Daily Prompt: The fifty bob tailors

Grandmother's sewing machine

One of the jobs my dad had, some time in the 1930’s, was for the fifty bob tailor. I am sure the title is a mystery. It was a shop selling men’s clothing and the attraction was that they couldbuy a suit for only fifty bob which was quite cheap at the time. A bob is a slang word for a shilling which was the currency of England before everything became decimalised and the shlling was abolished, replaced by pence which has absolutely nothing to do with the politician in America, it is just a name.

So dad had a job, He was not a tailor, but a salesman, although when you work in a shop for a few years selling suits and measuring people up for suits you get the hang of it. My dad was always full of stories about his youth and so I grew up knowing what the fifty bob tailor was. He told me that even Joachim von Ribbentrop was a cusutomer, who was the German ambassador in england before the war. I never checked that story, but dad confirmed that it was not fake news. He, of course, bought his fifty  bob suits in one of the West end branches of the shop.

When dad had to buy clothes it was an operation. He would examine every seam, every buttonhole and tell me all the technical descriptions of the suit. It might be double or single breasted, and you got all the information about how the collars were measure out.  I wondered how the shop assistants had the patience with him and dad was only a salesman. Of course he knew the tailors in the shop where he worked and learned the facts of tailoring from them.

I grew up in the East End of London and the area around Whitechapel was mainly jewish. They were the owners of the tailoring workshops. It was called the rag trade, but at the beginning of the 20th centuary many people were employed in their tailoring businesses, machinists mostly – the backbone of the the working class employment industry at that time.

My mum was  a Hoffman presser, learning how to operate the compicated clothes press for the clothes you bought in the shops. My Aunt Lil was a dressmaker. She never bought a dress, skirt or coat, she made her own. She would even make clothes for me when mum asked her, although I was not too keen on that operation. Of course she made great clothes from the material mum bought, but I had to try them on for a perfect fit when she made them. As a kid I did not really have the patience waiting for her to stick the pins in everywhere to get the fit.

I made my own clothes for many years due to the fact that my figure was not tailor perfect. Today I do not bother and my sewing machine lives in the cellar. Now and again I might use it for a small repair job, but otherwise I do not bother.

Daily Prompt: The fifty bob tailors

7 thoughts on “Daily Prompt: The fifty bob tailors

  1. I have my grandmother’s old Singer machine. I think it’s pretty cool since you don’t need electricity to run it and I sometimes think I should get it going and sew things but only things that have straight seams. I used to make my own clothes, too, and I really got over it.

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    • My first sewing machine was without electricity. It was an old one my mother-in-law gave me and that was when I began to sew. It was not electric and had a lever on the side that you pushed with your leg, but I made a few dresses and clothes with it. With time I had enough money for an electric machine and made my own clothes as well as trousers for the boys.

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  2. Garry’s dad and my mother were both tailors. My mother taught me ironing. Not regular ironing, but the careful ironing where you manage to get every tiny fold along the cuff irons perfectly. I loathe ironing — I did my father’s shirts for years as a kid — but I went back to it when i started collecting dolls and had to fix their clothing. i didn’t mind as much doing it for dolls because they never complained if it wasn’t perfect.

    Garry can still iron better than anyone I’ve ever met and continues to iron a knife pleat down the front of his jeans. And he folds so well, everything looks like it just came out of the original wrapper. It is only appropriate that he do the laundry. He CARES.

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    • My mum ironed everything: even underwear and socks, what could be better. I only iron what I have to iron. Mr. Swiss often irons and we do it between us. I have the ironing ready to be done and he often sets up the ironing board and does the ironing. I don’t mind ironing. I made my own clothes for many years, and ironing is part of the job. We had a very good seamstress in our sewing classes and by leaning by watching and doing I was quite good at it.
      My youngest son is also quite good at ironing. He lived on is own for a few years and looked after his own washing and ironing. I have never bothered to teach my oldest, but if I did he would iron as well.


  3. I love sewing my clothes! I had a great class in high school that started me on the journey. One of the things that I sewed in high school was a blue wool cape that I kept for myself. My first husband was from India, so i received some olive colored raw silk. I made my dad sportcoat. I was so proud! Now with my multiple sclerosis, I can hardly cut open a package with kitchen shears. So my sewing days are over. But I sure did love it!

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    • I really began to sew as it was difficult to find something for me as I am quite tall. We had a cloth factory near us and I could buy the material direct which was also cheaper. My prize piece was a dark blue cashmere winter coat that I made for myself MS has many faces. I need a stick when walking for support. I do not have so much problems with sewing, but with writing by hand, so thank goodness for computers.

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