Pauline is a 89 year old women from Burnham-On-Sea in Somerset. She grew up in the seaside town of Weston-Super-Mare and I wanted to interview her to see what she thought of the fashion industry in her youth in Weston. As a member of the public I wanted to know her opinion on whether there was pressure on girls to be a certain size or shape and whether this lead to the extremes of dieting that it has done today.
According to Pauline the majority of girls wore a size 36″ bust (which today would be a size 12). ‘The ideal we were always told was that your bust and your hips would be the same size and your waist was 10 inches smaller. So you would be 36 – 26 – 36.’
Although she always worried about her bottom and felt this was larger and disproportionate to her figure she never took it too seriously – choosing outfits such as her ‘swagger coat’ to cover it up. She didn’t know anybody that suffered from an eating disorder, nor anyone on a diet. Due to the onset of the war, people were happy with what they received and ‘didn’t get thin on rations as we were eating the proper stuff, so nobody was very thin, we were all a reasonable size.’
Pauline commented that they always ate a big breakfast and wanted to eat their main meal at lunchtime, but if this wasn’t possible they would have it in the evening instead. The other meal would be sandwiches, cake or something light. They didn’t snack and eat unhealthy like a great deal of the population do today, according to Pauline this meant ‘everybody looked the same, you didn’t notice that some were fat and some were thin.’
Overall from interviewing Pauline it was clear that there was no-way near the kind of the pressure there is today on the youth to be a certain size. People seemed to appreciate what they had and wore what looked best on them, ‘you just always wanted to look nice, so I would buy things thinking about what would suit me best.’
Whether this was because of the war, and the fact that society was grateful for the food and clothing they received, or whether we have just become a down-right greedy nation it’s unknown. The only fact is that society has changed and in this context, not for the better. To think that in the 30s and 40s you didn’t have to worry about how you looked in relation to the ‘ideal’ that you’re never going to match up to is a breath of fresh air – I just wish we still lived with an attitude like that today!