Turkey now sells so much clothing, think of all those stalls in the markets as well as the shops and all the stuff you buy in UK with a ‘Made in Turkey’ label, that is hard to believe there was hardly any ready-made clothing available forty years ago.
The only store selling clothes in Istanbul was Vakko, a kind of Turkish Harrods, and if you wanted new clothes you either found a tailor or made your own.
But even making your own wasn’t that simple.
One of my colleagues at the school I taught at in Istanbul, was an experienced dressmaker and came back from lunch one day with cotton fabric to make a new dress, which was patterned on a turquoise background.
A Turkish teacher in the staff room said “You know you need to soak the fabric so it shrinks before you make the dress?”
That night the fabric was left soaking in water in the bath, and the next morning our colleague awoke to a bath full of turquoise water, and a large quantity of ruined fabric.
For this writer the only clothing problems were underwear and tights – neither easily available in Istanbul.
However, friends and family in the UK used to send magazines out, rolled up with an address label round them.
It did not take my inventive mother long to realise that knickers and tights could easily fit into the magazine, and come through the post.
Of course the inevitable happened and I was summoned to the Customs office in the post office to explain the presence of a pair of tights in a magazine.
The Customs man actually waved the tights around shouting “What is this?”
After he was convinced that it was an article of clothing (tights could only be found in high-end ‘black market’ boutiques in areas of the city he would probably never enter) I said I would like to give it to him for his wife/daughter, I left without paying a fine.
I continued to receive my magazines with ‘gifts’ for the remainder of the time I was in Istanbul.
In June 1972 I packed up to move to Bodrum and actually counted the pairs of knickers I possessed – over one hundred.
They lasted for years!