Sonia Lyman

"The Sonia Lyman kids' clothing experience was something else...Mothercare it wasn't."

Sonia Lyman

The Sonia Lyman experience was one to remember when it came to buying children’s clothes, and one you were unlikely to escape if you were a Jewish girl growing up in north west London in the 60s and 70s. Mothercare it wasn’t.

The shop, which was in Finchley Road opposite John Barnes (now Waitrose), was staffed by its lively, eponymous founder and her shy husband. Sonia was tiny, with red hair, glasses and (crucial, this) a tape measure permanently around her neck.

The store made no concessions to d├ęcor, containing only jumbled rails of the sort of outfits kids wore in the 70s to weddings and barmitzvahs, and what looked like sheets on the floor. You, or your mum, would show a vague interest in something and before you knew it, you’d be whisked into the changing room and out again wearing said garment, while Sonia stuck pins into every fold and seam.

They’d take it in The store’s policy was to pay no attention to the trifling matter of size: if the dress was enormous - and they usually seemed to be - Sonia would take it in. If you had to squeeze into it, she’d let it out. It has to be said that she always made it fit in the end.

My personal favourite SL creation was a mixture of white blouse and psychedelically patterned velvet skirt which I wore as a bridesmaid in 1970. They don’t make ‘em like that any more.

Sonia Lyman is long gone and I’m not sure that its odd mixture of bespoke and ready to wear still exists - most shops won’t even take up a hem for you now - but maybe I’m just mixing in the wrong retail circles…