How to wear . . . smocks
We love the rugged 'working man' look but a boiler suit isn't the only option for the guy who gets dirty.
Put on a boiler suit, a hard hat and some chunky boots. A high vis jacket might help and hey, you’ve got the look. A man ready for some real hard work. There’s nothing like it . . .
Wrong! You forgot about the smock. No boiler suit ever said ‘man at work’ better than a smock.
Leather boots and a brimmed hat to doff at your superiors are essential smock accessories. If you have leather gaiters, that’s good but string tied below the knees of your trousers will keep the mice out. Add a red cotton neckerchief and you are ready for some serious sheep shearing, ploughing a field or replacing a thatched roof.
The difference is that boiler suits are for grafting alongside those fuel-guzzling, roaring, smoking, new-fangled machines. Smocks are for sheer muscular toil, with only a shire horse to call on when the going gets tough. The choice is yours – are you a pre-industrial revolution man or is diesel oil your signature perfume?
It's so simple, ladies
Speaking as a woman, it pains me to admit that it's my job to make the smock. Then he gets to wear it, along with the trousers.
I can’t pretend that women's equality occurred to many men in smocks. Most didn't get the vote themselves until 1918. There were some tough old guys around Sussex who wore smocks as late as the 1920s. Whether even they would have approved of me having the vote - well, I doubt it.
So I had better get out the sewing machine and make my man his smock. Oh, I forgot. Sewing machines are so post-industrial. I’ll have to stitch the whole lot by hand. Where are those candles?
To prove that I am a woman to be proud of, I’ll have to embroider it too. The chest and shoulders (back and front), the collars and cuffs, will all need to be covered in pretty stitches like my mother should have taught me. But she didn’t.
At least I don’t have to mess around with paper patterns. It’s all so simple ladies, as Alice Armes tells us in her little book, English Smocks (first edition1930). Choose a tough natural linen or calico. Cut it three times the length measured from his neck to his knees. Use feet and inches, silly. Who ever heard of a metric smock? If he's slim, use 36 inch wide fabric or go for wider. And give him a whole lot of gather.
It’s a smock, so gathering is what it’s all about. Embroidery holds the smocking together and the threads are usually the same colour as the fabric. There is no elastic involved and no Vogue styling. Cut the fabric into thirds, two for the front and back, plus one for the other bits. This is what it looks like on the floor, all cut out:
Then gather the gathered bits in tiny verticle lines. Embroider it and sew it all together. Voila! It’s the same at the front as the back. When he comes home splattered in cow pats, he can turn his smock around before you put his dinner on the table. Now it looks like you’ve only just washed it. Magic.
Just one more thing. He could do with a spare smock for the wash. Plus he needs a smock made out of white cotton for Sunday best . . .
Do you know what? I can't help it. I'm just bursting to scream something loud and offensive after all this:
"Votes for Women!"
Oops. I seem to have smashed a window.
Billy Hoad: His Diaries