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1900s-1940s Orphanages and Childrens Homes

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Orphanage uniforms, early-mid-20th century UK

Extracted from the memoirs of Brenda May Wilson, 1927-2003


We children from the orphanage were conspicuous by our uniform.

Indoor uniform

Girls wore dark-green gymslips with light-green blouses (square necked) and long black woollen stockings. Underneath we wore liberty bodices in winter, and the stockings were held up with tapes sewn to the sides of the liberty bodice and threaded through loops sewn to the tops of the stockings. This was very uncomfortable, and not anchored too safely either if not firmly sewn on.

In summer we wore woollen vests instead of liberty bodices.

No girl was allowed to have long hair: we were all severely shorn back and sides.

Outdoor uniform

In winter we wore navy velour hats outside. They had a badge on, which was the first two letters of the name of the orphanage interlocked in a shield. We wore these with navy blue gabardine coats.

In summer, the hats were panama ones, again with the hated badge.

Boys wore grey flannel suits (with short trousers), grey knee socks, and boots. At least they weren't labelled with a badge.

Enduring cat-calls

Because our uniforms were so distinctive, we had to endure catcalls from other kids from outside the orphanage. When they saw us, they shouted, "Home kids! Home kids! Ain't-got-no-home kids!" Remember, our orphanage was called a children's home. We retaliated by yelling back, "Guttersnipes!" and "Street Arabs!".

Mending the uniforms

The tapes and loops that held up my stockings were forever needing re-sewing, and the heels and knees of my stockings always seemed to need darning. They were darned till they almost disintegrated from age!

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The housemother supervised the darning marathons, and cut the whole darn out if it hadn't been done to her satisfaction. After much practice I got quite good at it, but to a lot of the girls it was a real heartache.

Boys darned their own socks too.

Extracted from the memoirs of Brenda May Wilson (1927-2003), courtesy of her son, Kevin Flynn

Based on childhood recollections of Myton Hamlet Children's Home, Warwick, 1938-1941, probably similar to other orphanages in early to mid 20th century Britain

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