Every garment tells a story (part 2)

Following on from last week’s post of stories about clothing that I remember owning, here are a few more tales, this time about the garments I recall most fondly since I left university

Me and my friend Emma on our graduation day in 1997

Even without the photographic evidence, I think I’d still remember the dress I wore under my gown on my graduation day. It was a cornflower blue linen sleeveless dress from Next, in a fit-and-flare style with no waistband. I don’t recall how much it cost, but I do remember it seemed like an extravagance that was only justified by the fact it was my graduation. I remember the navy nubuck leather kitten heels I wore with it too. They had a pointed toe and t-bar straps and were about as dainty as 90s footwear got! As I knew quite a few people who still lived in my old hall of residence after I’d left, I visited quite often in the three years between graduation and moving back to Manchester. One of the reasons I went back was to attend the annual hall ball and, although I can’t remember the exact year, I can remember one of the dresses I wore to the ball when I was no longer a student. I’d been shopping with my mum and my sister in Henley-on-Thames, when we discovered that charity shops in posh areas have far better clothes in them. In among all the designer clothing in the town’s Oxfam shop, I found a black moire taffeta party dress that reminded me a bit of the ra-ra skirt my mum made me when I was younger. Not only was it made out of a similar fabric, but it was the sort of ‘grown up’ dress style that I adored in the 80s. It was a strapless with a sweetheart neckline, boned bodice and wrap skirt with a bow at the waist. It was, quite possibly, the most glamorous dress I’d ever owned.

The 40s style dress I bought from Next, sometime around 2009.

Then there was a dark time when, for reasons unknown, I felt “fat” most days, and I didn’t really purchase many garments I really and truly loved. The only item that I still have and love from around this time is a pair of black suede platform heels with cross-over ankle straps. They are still one of the most comfortable pairs of high heels that I have ever owned, and they’ve been used in quite a few burlesque performances in recent years. I initially bought them because they reminded me of a similar pair I got from River Island in the early 90s and wore until they fell apart. That first pair of shoes had a lower block heel and a higher platform, both of which were covered in suede. There was more than a hint of 40s inspiration about them! My wardrobe began to improve when I bought a 1960s cape from a Manchester vintage shop in 2006, solely because the cast on my broken wrist wouldn’t fit into the sleeve of my winter coat. After that, vintage style was prominent in even my high street purchases. I bought a 40s style red polkadot stretch dress from Next, one of Vivien of Holloway’s 50s-style circle dresses, a genuine 70s navy cotton polkadot halterneck maxi dress (bought from vintage shop in Newcastle while visiting a friend), a polyester satin puff sleeved tulip print 40s style dress from the Marks & Spencer 125 collection, and a polkadot covered 80s-does-40s peplum pencil dress from Beyond Retro in Stockholm. Polkadots do seem to be a bit of a theme with me!

I was going to continue this post with descriptions of my current wardrobe, but… the memories of those garments are still being formed. Every item should tell a story and, if it doesn’t speak to you in the shop, it’s perhaps worth thinking about whether or not you really need it. Clothing that we love (for whatever reason) is looked after, and stays us with us for longer. Buy something because you care and you’ll feel so much better for it.