opportunities for individuals and groups to be photographed wearing 1950s style clothes! Miss Dixiebelle and her assistants provided an interesting array of ’50s style hair make-overs and tips. Lisa Rothwell ran her ever popular children’s drop-in puppet-making craft workshop.
Children had a puzzle in each room on the theme of How much is that Doggie in the window? (a popular ’50s song) and older adults were invited to search their memories for answers to questions about famous programmes and personalities of the fifties – all devised by National Museum of Costume staff.
Why should the children have all the Fun?
By Janet Slade, Visitor Services Assistant
There are always fun things for children to do when they visit National Museum of Costume, but our recent Fabulous Fifties Day provided a chance to offer a fun activity to a different age group. Those visitors who remembered the 1950s were invited to tackle our 1950s Trivia Quiz and also to record their own reminiscences of that era.
We set the activity up so that visitors would see it on their arrival, and it was interesting to see how they approached it. When a family group arrived, the children, assuming the quiz was for them (naturally), would pick it up and then – realising that they could not do it – hand it over to parents – usually also unable to do it – and finally to grandparents – success!
The older generation was clearly pleased to have their cherished memories valued, while the curiosity of the younger generations was aroused, with great family discussions taking place. Altogether it made for a truly family event and gave us an approach which we might be able to develop in the future.
I might add that several staff members were qualified to make their contributions too – and had a great deal of fun doing so!