Liberty Bodice

Liberty Bodice

This is a guest post by one of our forum members Antje Ream. 

Many women of a certain age will remember ‘Liberty Bodices’. These were the vests of the day. At the age of 7 or 8 I was not a fashionista, not like so many children today. We had more serious things to do like play doctors and nurses with our dolls or build dens with bed sheets over washing lines etc. All I remember about them was that they kept me warm but more importantly they had EXTREMELY fiddly rubber buttons down the front. Some bodices even had them on the side.

As already mentioned I am of a certain age, but to my surprise one of my bodices resurfaced a couple of years ago when my late father asked if I remembered this ‘cloth’. He had been using it for decades as a shoe polishing cloth.  Although badly stained it was still complete and somehow it set my creative juices going….which meant dad had to find ‘another’ cloth! Sadly the rubber buttons totally dissolved when I laundered it.

Above I’ve started stitching, although I didn’t like it. Nearly two years later and the juices had found the right recipe. I’m sure I’m not alone in this regard. I started to stitch around the stains using different colours and types of stitch, but nothing tooooooo complicated. It helped me remember many happy times growing up.

From my avid explorations and research on (read that as addiction to!) Pinterest I gleaned some useful ideas, combined with input from my EPH (Ever Patient Husband – he is a brilliant hobby painter so has a good eye) and others, I finally completed my slow stitch piece. The last few days were not quite ‘slow’ stitch as I wanted to enter it into a village show. Then came the method of presentation problem.

Using a piece of polished driftwood, I roped my neighbour into helping me create the stand – the night before!

I titled the piece….Polished Childhood. I could say more about the colours and continuous line of stitches but I’ll leave that to your imagination. Unable to replace the original buttons I recreated them by making individually patterned ‘Dorset’ buttons and stitching a comment about the rubber ones as a reminder. Dad would have loved the result and we would both have laughed and giggled at all the memories. Writing this has just made me realize the bodice is a tribute to him (and my still active mum)….totally by chance.

EPH and I arrived at the show just at packing up time….WOOHOO……..a red ticket I will certainly treasure!

Thanks for the wonderful post Antje! I am sure it will bring smiles to the faces of those who remember wearing the same type of bodice.




26 thoughts on “Liberty Bodice

  1. How wonderful Antje that your dad still had your Liberty Bodice after all this time!!! You have created something very special with your slow stitching. As I am old enough to remember wearing such a garment it was lovely to read your post. Well done!!

    1. Thank you Marj. I’ve just found out that the bodice is even older….my mum said I stopped wearing these bodices when I started school! I hope it has brought back some happy memories of that time for you.

    1. I enjoy the concept of re-using things, Karen, but I don’t always have the answers. This one took 2 years for the idea to fully evolve. As I mentioned it was only writing this post that made me realise it’s full importance to me, so I will definitely treasure it as a ‘package’ of happy memories.

  2. First Prize – well done! It took great imagination to rescue the bodice from a shoe-polishing cloth to a beautifully embroidered garment.
    The cleverly devised stand shows it off perfectly.

    1. Thank you. It’s the first time I have entered any work so I was delighted with the result, and the red card is a boost to keep me going.
      I’m glad you liked the stand. Fortunately I had just the right piece of driftwood (and neighbour!).

    1. Hi Jane. I’m glad my story appeals.
      Originally I had thought to work with the stains in a monochromatic scheme, but I’m glad I went with colours.

    1. Thank you Ruth.
      I’m glad my story has resonated with a few members.
      The red ticket….well you know how encouraging that is.

    1. Thank you Sherry. The fabric was fiddly to work for some of the stitches and getting the colours to ‘flow’ was tricky at times….I had to sort the colours out in bright daylight and then stitched in the evenings. I have to admit it is satisfying when something actually turns out like you’ve conjured up in your head.

  3. What a great save, the history and journey to recreate it. The stitching and colors are beautiful. You did indeeed deserve first prize. This is an heirloom to cherish. Thanks for sharing your journey!

  4. What a beautiful piece Antje – and congratulations on your first prize! It was well deserved. Visible mending and upcycling are very much in vogue right now, so maybe that helped get your creative juices going!

    1. I am lucky to be a member of a textile group so I see other members’ work and combined with the infinite ideas offered by Pinterest it finally came about. I,m glad you liked it.

  5. What a great piece. I never would have thought to do it. You have a great imagination. Congratulations on getting first prize. I am not old enough for a bodice but I remember always having an undershirt on when I was small.

    1. Thank you. Like any creative person my head is always buzzing with ideas (I’d have to live to a 1000 to achieve just half of them!) and sometimes my imagination runs totally wild. Trying to bring these ideas into reality is not always a success (I could more accurately call them a learning curve)….Luckily this one did come out just fine.

  6. Thank you Zed. It was slow stitching whilst sitting down of an evening. I quite missed the activity afterwards.

  7. I live in South Texas now but grew up in the north of England, and well remember being fastened into those horrible things every winter, accompanied by cautionary tales from my mother and grandmother about the fate that would befall me if I didn’t wear it. It was worse when I got old enough to dress myself and had to fasten those dreadful buttons that seemed to wiggle out of my
    fingers and contort themselves into shapes that would not go through the buttonholes. Seems ridiculous, looking back, that nothing was done about our lower halves, left to freeze in short skirts and knee socks.
    I came across your article while researching children’s clothing for a questionnaire/ reminiscing activity I’m putting together for Grandparent’s Day in the local nursing home called “When I was Six”, using myself as an example to get things started. I was 6 in 1950, in a different world to these residents. As they say, thanks for the memory, and I’m glad you found a way to turn a pain into a work of art.

  8. Hi
    It is lovely to hear from you & To know that my post brought back ‘fiddly’ memories! Together with thoughts of North England I hope.
    I wish you a good enjoyable Grandparents day & hope you all have lots of laughter reminiscing about your 6 year old lives.
    Thank you for leaving your comment….at the Felting & Fiber Studio we all appreciate the comments we receive & it is wonderful to think that we have reached beyond our usual circle.

  9. I’m a sniff away from 80 and I remember only to well the dreaded liberty bodice I had tantrums every winter when my mum struggled to get me in it, but wore it each year and it served the purpose. Seeing what you have done to your bodice Antje I’m sure the task for my mum would have ended if mine looked like your master piece. Your very cleaver it’s beautifully done. Than you for showing it to all of us.

  10. Oh I do love it when someone brings an older post to my attention.
    And Oh yes I remember liberty bodices and those horrible rubber buttons. Mind you,

  11. As I was saying when I pressed the wrong button:
    Mind you, although liberty bodices were a “bind” at least they were better than being stitched into a wrapping of goose grease and brown paper under a bit of old sheeting as happened pre war, and probably during the war, when some parents couldn’t afford to buy liberty bodices for their children. Those poor kids must have smelt delightful by the time May ended and they were able to “cast a clout”!
    Great post Antje.

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