So there I was giggling my way through "The Women of Punch" (1961) when I came across the following article and it got me thinking: should housewives wear a uniform?
By Hazel Townson.
Why can’t housewives wear a uniform? People who cook, nurse, wait at a table or run up and down bus stairs can have one; but a lass who does the lot is left to Cinderella’s rags.
No use to say a housewife doesn’t need a uniform. Can you think of a single hospital matron who would fall down helpless if she didn’t wear a silly, frilly cap? As for those diminutive squares of waitress white above the bely, what self respecting wife would hope to keep her Empire bosom free from flying porridge oats with that?
All right then, so these people wear their outfits for the look of it. Does no-one care how housewives look? Surely a doorbell-ringer faced some some cold a.m by two odd carpet slippers, a pair of patched men’s trousers, a matted sweater and a curling pin stabbed turban will feel some kind of reaction? Especially if he called next door and saw that flighty bit still in her airline hostess rig. And what about the children? Must they grow up with memories of Mummy as a tottering indoor scarecrow who would cut their outgrown gym slip tops into bolero jackets for her winter days?
"All right for people in authority," you say. "One has to know who is the usherette, the launderette, and so on." Well, one has to know the housewife too. It’s no use trying to sell a vacuum cleaner to a visiting penniless aunt or a baby sitter. and the folks in the shops who stick to another twopence on the bacon when you slam your Bentley door could just go right ahead and take it off again before your very serge-and-shiny buttons.
Besides morale, a uniform would give us hierarchy, competition, pride. Stripes for proficiency would soon abolish all those sketchy shepherd’s pies and lazy push it under the bed routines. We should even dust the table legs and disinfect the Hidden Bend, and think what that would do for the health of the nation!
I can visualise a smart serge frock in navy blue or black (which wouldn’t show the dirt), with 15-denier bilberry-stain nylons and flat black shoes (with attachable stiletto heels for shopping). And of course an outoor cloak (to shield our favorite brand of breakfast cereal from prying eyes) and a jaunty cap with the Good Housekeeping Institute Seal of Guarantee for a badge. We might throw in as part of the uniform a basket on a walking stick and wheels, since girls who clean telephones have suitcases and midwives, chubby holdalls.
There are drawbacks of course. shoplifters would be far more difficult to catch, and highly polished floors would break more legs. But think of all the benefits!- the tidier streets, the richer rag-men, the disappearance of housemaids knee (for of course we shouldn’t want to keep on kneeling in our nylons). And a fortune saved by husbands on that recurring item, "Just a little thing to wear around the house."
So Ok, I can’t see any of us pulling on our bilberry-stain nylons and a jaunty cap, but I can kind of see the reasoning behind it: I am envious of my working friends with their wardrobes full of "work-clothes" and yep, getting ready for work, or at least putting on a uniform of sorts does mean you are ready for anything doesn’t it? So I wear my own version: black trousers, a black top and a pinny, but even so occasionally I feel drab, so recently, inspired by the Mars Campaign "Get Dressed Up For Work!" (where a pretty girl goes to work in a greasy spoon cafe in a rather divine vintage 50’s party dress), and indeed Darla Shines’ "Happy HouseWives", I’ve been adding a little bit more lip gloss than usual, adding one too many necklaces, and a pair of gold hoops (Bling!) and all of a sudden finding myself up for a fight when the window cleaner tries to overcharge me and the yummy mummies at mums and tots push in front of me in the tea and biscuit queue…
I’d be dangerous in a party dress.