Skeletons in my Closet

IMG_2048I 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.

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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.

 

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

 

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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…

IMG_2055My novel set in the international fashion industry is now available. You can buy Silk for the Feed Dogs here.

 

 

32 comments

  1. Great posts. I’m with you on this one. I love vintage clothing as well. 🙂

  2. I love this post. A perfect description of the allure of vintage.
    Re the kindred spirits swirling around your wardrobe, can you imagine!…there’s an upmarket vintage shop in London which feng shuis all stock prior to sale. To rid them of any trace of the previous owner’s psyche. They even give you a spirit cleanliness certificate with your purchase.
    Party poppers.

  3. POOPERS! (Dam’ spell check)

    • Poopers, poppers…:-)
      I love the sound of that shop because they recognize the life within the clothing. But they go in the opposite direction and attempt an exorcism of sorts to banish all presences. What harm are the ghostly remains doing lurking about in a sleeve or inside a pocket, I ask you? You’ll barely know they’re there except for a tickle here and there 🙂 A certificate indeed!
      Thanks for sharing. Fascinating.

  4. That was beautiful. I may have to google a few of the people you referred to. I used to wear some funky second hand clothing when I went to art college in Belfast. I thought I was great! Now I have a mummy uniform consisting of jeans walking shoes & rain coat. Boring and drab but it’s practical. I will become stylish again some day! Right now i’m limited with my budget (skint) Maybe I should give the charity shops another whirl.
    Mass produced clothing has become so dull. It’s disposable really. Much of my kids clothing can’t be passed on, after a few washes it’s ready for the bin.

    • Oh, me too in uni. Liberty Blue is a name of a shop I remember. On the Lisburn Road, I think…The Salvation Army was good too. And then of course Fresh Garbage where you had the added pleasure of walking around stinking of pachouli that wouldn’t come out ever, no matter how many washes!
      I’ve picked up some great bargains in charity shops back home. Once in a while you’ll find a real treasure for 2 or 3 pound, like a Ghost (how appropriate!) jacket, that I think the person who handed it in didn’t know the value of.
      In NYC vintage is pretty expensive unfortunately. If you have fifteen minutes pop your rain jacket on and head on down to Cancer Research, ya never know!

      • Oh fresh garbage! That brings it all back. I can still smell it. I remember buying a ‘hippy skirt’ in there.. and a poncho too. We’d go into Bewleys afterwards for a coffee. I think there’s a very nice one the Lisburn road that does second hand designer gear. I wonder is that the one you are referring to? Might pop in there too. :o)

      • I got married back home last May. Brought my American husband into Fresh Garbage to explain a bit about myself, my student self etc (Ooh he would have hated me, I was such a little pain!)
        Happy to say FG had not changed one bit. Even the music they were playing was the same 🙂 Have a happy trippy shopping trip!

      • Lol! That was nice to get married back home. Yeah I was a pain too, that’s probably why I never finished my art degree..No regrets though.
        I’ll hit the shops tomorrow. Might avoid the hippy skirts this time :o)

  5. So here’s the thing. Every time I read your writing I want to sit with you drinking tea and begging you to be my stylist. Love the way you see the world, the fashion industry, the clothes, the stories. You are just an absolute gem, Jackie! And an inspiration!

    I, too, believe I am an old soul. One day perhaps we’ll meet and share an old fashioned cocktail! We Irish gals need to stick together.

    Beautifully written, elegant, witty, fabulous. Thank you for sharing.. Oh! And I dig the new layout of your blog, or am I forgetting? Was it always designed this way? Love it.
    xo

  6. Oh, thanks for the lovely words! An Old Fashioned cocktail it is, in an old fashioned hotel lobby. I’ll be carrying a hat box and you’ll be wearing feathers 🙂
    No great change in blog layout. Maybe it’s the dazzling photo that’s throwing you. I did format this post a little differently than usual though and it didn’t escape your sharp eye I’m delighted to say.
    Have a great day writing!
    xo

  7. Hey, I just wanted to let you know that I’ve nominated you for the Dynamic Four Award: http://aspoonfulofstyle.co.uk/2014/05/01/thank-you-for-the-awards/

  8. I like things that can tell a story, so I keep my things for ages. And every once in a while I will find a nice something in a second hand shop. Clothes unfortunately not that often. But I’m with you – quality over mass production.
    Have a very HAPPY start into the weekend 🙂

    • I hope to be shopping for some vintage pieces of furniture soon which will make a nice change because I haven’t done that in a long time. I think all designed things should have a story attached to them. It enriches them. You too have a happy weekend, as I am sure you will 🙂

  9. Your opening is suggestive of a post I’m working on. Enough said on that. I so enjoy your descriptions, J. I don’t know that I’d care to read anyone else talk about clothing.

  10. Thank you for being so sweet. I’ll look forward to reading the post you are plotting.

  11. Oh Jackie, your post speaks to me in so many ways! I started wearing second hand just a few years ago when I decided the uniformity of mass produced clothes isn’t my thing. I also felt a ”presence” in them a kind of energy I was sure was coming from their past lives. It’s different for every garment and can be quite ”dramatic”, difficult to explain. They keep me and my tardis good company and I enjoy our little trips in time and space!

    • I’m glad to know a fellow time traveller. I wonder do we do out of character things when we wear those pieces…? Do we have friends saying “It was so not like her to behave like that!” The ghostly vestments might be corrupting us and leading us astray. What the hell, makes life interesting 😉

  12. Another member of the club saluting in respect! xxx

  13. A glorious tribute to things past, and for those who don’t dabble in the world of vintage, they’d now be convinced to do so…
    absolutely adore the words on the cotton label!!~ xo

    • Those words are so applicable to me 🙂
      Thanks as always for reading. Are you a vintage dabbler yourself?
      XOX

      • Oh I would say I’m a dabbler but not a full tilt dunker…
        probably because I’m not the best “huntress” 😉
        but I’m definitely a huge admirer of those who…
        hunt, find and wear their vintage well~ ♥

  14. Funny thing with fashion is the cyclic trends – always kind of amusing to see clothes inspired by the 70s/80s in the shops. I like vintage fashion and prefer clothes that are produced by independent designers. I find that these (or at least those that I have) are better made in terms of the design and quality, i.e. made to last and be timeless 🙂

  15. Totally agree. Love your descriptions. If I ever get to NY I will be a haunting your closet,that’s for sure! X

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