Friday, November 30, 2007

Three Smart Girls.

Story contd.

To business that we love we rise betime,

And go to with delight.

Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare

In spite of Spat’s dismay at my jumping the gun and advertising the shop before the premises were ours, we were thrilled when he told us that Mr Cartier had accepted us as tenants and the second floor was ours. During the next week we had five replies to our third partner ad and when we saw Jan walking up the path of Mary’s house we both knew she was the one. She was younger than us, petite with short brown curly hair and a slightly worried expression which vanished when a smile lit up her face and revealed her sparkling white teeth.

She told us she was married and although they had hoped for children it hadn’t happened. She had worked in offices all her life and had lots of book keeping experience but felt like a change and would be happy to be working part time. She had beautiful pink painted nails I remember. Over a cup of tea Mary and I exchanged one of our looks which meant we both were agreed and to snap her up at once ignoring the usual. ‘We’ll be in touch.’ How right we were.

The next week-end we were all at the shop – as we now called it – the three of us and our families – some painting, some amusing the children; fortunately there was a park close by. Even Mary’s old father came along and stuck an axe at the top of the stairs – in case of fire, he said. I never did work out what we were to do with it but fortunately the need never arose.

We had just one hanging rail to start with and almost enough clothes to fill it. The main room looked a trifle bare so Mary – who was quite artistic, filled the gaps with large flower arrangements. She persuaded me to join her in classes and I discovered the fantastic arrangements I did fell over when I took my hands away. Mary and I opened the shop at 9.30am having taken our children to school and then Jan relieved us at 3pm when we picked the children up from school. The intention was for Mary and I to do two days each whilst Jan did the late afternoons and we took turns with Saturday.

It was only necessary for one person to be there in those very early days but Mary and I were there most days, in the first flush of new love. One day I was hanging out of the window feeling rather like the ladies in Amsterdam must do, wondering how I could entice shoppers to come up and see me, when, to my horror I saw someone trying to get into my car. In those days one could park in the High Street all day. I tore down two flights of stairs, rushed up to the man and said.

‘What are you doing with my car?’

‘I’m trying to stop it rolling down the High St, ducks. You must have left the hand brake off and when I moved my van it started to roll.’

Embarrassing but at least I learned to always leave the car in first gear from then on.

We had fun thinking up ads in the local paper to announce the various school uniforms we were gradually stocking. This resulted in a visit from a rather pompous head master who told us that his school didn’t need any advertising and would we desist. Did he think we were doing it for his benefit? We had started selling all sports gear, lacrosse and hockey sticks and cricket bats etc. Then we discovered that he owned the sports shop opposite to us. In the end we decided that a bit of healthy competition was no bad thing and carried on.

We worked like beavers – spreading the word – our Beauty Counsellor experience proved very useful. The big problem was to overcome the snobbishness regarding second-hand clothes. Somehow we had to convince people it was the smart thing to do. That meant that the shop should always be pristine and the clothes immaculate. Much easier said than done when someone would bring in clothes on a hanger, swathed in polythene, with a cleaner’s ticket pinned to it and when one examined the garment it would be grubby and obviously has never been near a dry cleaner. The trick then was to tactfully say; unfortunately the cleaners haven’t made a very good job of it and advise them to complain. Mary was much better at this than I was, with my Lancashire frankness, but I learned - the hard way.

"The shop's great - if it weren't for the ****** customers"

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sweaters and Stuff
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Chit chat.


Its sweater time and I was annoyed to discover that one of my good ones had poky bits over the shoulders even though they had been on a hanger protected by unused shoulder pads. So I am reverting to my old method of hanging out to dry by using tights. Thread the tights through the neck of the sweater – the waist at the neck and the feet through the sleeves. You can then peg the sweater on the line without touching it – by pegging the waist and feet of the tights. I’m also reverting to my old way of packing them- simply rolling them in tissue paper. This last week-end I took a holdall instead of a suit-case so it was the only way to do it - and it worked.

