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Heather still en vogue after half a century

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Heather Atkin Helen Winterson Marple Market Street

Heather Atkin's lifelong knowledge of fashion reads like something out of the pages of Vogue magazine.

Because when it comes to fashion, Heather has seen it all.

From the days of 1960s miniskirts and hot pants to 1980s shoulder pads and the more informal, relaxed fashions of today, Heather is up to speed with all the trends of the last 50 years.

Now aged 73, Heather has just completed an amazing half century of working for the highly regarded ladies fashion store Helen Winterson in Market Street, Marple and says she plans to carry on working for a while yet.

Her 50 years of service were marked with a surprise party when she was overwhelmed with cards, flowers and gifts for her landmark moment. 

For Heather this is another chapter in her story which began after leaving school at 17 when she was planning to go into the world of dentistry.

During a visit to the former Kendal Milne store in Manchester, her mother suggested she go into the fashion retail business. Unexpectedly she began to love the fashion industry and was enrolled on a Harrods training programme which set her up for her life ahead.

Her growing experience led her to apply for the job and in time became the shop manager at Helen Winterson, then based at Hawk Green, opposite Goyt Mill.

She said: "At the time, the shop was a real mecca for the girls who worked at Goyt Mill. They had never seen anything like it. Helen was very forward-thinking even then and set up an accounts system so the girls could pay so much per week. It put the shop's fashions within reach of everyone.''

"Over the years, the shop became my family and I can honestly say it has never been a chore to come to work, it has been a pleasure. Fashion has obviously changed over the years but I still get a buzz from helping customers with new clothes for both every day and special occasions.''

She describes herself as being like a stick of rock. She said: "If you broke me in half, I'm sure you would see the lettering Helen Winterson running through me like letters in a stick of rock.''

During her career Heather has seen so many changes in fashion. Starting work at Helen Winterson in 1968 meant she caught the end of the Swinging Sixties.

"Initially I was selling miniskirts and hot pants then we moved into the 1970s which brought real change, particularly for women who had never really worn trousers before. The first trousers for women were ski pants with the loop underneath the foot. The 1970s then introduced bell bottoms and flares as trousers became more acceptable for women.

"Fashion also went from miniskirts to maxi dresses and then in the 1980s we went from narrow shoulders to the Dynasty style wide shoulder look.''

Heather has many memories but none quite as funny as a customer who once tried on a cocktail dress back to front. Despite being told it was on the wrong way, she still loved it and bought it - to wear back to front.

Heather is still as enthusiastic about today's fashions as she has always been. She admits looking at today's fabulous fashions as they arrive in store and imagining herself wearing them `in a past life'.

She still works three days a week and enthuses about the store.

"We have some amazing talented people working here, particularly seamstresses who can do all kinds of alterations. People trust us and love the service we offer. It is a totally different fashion era today and I have literally seen things go full circle.''

One guest at the recent surprise party was Hazel Thompson, bank manager at Marple Bridge for many years.

“There is not another shop like Helen Winterson. It is totally unique,” said Hazel.

Helen Winterson is part of the very fabric of Marple town centre and first opened its doors in 1953, the year of the Queen’s Coronation. 

Today it stocks fashion labels from all over the world including Betty Barclay, Gerry Weber, Joseph Ribkoff and many more and is still a mecca for those who love fashion.