What the Midwife wore to go out in

the book:

Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth

published 2002   set in the 1950s

[The narrator is a young midwife, working out of a religious house, though not herself a nun, in the poorest part of London. She is going on a date.] Thursday evening came. It was nice to be stepping up West for a change. I had found the life with the sisters and the work in the East End so unexpectedly absorbing that I hadn’t wanted to go anywhere else. However, the chance to dress up couldn’t be resisted. Dress was rather formal in the 1950s. Long full skirts that flared outwards at the hem were in vogue; the smaller the waist and the tighter the waistband the better, irrespective of comfort. Nylon stockings were fairly new, and had seams that, de rigueur, had to be straight up the back of the leg. “Are my seams straight?” was a girl’s constant worried whisper to her friends. Shoes were killers, with 5-6” steel-capped stiletto heels and excruciating pointed toes… Like all the smartest girls of the day, I would totter round London in those crazy shoes, and wouldn’t have been seen dead in anything else.

A careful makeup, hat, gloves, handbag, and I was ready.


The text used is from the edition of this book first published in 2002 - a new version came out to accompany the recent TV series, and has probably been tidied and tightened up. The original has great charm, but reads like an unedited, self-published book. Jennifer Worth started writing it after reading a comment that if a vet’s memoirs could be successful, surely a midwife’s should be even more so. The books (she wrote a trilogy of them) became very successful over a number of years, and have reached many more people since being turned into a major BBC series – their most successful new drama in years, with a massive audience tuning in every Sunday. It is a great shame that Jennifer Worth died in 2011 – she seems like someone who would have loved and greatly enjoyed the affection and attention that resulted.

Five- or six-inch stiletto? Doesn’t sound right, far too high. JW mentions (and mis-spells the name of) Barbara Goalen in relation to clothes in the 1950s, and it is well worth doing a
Google Image Search on the name to find out why Ms Goalen was the original supermodel: her angular but shapely charms and innate charisma suit perfectly the clothes of the time.


  1. In the second of the CtM trilogy ("Shadows of the Workhouse"), there's a wonderful makeover of, literally, Plain Jane. A lay woman who works with the nuns and nurses of St. Raymond Nonnatus and who is terrified and timid as a result of traumas suffered in a workhouse childhood. In a touch of humour it's actually the head nun, Mother Julienne, who masterminds the makeover and directs a nurse to see it to completion. Moira, I know how you (and we!) love a makeover, complete with haircut and clothes and shoes and foundation garments. Check it out!

    1. Oh thank you, i must do that! As you say, combines my favourite things. There is also the trope of the nun who would have been very stylish, beautiful, desired if she had stayed outside, but chose the convent...


Post a Comment