Today is the birthday of my dear friend Margaret. We make a point of inexpensive gifts and I had given her some special biscuits and a pretty sparkly little box. She phoned this morning to thank me but was most thrilled with the wrapping paper. One of MTL’s present was wrapped in this pretty and tactile paper so I recycled it. Apparently it had an oriental design which is very apt as her daughter is even now in China to collect her new adopted daughter. Margaret is making a keepsake book for the little girl to see when she is older and has included some of the paper. I’m delighted at such a happy accident.

I was not so delighted this morning when I took my brand new, frighteningly expensive glasses out of their pink shiny case and felt a razor sharp edge on the hinge. They are beautiful, light as a feather and I had decided they were worth the expense but now feel upset that they should be flawed so soon. I have a silver compact mirror which developed the same fault and in spite of various fiddlings it has never been right. This is much more important. Of course I have taken them back and await developments. Fortunately my old ones are still useable.

On another grumpy note has anyone else had problems with site meter lately? I have been without for three days and missed it. It’s always nice to know that lots of people pop in even though they don’t comment and it feels quite lonely without it. Normal service is now resumed but I’ve lost those three days for ever.

‘We are having problems with the people who service your account’.

Whatever that means.

I’d like to end on a cheerful note so here it is: doh!

Monday, November 26, 2007

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This is the hotel in Hatch Beauchamp near Taunton, where we spent our 28th wedding anniversary. The original building dates back 200 years and used to be called ‘Templemore’- no-one knows why or when it was renamed ‘Farthings’. A farthing is an old coin of the realm and I think two made a halfpenny, so clearly there were four in an old penny. The farthing was first made in 1279 on the orders of King Edward. He ordered a round farthing to replace the practice of giving change by cutting a silver penny in half to provide change in pennies or cutting it into four to give change in ‘four things’ or farthings.

It is an elegant Georgian building on a quiet road which used to be the main road. There are large grounds with lots of unusual species of birds or fowl. The weather was cold but sunny so we wandered round the grounds and admired the turkeys.

‘Are they for Christmas?’ we asked a lady who was putting fresh plants into the many pots.

‘I don’t think they will be able to eat them - they talk to them.’

The hotel was warm and welcoming with fires and comfortable furniture. MTL had done the booking and we were in a Master bedroom – named ‘Garden’ – which was one of the nicest rooms I remember. Perhaps because it was November we got an good deal but I maintain it‘s because the booking was made by a man.

After an excellent dinner we chatted to two Welsh ladies – a mother and daughter. The daughter shared my love of mountains and told me of a haunting book ‘Menlove Edwards’ by Jim Perren which I didn’t know of and in return I told her of two of my favourites –‘The Last Blue Mountain’ by Ralph Barker and ‘The White Spider’ by Heinrich Harrer which have always fascinated me.

The next day the weather was bitter so we had a super breakfast to try to nail the rest of the Christmas shopping in Taunton. By lunch time it was done but neither of us could face lunch so we went to one of the many coffee shops that have sprung up (I blame ‘Cheers’). I had my sunglasses on – in spite of the rain- and managed to read that a cappuccino was £1.80 for a regular and more for a large. It was all very slick and most of the names were Greek to me so I very carefully asked for a regular cappuccino. Then another chap asked for £2 or whatever.

‘Why isn’t it £1.80 like it says on the wall?’

The whole place froze and everybody stared at me as if I had just kicked a cat.

Of course it was explained that (as it said on the notice but I hadn’t spotted it) there were two prices – one for taking away and one for drinking in. Was my face red? MTL was highly amused. You can take the lass out of Lancashire…

One of the nicest rooms I remember

Lots of light and space.

Tea for two.

Through the door our entrance hall and bathroom
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One of the dining rooms. We were on the left and the Welsh ladies on the right

Warm and comfortable.

The animals looked so happy and rushed towards us.

I love window seats and there was a teddy to look after us in our room.
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Mr Smarty pants and his harem

If this were America this little lot would be 'late' turkeys.

Little black ducks - so pretty.

Dreaming of a White Christmas. I'm sure he's safe.
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Friday, November 23, 2007

Another Anniversary!

Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance.

Jane Austen 1775-1817


I know some of you must think I am a serial anniversaryist (and if that isn’t a word it is now) but this one – 23rd of NOVEMBER is bona fide our 28th wedding anniversary.

Sadly it’s not a pearl or diamond one - just orchid. However we are going to a new hotel to us - Farthings – on the other side of Taunton and MTL thinks it will be good. Just for one night only. More later:)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Our Very Own Shop

Story contd.

The next day Mary and I were off down the High Street with Ellie’s advice ringing in our ears; our aim – to find premises before the day was out. The first house agent we visited was a charming elderly gentleman who looked as if he had stepped out of Dickens. He was courtly with a pink and white skin, snowy hair and a waxed moustache. He was beautifully turned out with a bow tie, waistcoat and pale grey spats* which even in the early sixties was a rare sight.

We told him what we were looking for – both of us burbling excitedly whilst he regarded us benignly. When we were done he told us to wait whilst he looked at his files and slowly retired to a back room. We looked at each other and sighed, we knew we had to be patient but there was so much to do and we doubted that dear old Spats could ever do anything quickly. Eventually he returned holding a file and looking pleased with himself.

‘Now this may be just what you two young ladies are looking for. Look out of the window. Can you see on that building over there? See the name Berkeley Cartier? That is a gentleman who was an excellent tailor until he retired and he owns the building. As you can see there is still a tailor’s shop on the ground floor, there are offices on the first floor but the second floor is vacant.’

‘Oh please can we go and see it now?’

Spats twinkled at me over his pince- nez*.

‘Well now it’s usual for us to make an appointment first but I can see you are eager to get on. If my assistant is available I will find the keys and he will take you to see the premises.’

I wanted to hug him but restrained myself and Mary and I beamed at each other.

We entered a door on the street - next to the gentlemen’s outfitters; at the top of the stairs was a cloakroom which we would share with the offices at the end of the corridor. Up another flight of stairs were a small room with a window looking out onto a back yard and a large room at the front with two windows looking out onto the High street.

It all needed a coat of paint but the space was great and we were at the smart end of town – on the High Street no less. We hugged each other with excitement.

‘We definitely want it. Can you be sure to tell the old gentleman please?’

The assistant promised he would do so and Mary and I went and had a coffee whilst we planned our next move.

‘OK now we’ve got the premises. We’ve got to have the third partner – not just for the reasons Ellie said but also to help with the rent. If the three of us put in £50 each that should tide us over until we start making money.’

‘Do you think people will be bothered to climb the stairs?’

Mary looked a bit anxious.

‘Of course they will when they see what we have got to offer. The location is excellent and these are young mothers – two flights of stairs won’t bother them in the least.’

We knew none of our friends would be suitable as the third partner as they all had young children and we wanted someone quite free to fit around our commitments.

‘We’ll have to advertise. Let’s work out now what to say and we can drop it into the Courier and it will be out on Friday.’

Mary was used to my ‘do it then it’s done’ maxim so between us we managed an ad which was clear and direct.

Whilst we were in the newspaper offices I suggested we put in a second ad advertising our new shop. It had taken us days to come up with a name that satisfied us both and the sooner we opened the sooner we could start getting financially secure.

‘But we haven’t signed the lease yet’,

‘We know we are going to and this will give us a good start.’

So the second ad announced the advent of our new shop and asked for local school uniform in excellent condition. We learnt later that a local large store were concerned about this and objected to our presence in the High Street but eventually they came round, were quite friendly and even sold us some of their old shop fittings.

Spats however, when we went in to sign the lease looked sternly at me over his pince- nez.

‘I say, you jumped the gun rather, didn’t you?’

* Spats –short gaiter covering instep and reaching a little above the ankle.

* Pince –nez - pair of eye glasses with spring to clip on nose.

Results of ‘Who said (or wrote) that?’



  1. Does it matter? – losing your legs?

For people will always be kind

2 Great God! This is an awful place.

3 We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.

4 Life is short but sweet.

5 If only you small girls would listen to me, I would make of you the crème de

la crème.

