Wessex Film and Sound Archive

Jo Peterson

Jo Peterson was born in 1926 in London. Sewing was so much part of her upbringing and her time as a domestic science student in London that it was 1946 before she bought her first ready-made dress, at Selfridges in London’s Oxford Street. She reflects in her interview in detail on a lifetime of making clothes for herself, and later for her daughters, son and husband, including whilst living in Iraq after the Second World War and in Winchester. She also recalls many aspects of sourcing materials and the interconnections between home sewn and ready-made clothing.

Play this sound file

First extract 37s
Recalling the satisfactions of making fashionable clothes for her teenage daughters

“I can remember Lois wanting a pair of flared trousers when they first came in, I mean this is a very strong recollection, and she wanted them in denim and she wanted stripes round the bottom, I mean she knew exactly what she wanted so we simply went off and bought the denim and some bias binding and I put stripes round the bottom and I can remember standing in the bay window that we had in that house watching her go down the street and knowing that she was thinking that she was really you know the cat’s whiskers that morning so it was quite fun”

Second extract 1m12s
Speaking of the contribution her dressmaking and knitting made to the family budget and of the deficiencies of ready-made clothing

JP “earlier on it must have made a tremendous amount of difference really, I mean either we wouldn’t have had the clothes or the things that I made or we would not have had so many or we would have had to wait a lot longer for them in a way so it does help, it must help”

BB: "it was a form of saving, perhaps?"

JP: “yes, oh yes, yes, I mean, if you’re not spending money on clothes you’ve got it for other things, haven’t you,  in a way, or if you’re not spending quite so much that you would do otherwise, because I mean some - especially nowadays if you go and look at ordinary things like cotton summer skirts they are sometimes very badly made and certainly cost more than twice the material that you could, you know,  that you make one for actually and there’s sometimes not much in them to make and yet you look at the insides of them and they really are very poorly made. I do look at them sometimes but I put them back on the rack.”

 
Jo Peterson's daughter and fabric swatch
Jo Peterson made many clothes for her family, including this sundress in yellow printed cotton for her daughter in 1959. A fabric piece still survives in her remnant bag.