Penrith Remembers - 4

25th July, 2014

Penrith Remembers 4: 

Blouses of irresistible attractiveness – and other womenswear, 1914-style

By 1914 (think the last episode of Downton Abbey, series 1) really tight corsets were on their way out and women’s clothes were becoming looser and more flowing.  Skirts were still ankle length. Early female adopters of the bicycle were starting to (shock! horror!) wear divided skirts.

Women’s clothes weren’t mass-produced in third world sweat shops but here at home, where Penrith boasted 22 drapers and 8 dressmakers. Sewing clothes at home had also become much easier. In 1913, sales of Singer sewing machines, patented in 1850, reached three million worldwide. The Singer Sewing Machine Company had a branch in Great Dockray, where Bagot Opticians now stands.

For women who didn’t want to make their own, N Arnison and Son (est 1742, and still trading on the same site in Devonshire Street today) offered:

BLOUSES OF IRRESISTIBLE ATTRACTIVENESS (see advertisement) from 2/6 to 49/6.

In another advertisement, Arnisons encouraged browsing –

“Such is the welcome that awaits you here, we would like to make our shop and its contents of service to you. If you are short of ideas for new millinery, new dresses, costumes, blouses, new curtains, carpets, or anything else, come and look round. You are at liberty to examine our models without being importuned to buy.”

This uncertain period was a good time to snap up a bargain.  Thomas Bardgett of Devonshire Street, who offered Gloves at 1d a pair and “Very Smart Hats for Very Little Money” announced:

“OWING to the GREAT EXCITEMENT over the War we still have a lot of bargains clearing in all departments.”

Other traders who regularly advertised womenswear and drapery in the Mid Cumberland and North Westmorland Herald included:

  • Joseph Pickering, Cornmarket: Ladies Trimmed Hats 1/11½d – 10/11; Ladies Blouses 11½d – 10/11
  • Joseph Nixon stockings, King Street: “serviceable, reliable and economical”
  • Thomas Bewley, Middlegate: Millinery, Ladies’ Underclothing, Corsets, Hosiery, “Everything in Fancy Drapery”
  • Archie Little, Middlegate: Up to date Millinery 1/6½d – 10/11; Servants’ print dresses 2/11½d – 5/11; Ladies’ underclothing – knickers, undershirts, combinations
    1/2½d to 7/11
  • Mounsey and Armstrong, Cornmarket: “Ladies’ corsets and handmade undergarments a speciality”
  • William Broadbent, Middlegate: Ladies’ umbrellas from 1/9
  • Richard McVittie, Middlegate: Ladies’ Norvic shoes 14/6; K Make 14/9

You can find photos of McVittie’s shop in Lakeland Embroidery, which now occupies the site.

Ali Turnbull

[email protected]


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