6 I come from the haunts of coot and hern,

I make a sudden sally,

And sparkle out among the fern,

To bicker down the valley

7 Heaven cannot brook two sons, nor earth two masters

8 Give me chastity and continence, but not yet.

9 In nine cases out of ten a woman had better show more affection than she


10 Never throw stones at your mother,

You’ll be sorry for it when she’s dead,

Never throw stones at your mother,

Throw bricks at your father instead

11 Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough,

To get it ready for the plough.

12 An actor’s a guy who, if you ain’t talking about him, ain’t listening.


Seigfried Sassoon 1986-1967 wrote #1

Robert Falcon Scott 1868-1912 wrote #2

William Shakespeare 1564-1616 wrote #3

Sophocles 495-406 BC wrote #4

Muriel Spark 1918-2006 wrote #5

Alfred Lord Tennyson 1869-1892 wrote #6

Alexander the Great 356-323 BC wrote #7

St Augustin 354-430 wrote #8

Jane Austen 1775-1817 wrote #9

Brendan Behan 1923-1964 wrote #10

Sir John Betjman 1906-1984 wrote #11

Marlon Brando 1924- 2004 wrote #12


Nea came first with ten correct

Jan came second with eight correct

Sam came third with seven correct

Amy came fourth with four correct

Dandelion came fifth with three correct

Thanks to all participants and well done!

Where were the men?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Game On


If you like words ( and who in Blogland doesn't) click on Auntie M side bar. It's addictive fun and provides free rice.

Monday, November 19, 2007



Wonderful wonderful Eileen Atkins ( to the tune of Copenhagen). Have just watched last night's tape of 'Cranford'; Elizabeth Gaskell's tale of a fictional Knutsford. Pure unadulterated joy with perfect casting. Five hours in all - Sunday nights - 9pm BBC 1. All is not lost.



Time for some more memorable quotes. Just read them for the pleasure or you can opt to match the quote with the author. Gentleman’s agreement that we don’t google or similar. The clues are there. Good luck!


  1. Does it matter? – losing your legs?

For people will always be kind

2 Great God! This is an awful place.

3 We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.

4 Life is short but sweet.

5 If only you small girls would listen to me, I would make of you the crème de la crème.

6 I come from the haunts of coot and hern,

I make a sudden sally,

And sparkle out among the fern,

To bicker down the valley

7 Heaven cannot brook two sons, nor earth two masters

8 Give me chastity and continence, but not yet.

9 In nine cases out of ten a woman had better show more affection than she felt

10 Never throw stones at your mother,

You’ll be sorry for it when she’s dead,

Never throw stones at your mother,

Throw bricks at your father instead.

11 Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough,

To get it ready for the plough.

12 An actor’s a guy who, if you ain’t talking about him, ain’t listening.


Seigfried Sassoon 1986-1967

Alexander the Great 356-323 BC

Robert Falcon Scott 1868-1912

St Augustin 354-430

Muriel Spark 1918-2006

Marlon Brando 1924- 2004

Sophocles 495-406 BC

Brendan Behan 1923-1964

William Shakespeare 1564-1616

Sir John Betjman 1906-1984

Alfred Lord Tennyson 1869-1892

Jane Austen 1775-1817

Have fun!

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Penultimate part of the Coleridge Way


# 1 son thought we should run the last two stretches together but it was meant to be the most difficult part and I felt 6.3 miles was probably enough in one go for me. Wise decision. It was a beautiful day and we left in two cars and drove to Webber’s Post which would be the end of today’s walk. Then MTL drove us to Wheddon Cross the start of the walk and left us - to meet up at lunch time. We were going to keep in touch by mobiles and #1 son ran through the motions to make sure MTL could work the phone. Unfortunately he somehow managed to make it silent so there was no communication.

En route we had stopped the car to admire a wonderful mist in the valley which always makes me want to sing-

And when the mist is in the valley,

And when the clouds are holding still,

If you’re not there I won’t go roaming

In the heather on the hill.

And I get a warm feeling when I know that MTL is there. Soppy date!

