The Saturday Dance

Anne Davy

I'm looking at a three young girls at a dance in the late '50's. The photo is in black-and-white, but I know we are a blonde, a redhead and a brunette. We are in our mid-teens in an era when teenagers are becoming aware of fashion. I am on the left, my sister, who is 18 months younger than me, is in the middle and my friend Helen is on the right.

Our whole lives are ahead of us as we smile at the camera. We are dressed in the latest fashion, white blouses and full multi-coloured skirts with at least three rope petticoats. Bright coloured cummerbunds or studded, scalloped belts cinch our tiny waists. We appear happy, relaxed. There is nothing in the photo to show the careful, long hours of preparation for the Saturday dance.

The morning would begin with the washing and starching of those petticoats. We considered ourselves experts at this task. We followed the instructions on the packet faithfully. The water had to be boiling as we stirred the starch to a paste and added the cold water. No 19th century maid could have done a better job. We then draped the finished product over an umbrella to dry. The petticoats had to stand to attention. If they fell to the floor the whole process had to be commenced again. When dry they were sprinkled with water, rolled into a sausage-shape and left for a few hours before ironing. Those stiff petticoats held out our skirts to perfection. Completing our outfits were the required flatties and a matching plastic handbag.

The next task was to wash our hair and set it in rollers. These rollers were then covered by a scarf that tied around our necks a'la Lana Turner. For the remainder of the morning we would read the paper for a while, paint our nails or visit our friends on our bikes, dressed in our smart pedal-pushers.

Towards evening we would take long baths or showers. Then our rollers would be removed and our hair brushed out, flicked up at the ends like Sandra Dee, or in my case Audrey Hepburn. That night, at the local dance-hall, we would Rock'n'Roll to our favourite band. Our full skirts would swirl, revealing tantalising glimpses of tanned limbs and luminous undies of vivid pink, yellow or green.

Those were the innocent days of the '50's.