Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Lark in the Morn by Elfrida Vipont: guest blogger

published 1948 chapter 11







[Kit is going to an important Quaker boarding school]

‘Is it a nice uniform?’ asked Kit anxiously.

‘It’s a very practical one,’ said Laura, ‘though the girls seem to need more clothes than they did in my day. I’m sending you with the bare minimum: so long as your things are good and plain and sensible, they’ll do.’…

She did hope the uniform would come in time. She would hate to arrive looking different from all the other new girls.



The big box from the school outfitters was delivered in the nick of time and it was a great relief when everything was assembled. The uniform looked very neat: grey gym-tunic and blue blouses, grey blazer, grey coat and skirt, grey Harris tweed overcoat, grey felt hat and grey beret. There were grey linen shorts for gym, and a blue silk tunic for Greek dancing. Blazer, hat-band and beret bore the school badge, a white fleur-de-lis on a blue ground.



observations: We have met Kit when she is older in The Lark on the Wing. Like Jassy & Vict in (yes, again) Love in a Cold Climate, Clothes in Books as a child was longing for boarding school, expensive new clothes and rags in the dorm, but alas never went there. So today we have a guest blogger, artist and ceramicist Wendy Wilbraham, who did go to a leading Quaker boarding school, though a good many years after Kit, and who read the book and agreed to tell us about uniform, but starts by saying that they didn’t use ‘thee’ and ‘thou’ like some of the Quakers in the book, but they did have musical evenings of fearsome memory.

Now, uniform:

‘Ours was insufferable.

The skirt was steam pleated from waist to mid-calf...one or two were slim so not so bad but almost all of us went through a stage of being round (and the school food did not help, all that stodge) and steam pleats do terrible things to a girl’s waist. This was miniskirt era, we rolled it up from the waistband with a belt [CiB says: yeah, we did that at state school too] Much later a new skirt was designed - somehow shaped at the hips so it sort of stood out before becoming A-line and we used to tack up the hem (with tacking cotton, easily breakable ) so that should there be a check on the girls’ hemlines mode) we could in an instant pull on the cotton thread and...DOWN it fell to the regulation ‘knee length when kneeling to ground.’

On top – either a cream blouse with ENORMOUS flat collar wings and v necked cardi, OR cream blouse with HUGE peterpan collar and round necked cardi. (My friend Liz sewed the collar and cuffs only to a sweater so she looked as though she was wearing the whole layers when she wasn’t.)’

Living social history.

Laura is interesting because (unlike most adults in children’s books of the time) she is shown as having no redeeming features – Kit never decides that Laura does have her best interests at heart, and there is actually a suggestion in the later book that (while being such a goody goody) she defrauds Kit of her inheritance. For a family member not meant to be a proper villain, that’s quite something – as I said before, I feel Vipont may have had some personal grudges she was paying off here, and it is one aspect of the book that is refreshing – no learning no hugging between these two.


There is more to come on this book.

Both pictures are by Sam Hood (creator of 'Rich People with Dog', yesterday, amongst other images on the blog), and come from the State Library of New South Wales. The four girls are dancing round a maypole, something we looked at on 1st May.

3 comments:

  1. Thanks to both of you for such an interesting look at boarding school life. And I love the descriptions of those uniforms! That trick with the hem is especially neat and clever - thanks for sharing it.

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  2. I too was impressed by my friend's ingenuity - at my school we thought we'd tried everything to make our skirts shorter and still get them past the teachers, but we'd missed that one...

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  3. By looking these pic i remember my mom.pic

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