As part of Slow Fashion October, there are weekly provocations to consider that I am really enjoying. Week Two is ‘Long Worn’.
How can we make the most of the clothes already on the planet — from taking care of and mending and wearing things longer, to thrifting, swapping, heirlooms, hand-me-downs, alterations and refashioning.
I was sure that there were items in my wardrobe that had been there for years, things that even in my most rash of purging moments had stood the test of time. It was quite a surprise to me that there was much less in this category than I thought.
Interestingly, the place in my wardrobe where the most items of longevity were living was in the evening wear collection. [For those that don’t know, I have been a professional stage performer since age 20.]
But in the day-to-day wardrobe at least, it seems I am a fair-weather clothes wearer. This has certainly given me pause, and strengthened my resolve to implement what one of my sisters coins a “revolving wardrobe” whereby things can come in and out over time and instead of shopping the shops, you ‘shop your wardrobe’.
Sometimes I think that all that is needed with certain garments is a bit of absence to make the heart fonder again. When I think about any purging regrets I have had, they have usually been when I prematurely said goodbye to me-made or special vintage items. For some reason RTW items (even those with a big price ticket) don’t cause even a pang!
This process also gave me a moment to appreciate the special things in my wardrobe and using Karen’s thoughts above, I took some time to identify pieces that fit into the categories she lists. What this post lacks in photographic coherence it hopefully makes up for with good narrative. [And, man, did I have a lot of hair!]
So here is a love letter to some of the long standing stars of my wardrobe, complete with playlist for no other reason than ‘just because’.
Taken care of & mended – The King Must Die
This jacket was a costume from a production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead that a friend was in. Another friend was the wardrobe mistress of this theatre company. I fell in love with this jacket that was one of costumes, and after the production closed I was given it. It was never made to be a RTW item, and the fabric frayed and pulled away from the seams. For a long time I wore it this way, then I did some visible mending using the machine to preserve its life.
Long wearing – These Boots are Made for Walking
I have had these boots for over 22 years. They were made by a company called The Last Footwear Company which has since closed. You chose your style, leather colour, top stitching colour and they were made to measure for your foot. When I bought them at 18, they were by far the most expensive thing I had ever purchased.
I have kept them for many years just as horse-riding boots but recently they have made their way back into casual wear. I added the satin ribbon just to make them feel less #angryteen and more hip lady.
Thrifted – Bag Lady
Over half my wardrobe could fit into this category so I will just show a beautiful handbag that a friend’s husband bought me from a local op-shop. He is a gifted and talented man!
Swapped – Dressed for Success
This stunning 80s power dressing top has boned, ruched shoulders and the most amazing print and colour combination. From a friend’s collection, now in mine.
Heirloom – Royals
This is the dress my great aunt was presented to the Queen in when she was a debutante. They must have travelled to the UK from New Zealand for this occasion. She was a tiny lady, at least 6 inches shorter than me. I’ve primarily worn it for performing in, but it’s one of my husband’s favourite dresses and he often requests I wear it. I let out all the seams as far as they would go but now this dress is only comfortable for short sessions and definitely not for eating. I’ve included a video of me wearing it to perform in when I was in a very skinny phase (post a breakup!) just to show how beautifully it catches the light.
Hand-me-down – Button Up Your Overcoat
My mother-in-law bought this coat with her first ever pay check. She was a young nurse in Holland. This brand was something she had promised herself she would own as a working woman. However, the day she went shopping they didn’t have the style she wanted, so she bought the style that was there, and sadly, never really wore it. She gave it to me so I could “cut it up and make something out of it”. I have worn it more in the two years I have owned it more that she did in the 40 previous! It’s a beautiful thick alpaca felted wool, and look at the details: armpit vents and side vents so you can access your internal pockets.
Altered – I Won’t Dance, Don’t Ask Me
My ball dress from my final year at high school. This was Thai silk my grandmother had bought and it was made up into this rather grown-up dress for my school ball. It was always a little short in the waist and the band slipped down as a result. My dress maker altered (and let it out) to add to the performance wardrobe. I can fit it still, but no dancing!
Re-fashioned – Tuxedo Junction
So many items could be included here, but I was so happy with the result of this refashion I did at the beginning of this year. The very large and very old tuxedo shirt (with the label from a local department store’s tailoring department still in it) was also a gift from my friend’s husband. He definitely has the touch when it comes to op-shopping.
Interestingly, I went shoe shopping yesterday. I was looking for something in particular – brown, flat, classic & trans-seasonal – and I couldn’t really find what I wanted. And so I decided to keep looking for something that I know, once I buy, will be around for a long time rather than just purchase something that will do the job for a season or two.
It’s so nice to be thinking in this way, which in many ways seems a natural and clear progression from my own fashion philosophy.