We all grew up in a frugal society then. We made do with lots of things. We wore hand-me-downs, most new clothes were hand made, and even hand sewn if mothers did not have sewing machines.
It was always a very significant moment in our lives when our mothers walked to the shops like Ngui Kee or Ching Chiong to buy materials for Chinese New Year, usually a few months before. And we would all be waiting anxiously for the day to come when we could try on our new dresses. Often our dresses would be longer because mum would say, " YOu will grow tall very fast and soon the dress will fit you beautifully. " Needless to say, the dress would also be a few inches bigger at the waist and shoulders. So our clothes were literally very loose during the Chinese New Year, and would fit perfectly probably after two years!!
Long skirts actually made us feel very demure and lady like. They also made us feel very secure. Those were the days when jeans and long pants were not yet in the fashion scene. I remember seeing a photo of Madam Chiang Kai Shek wearing a man's suit and thought to myself that was so expensive to wear!!
My aunts would be very frugal in their ways too, showing us how to keep our hair neat (mum cut them) and those will long hair had to be very responsible in keeping them well brashed and in pig tails, so as not to obstruct housework.
I only started keeping my hair long when I was in upper secondary school. Not that it was fashionable. Again it was to save money. If we were able to keep our hair clean and long, we saved a lot of money by not going to the hair dressers.
Frugal Foochow ladies would ask each other the famous question, "How often do you perm your hair?"
Most Foochow ladies permed their hair once a year, again, for Chinese New Year.
And then, I am transported back to the days of men who were mobile hairdressers and barbers...They would cycle to people's houses to perm hair at minimal cost.
Those were the days. Nostalgia.
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