I wish I could wear such a sign. Lived in, slightly rumpled, evidence of gentle wear and tear, check. Imperfections, yes, and more irregularities than could fit on a small cotton label at the back neck.
As a fashion designer, I am employed to design for the future but when it comes to designing myself, I like to look backwards. History infuses clothing with romance and mystery and through association I hope to transmit those qualities too. An intriguing backstory might rub off on me. I like my clothing to have a past.
I have an old soul, maybe. I prefer the kick of a swishy hemline over the flick of hair extensions; bias cut satin that undulates over the hips as opposed to body-con jersey that needs tugging at when navigating a seat. A cloche hat that creates visions of a Parisian mademoiselle emerging from the steam of a train platform trumps a knit beanie worn by an LA valley girl carrying a to-go coffee. Do you get me?
Surprising as it is to admit, I find myself uninterested this week in seeing Kate Moss’s latest effort for Top Shop (and let it be known I obsess over much of what she puts her hands on…with the exception of Pete Doherty).
But where she takes her style cues from Marianne Faithfull and Anita Pallenberg, I’d rather go to the source and search for original sixties and seventies gems to evoke their iconic style. Now if Roberto Cavalli or Dolce & Gabbana were throwing their vintage inspired bohemia my way, I’d knock you flying like a bridesmaid tearing after a bouquet. But rip off vintage is a con if there is no improvement in fabric and quality. There should be a reason for the remake. Otherwise it’s the sartorial equivalent of the film The Women, a 1939 classic that should never have been linked to a post-pout Meg Ryan.
Clothes that have character for me are usually infused with characters. Previous owners probably long since dead but whose spirits live within the fibres. I live in New York City so I’ve learnt to be cool with others sharing my intimate space. And Irish people grow up with the idea that ghosts are swirling all around. So if you come round for tea, you may well detect a presence lurking in my wardrobe. Don’t let it put you off your Earl Grey.
Long before the world fell in love with Lady Grantham and her sisters, I ran into her sort every morning before breakfast. We got dressed together and contemplated the day ahead. Although unlike her ladyship I managed without the aid of nimbled-fingered chambermaids to insert myself into my stays and tie my bows.
I have a jacket that looks like the one Amelia Earhart wore on her maiden trans-Atlantic flight. I used to wear it when I was launching myself up into the cloudy corporate heights of the New York fashion industry. I reached quite an altitude until I ran out of gas.
Vintage clothing gives me a compass. Where am I going today? Which way am I headed?
Maybe it has something to do with not having sisters. I never had hand-me-downs as a child.
Women from other eras were stronger than their modern-day counterparts simply by virtue of the fact that they had so much more hardship and limitations to push past. My vintage wardrobe keeps me mindful of that, keeps me grateful. And graceful.
Dressed head to toe in today’s mass produced clothing links me to nothing or no one, no great voyager, nor pioneer, nor heroine, nor even a mere timeless beauty; I feel out on a limb, even abandoned. I am a part of nothing; there’s no great historical framework to my daily meanderings. I’m just a victim of fashion, a proponent of minimum wage and underage labour, a litterer of the planet.I have dropped off the end of a conveyor belt of similarly packaged nonentities to disappear with the passing of time.
Vintage clothing will make me memorable simply because it makes me remember. Every morning I stand before the mirror and my wardrobe whisks me off on a trip through time. It’s like Doctor Who’s tardis. All before I’ve even had my first green tea of the day.
Clothes are part of the daily theatre of life. When I’m not inhabiting characters through my dress, I enjoy immersing myself in their exploits in other ways too…
My novel set in the international fashion industry is now available. You can buy Silk for the Feed Dogs here.