As soon as we moved to our town I set about finding a good tailor. I was lucky. I stayed with my tailor for many years. She was brilliant- cut, stitching, finish…everything was perfect. She was a very beautiful woman and had a gob on her. She could be incredibly rude but I trusted her. If she told me I would not look good in a certain cut or pattern I would listened to her. She once shouted at my friend that she would look like a barrel in a dress she wanted to have made. She certainly didn’t mince her words.

The only problem with her was that I would have to come for at least two fittings per garment. It was sometimes very annoying as I was extremely busy. But she said that I would give her a bad name if I walked around in ill fitted dresses.

We had almost no access to Western clothes save for shops called Pewex, which were state own. In Pewex you could buy proper tights, nice clothes, Triumph underwear and even proper denim. The shops smelled of luxury. We could only buy there if we could pay dollars, which were very difficult to get hold of.

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I used to buy shoes and cosmetics there and sometimes clothes, too. I remember buying a brown outfit trimmed with yellow. Three weeks later I saw copycats on the streets of our town. I was actually rather pleased about it.

Being a teacher, there were so many occasions to dress up. First of September, Teacher’s Day, International Women’s Day (which was hugely celebrated in Poland), Labour’s Day march, meetings with parents, conferences…All those occasions required new dresses or suits. I was made an educationalist which meant I had to travel around the district tutoring other teachers. Once I was speaking at a conference when I saw two women copying my suit on a piece of paper. It was a huge complement.

I had a friend who had a very good taste and an advantage of having a family in a bigger city. That meant that she was able to get hold of more unusual fabrics. Once I saw her in a beautiful dress and an opera coat. She looked wonderful and I admired her but I also thought “Just you wait”. I was already planning what I was going to have made for a next occasion. It was a very healthy competition.

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I used to have several pairs of what I called “tango shoes” and I guess you would call ’T bar shoes”. I found them very elegant and sensual.

I also had two pairs of glittery platforms, one pair was silver and one pair was gold. I wore them well into 90’s to glam up a simple look. I don’t know what happened with the gold pair but the silver one was damaged by Klara (Ana: it was my puppy dachshund with a penchant for expensive shoes) so I had to throw them away. I really regretted them, they were very Studio 54.

There was a fashion for wigs for a while. All my friends bought them. I wore mine twice. Once for a wedding in my home town. Everyone admired my hair and I didn’t admit I was wearing a wig. My mother told me later that I was positively gossiped about in the town. I was apparently described as a “real lady”. My mother was very proud. I only wore the wig once more. I was terrified that it would fall of my head and make me look ridiculous so I put it in the cupboard and never wore it again.

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I used to go to hairdresser a few times a week. I would have my hair washed and then curl with big curlers. We didn’t know what a blow dry was. I would sit under a big hairdryer waiting for my hair to set. Big hair were in fashion so my hairdresser used a lot of backcombing and hairspray.

Your grandfather was always happy when I spent money on myself and looked good. Even now he tells me to go on retail therapy when I’m feeling a bit blue.


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