Today I’ve been in an exchange of e mails with a student. I saw her post on the Liberty London page on facebook where she was asking about people’s experience of the store so I sent her this message (see below). My image has to be my charity shop find of a Liberty scarf.
I saw your post on fb about wanting to hear people’s thoughts on Liberty so here are mine – more of a recollection.
I was a child in the 1950s and it really was black & white then (apart from the long golden summers and the white iced winters). Many things were still in short supply after the 2nd World War & fashion for children was unheard of. My mother made my clothes – usually out of hand-me-downs such as grey skirts from my father’s trousers, tops from her old dresses but very occasionally I was given a little gem of a dress. It would be made out of soft cotton and have the most exquisite printed pattern on it – full of colour and detail. I was informed in a hushed tone that I was wearing ‘a Liberty print.’ Of course this didn’t mean anything to me and where the fabric came from I’ve no idea but I loved these rare treasures.
One year, I must have been about 9 years old, the family went to London for a holiday. My mother had been an apprentice at Bradley’s (prestigious fur shop) during the 1930s so knew her way around the area. Although we had next to no money she took me to Liberty to have a look round. I was used to department stores being divided into small areas with steps and archways leading here and there so the lay out of the building didn’t strike me as being quaint – I think there is a greater contrast between Liberty and other stores in the 21st century than back in the day.
The highlight for me was having a drink in the cafe – a real treat of orange juice (NOT squash!) and I recall very glamorous ladies walking round the tables holding large cards in their hands. They were modelling clothes and accessories and the cards detailed the price and the department where they could be purchased from. All very exciting for me!
Since then I’ve been able to spot a Liberty print from a great distance which has stood me in good stead when charity shop buying as I’ve found a couple of beautiful scarves for next to nothing. Whenever I make a trip to London I endeavour to buy some small thing from the store; carrying that small bag still fills me with delight.
Good luck with your degree – hope all goes well for your show.