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Liberty bodice, black stockings and button boots

Updated: Oct 16, 2020

There are some delightful reminiscences from' West Sussex within living memory, West Sussex Federation of Women’s Institutes', these two come from Cuckfield residents, their names were not recorded:

Victorian girls in their school attire

School in the early 20th century

'We had to walk about three miles to school at Cuckfield. It was a church school and we learnt the three Rs and religion. On Saints’ days we had to go to church. We had no school dinners, we took sandwiches, and in the winter we had a hot Oxo drink for which we paid a penny a day. The headmaster had a magic lantern which he had slides for, though the only pictures I can remember were of camels. The lantern was always going out and we had to wait until he lit the candle again.’

The Old School, Cuckfield

What we wore

‘Until 1918 girls at Cuckfield wore black stockings and button boots, white pinafores during the week and fancy ones on Sunday. Underneath a dress there was a vest, cotton camisole, liberty bodice, navy blue knickers and petticoats (in winter one flannel and one white). There was no school uniform. After 1918 pinafores were not so fashionable, so I used to remove mine on the way to school, put it in my dinner bag, then replace it within sight of home. My mother soon twigged! As socks became fashionable, the black stockings were rolled down below the knees.’

There are many more delightful recollections in the West Sussex book but there is one for East Sussex too.

Contributed (and school photo) by Malcolm Davison .


Source: West Sussex within living memory, West Sussex Federation of Women’s Institutes, 1993.

Victorian photograph courtesy of


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