Gallery: Wartime corset factory workers reunited

A GROUP of ladies who helped change the shape of women’s fashion during the war years and beyond are living proof of the value of enduring friendship.

The 15 women, most of whom are now in their 80s, all worked at Reddell’s corset factory in Sudbury until it closed in 1989. Many of them joined the company in the 1940s.

The co-workers enjoyed each other’s company so much, they would meet up after work at the local Cream Jug caf�, visit the ‘County Cinema’ and embark on trips to London together. And after the factory on Constitution Hill ceased trading, the women were determined to stay in touch.

Instigated by Dorothy Deeks, now 81, they have met for lunch every month in a local pub ever since the factory closed.

They look at old photographs and share memories of what they describe as a “fun and supportive” working environment.

During the Second World War, Reddell’s was taken over by the Americans and moved temporarily to the old Cundy & Sons seed merchants building in East Street.

Rona Eady, 84, said, although the women worked from 8am to 5pm and at a particularly difficult time for Britain, the camaraderie between them made the job enjoyable.

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She said: “We were always going on trips together and we did lots of really fun things. We used to get involved in the Sudbury carnival every year where we had a float called the Bermuda Belles, and I can remember when we moved to East Street, there was a piano. One of the girls played it and we were always singing when we were supposed to be sewing.”

Eve Cleverley, 80, was responsible for putting the eyelets into the corsets. She recalled: “We made all sorts for styles including ‘waspies’ which created the hourglass figure and even corsets for pregnant women that had laces at the sides which you could let out as you got bigger.”

Although the group has seen many changes throughout the years, especially in the fashions they were making, they have steadfastly maintained their friendships.

One of them, Rene Hearnden, celebrated her 89th birthday at a reunion lunch on Tuesday. She began working at the factory in 1939, was called up to the army in 1943 and returned to Reddell’s after the war. When she had a fall last year and needed a shoulder replacement, she said the women showed their “blitz” spirit.

“The ladies here have been a wonderful support and they all inquired about me when I was ill. We have all known each other for more than 60 years and we never argue with each other. There are not many people who can say that.”

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