Recently when I was browsing on Etsy, I saw a particular dress and immediately – WHOOSH!! I time travelled back to my 80s childhood in a sudden rush.
It was a dress by Clothkits, and their colours, designs and patterns were such a big part of my growing up that they’re burnt into my brain. Both my sister and I were often dressed in matching Clothkits outfits, and my mum definitely had some of their stuff too.
My mum didn’t own this particular dress, but when I sent her a photo she said “Oh, I remember that print!”
It was a bargainous £8 so there was no debate to be had.
I love the texture and bold primary colours, and the print which looks like it could be an African village with palm trees, little houses, fish and boats.
For those who don’t know Clothkits, they were a British company based in Brighton who came up with the ingenious idea of printing sewing patterns directly onto the fabric for easy dressmaking.
Or if you couldn’t be bothered, for a bit more money you could buy the clothes ready made up.
Here’s a page from one of their awesome catalogues:
But it was really the bold folksy designs and joyful colour combinations which have had such a long lasting effect on me.
Here are me and my sister’s Clothkits rag dolls which my little nieces still play with. Mine is Polly with the dark hair, my sister’s is Mary, the blonde one. I remember when my mum finished making Polly, I was speechless, being completely bowled over by her stunning dress and piercing green eyes!
I’ve been scouring the internet for more of the vintage Clothkits I feel such a connection with.
When I found this design I actually felt quite choked up. It’s for a girls’ dress/skirt which both my sister and I had but in a different colour scheme (ours was lilac and turquoise). To me this is the ultimate in beautiful fabric design and nothing is going to beat those bluebells which lodged themselves in my heart at the age of about seven. I’m sure a lot of what I’m attracted to and try and create owes something to this little dress.
It’s funny what a strong impact this stuff can have, and the emotional response we can have to colour and pattern.
I found this photo of a Clothkits toddlers’ dress on Pinterest, titled ‘Oh, my heart stops!’ and I couldn’t agree more.
Not everything from my Clothkits memory vault is pure inspiration though. I do remember I had some burgundy cord knickerbockers!! Yes, you read that correctly. They puffed out and finished at the knee, and I wore them with long white lacy socks and school shoes. Classic.
Sadly Clothkits was sold in the late 1980s and lay dormant until a few years ago when a lady called Kay Mawer rescued it. There’s a good story about it here. Tragically the design archives hadn’t survived, although they’ve managed to bring back a couple of original designs.
I really love this children’s farmyard quilted jacket which is an old design back by popular demand.
Otherwise they’re all new designs, including some lovely patterns by Rob Ryan. Have a look at their website here.
Any other Clothkits obsessives out there?? I would love to hear your memories and see any photos!