Friday, 14 October 2016

Slow Fashion October 2: Long-Worn

Frayed pleats on a self-made linen dress
A well-worn t-shirt in my repair pile

The prompt of this week's Slow Fashion October is long-worn, which got me thinking about how all the clothes stuffed into my wardrobe are actually pretty old. Up until only a few years ago, I frequently dressed in head-to-toe vintage, including bullet bras and suspender belts. But I didn't fit the typical mould of a 'vintage girl', with the heavily styled hair and feminine look. My style is far too eclectic for that - I'd be a bohemian in any era. At the time, I was studying my costume degree, then working in costume. For the best part of a decade, my summer job has been to alter, repair and refresh old costumes for a new cast of actors on a West End show. The constant mending and care that vintage clothing demands got too much for me in my personal life, and so I've turned away from it in the last couple of years in favour of clothing I can really move in. I've also moved away from physically working with costumes, to studying the historical development of clothing during my Masters degree in fashion history. It's clear that 'old clothes' have formed a large part of my life over the past 10 years.

19th century stockings from the archive of Nordiska Museet, Stockholm
When you're rooting through archives, trying to make sense of objects and find their place in social and cultural history, you look for clues about garments' uses. Whilst collectors often look for perfect, untarnished items, many historians delight in discovering the mended patch, the altered seam, the worn pocket. It reveals how the garment was worn. It suggests whether it was well-loved or kept for best, if it was significant or uncared for.  It's the element of care that slow fashion embraces, the notion of loving and looking after your garments even after they begin to unravel and fray. When we only acquire things slowly, and with much thought, we consider in great detail how they are going to fit into our everyday lives. If we are able to support small businesses and independent craftspeople with our purchasing power, then we need to match that significant financial investment with a longevity in our closets. Overall, I think that it's important to praise long-worn items, and prize the stories that they have brought us, the events in our lives to which they have been the background. 

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