Initially the walk is downhill through woods with a ‘tricky steep descent into Mansley Combe. Then a steep climb onto open moor land’ Going down hill is my nemesis as my toe nails come into close contact with my boots in spite of thick socks. We seemed to be endlessly stumbling down narrow rocky gunnels. I probably would have coped quite well but we had lots of streams to ford and on one of them I overbalanced on a loose rock and voila my feet were wet which did nothing to ease the friction.

When we got onto the open moor by Dunkery Beacon all discomfort was forgotten for there was the sight that everybody who lives in this area longs to see: a herd of our beautiful red deer – so shy you can live here for years and never see them. Mind you it was the rutting season and I had been demonstrating a stag’s rutting roar.

Then there were more narrow gullies and my toes were in acute discomfort. I looked across valley and could see the white church of Selworthy and sent up a silent prayer that my ordeal would soon be over. Soon I could see cars in the distance and declared that if that wasn’t our car park I was going to sit down and wait for them to finish the walk and pick me up. Happily it was our car park and MTL was there.

We drove over to Exford and had lunch at the White Horse feeling quite pleased with ourselves. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world in spite of the problem. Now we just have the final three miles which alas is down hill. I’ll have to think of some way to do it without further damage.

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Gentle countryside at frst

Mosaic on the comfort stop at Wheddon Cross

The mist on the meadow
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Endless streams

We think the tree on the left is faux - to mask the aerial

Lots of bamboo but no pandas
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The young - well ahead.

Son's camera - better than mine.

More gullies.
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Two of the walkers

At last - the car park.
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Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Moon from my balcony at 4.45pm today
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Unless I get up at crack of dawn - and I often do these days - Friday's post may well be late. I have to collect new glasses- the price of which MTL is not allowed to know and then a mammogram. I could do it now but I've been house working and washing my hair and need to chill with a Pinot Noir. So later!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A New Venture

Story contd

Mary and I agreed a date to go down to Worthing to visit her old friend Ellie. They had known one another for years and Ellie, whose husband was a master at a renowned public school, had made a nice little earner for herself over the last few years. She had started a shop with a partner, based on the old thrift shops out in Germany, where I think the partner had been an army wife. The idea was you had a shop and accepted children’s outgrown clothes and sold them for the client who then received payment - with a percentage going to Ellie and partner. Basically it was school uniform but as time went on they included all children’s clothes especially ski and riding attire.

Ellie took us to see the shop which was bustling with mothers and children and was obviously providing a deep felt need. Like us they had many schools in the area from prep schools, grammar schools and public schools all of which demanded a uniform. No way was it an old clothes shop – the key was quality and the clothes should be in perfect order and dry cleaned. At half the original price customers realised what a good deal it was and, as I already had discovered, many of them were struggling to pay the fees to educate their children privately.

Over coffee I told Ellie that as both of us had large houses we could have the shop at home and cut out the expense of premises. Ellie was horrified.

‘Are you serious about running a business or are you just playing at it? You have to have premises and run it as a business. And are you sure you can run it together? You are working happily together now but you Mary are working for Pat. Are you planning on being equal partners?’

We assured her we were.

‘Well get yourselves a partnership agreement then.’

It seemed that Ellie and her partner of a good few years were now having difficulties which were beginning to seem insurmountable.

‘It’s when you start being really successful the trouble starts.’

Back at her house she showed us some of the lovely things she had bought recently but she was nervous and worried and I thought what a pity that success had brought two friends to the point of litigation.

It was time to leave as we both had to pick up our children from school. Another thing Ellie had pointed out was that she and her partner were older, with their children off their hands.

‘You need a third partner who has no children. Your business needs to be open normal shop hours and she can do the hours when you have to pick up your children.’

Somewhat chastened we contemplated running a business form 9.30am to 5.30pm, six days a week with a complete stranger. A bit daunting but I could see Mary was as excited as I was. I knew we could do it and couldn’t wait to get started but Ellie had given us excellent advice and we needed to give the whole project a lot of thought.

I picked the boys up from school and after I had given them tea and bathed them there was just time to have supper with William and give him a brief outline of what we planned. He wasn’t sure how I would be able to manage but it was a rehearsal night at the theatre club so we postponed the discussion.

Pete the director worked in television and was often late for rehearsal and I was deputed to be acting director. I really enjoyed this and had bought a whistle to get the cast to quieten down when I wanted to give direction. Much more fun than props and I determined to learn as much as possible about putting on a play. The leading actor Alan Burns was a solicitor and during a break I asked him if he had much dealing with partnership agreements.

‘All the time - in fact if more people had them from the beginning half my work would be cut out.’

I told him what we were contemplating and asked if he would be prepared to act for us and he agreed.

That’s the solicitor sorted now all we needed were premises, a third partner, a name, stock… oh and some capital. No problemo!

Monday, November 12, 2007

A November Jaunt


It wasn’t an official girl’s day out – we were going to Porlock to see a vintage fashion show in aid of the Porlock Museum and the Visitor Centre so it seemed only sensible to have lunch first. The old Red Lion at Minehead has been given a new name – The Quay _ and refurbished. When MTL and I first came to the area we had lunch at the Red Lion and then – for years - sort of mislaid it and couldn’t find it again. It’s all been freshly done, and when I said it was a little sombre Margaret corrected it to autumnal. Anyway we had a very comforting Shepherds pie with lots of vegetables and a large fruit crumble.

Obviously the whole world and his wife were going to the show so we had to park in the public car park which took us past the house where we had the adventure with the very large lady and her tremulous husband. Not a sign of life. We did consider dropping in for coffee but thought better of it.

The village hall was full to bursting and I politely asked if I would be allowed to take photographs. This request was forwarded to the powers that be and finally the answer was a doubtful ’no!’ There were comfortable seats but we were on a wooden form with our backs against an uncomfortable wall. Still we’re British and mustn’t grumble. As soon as the show started there were flashes from cameras right left and centre so I threw politeness to the winds and joined in. I do apologise for the poor quality (serves me right) and my battery ran out before the up- to- date fashion. The vintage ones were the ones with the style however.

By the time it was over we were quite stiff and decided not to join the scrum for tea.

Margaret was excited that – at last – her younger daughter would soon be going out to China to collect her little toddler daughter she and her husband are adopting; Margaret’s son and wife have already adopted a boy and girl from South America.

Jackie is busy reading to a blind lady, a book on old Minehead, but progress is slow as every other sentence the lady reminisces about something mentioned that she remembers. I think it’s great that at 83 Jackie is still doing things for others when she no longer drives and finds the hill a bit taxing. She’s a tough old girl.

The Quay Inn -formerly the Red Lion

The Shepherd's smock is made of heavy linen cut from a single bolt of cloth. The smock is identical on both sides and could be swapped back to front when soiled. The sun bonnet and petticoat are mid 1800. the infant's dress is of fine lawn and pillow lace.

The delicacy of the black lace and jet beaded ball dress of 1890 belie the structure if metal stays, stout fastening and stiff backking. It could stand alone.

Maria Cape's coat and skirt. You can see the audience are neat and tidy.
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In 1910 Maria Cape may well have caught the stage coach in her silk grosgrain coat and panelled black skirt. she was decorated by the Royal Navy for her efforts to ensure that the Fleet had fresh vegetables during WW1
The coach man's cloak was worn on the Minehead to Lynton route. there was much mirth when the luckless coachman's moustache dropped off.

1916 tea dress of fine Brussels lace. the head dress is of fine wired leaves. Anna Hartfield took tea and danced in this dress.

In the 1920's the bosom disappeared and dresses fell straight from the shoulder. This is Margaret Hartfield's beaded silk chiffon
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The New Look at the end of WW2 - black lace and chiffon

Bosoms were back in 1949 - synthetic metllic ball gown - worn to the Hunt Ball

1950 - my era - rayon blouse, full black skirt and fabric flowers. I still have that record- High Society

1960's party wear - metallic jacket and skirt

These were clothes owned and worn by local people.
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