Thursday, 31 May 2018

Wardrobe Diary: turning my teenage fashion choices into family heirlooms

What’s the oldest item of clothing in your wardrobe? Do you have hand-me-downs from siblings, parents, grandparents? We often see jewellery as heirlooms to be handed down through generations, but clothes are more ephemeral, and in recent years, more disposable. 

I’ve been taking part in the Slow Fashion Challenge over on Instagram, and several of the prompts have made me think about the clothes that I have hung on to despite numerous wardrobe clearances, and why I have kept certain outfits despite the fact that I am probably not going to wear them again. 

I’ve never been very good at keeping a diary, but while I’ve been searching through my wardrobe for garments to illustrate prompts like “throwback” and “hand-me-down” I’ve realised that my wardrobe acts as a sort of diary. The trends I’ve tried out, the special occasions and impulse buys that have marked my eclectic clothes-buying habits over the years might only be represented by a couple of items of clothing lurking at the back of my closet (ok, fine, I have a separate wardrobe for my “museum”, please don’t judge me) but they are a great reminder of certain times in my life. 

The burgundy velvet jacket I bought in Rokit in Brighton in the mid Nineties reminds me of the tentative steps towards independence I was taking as a teenager: figuring out how to make my monthly clothing allowance and meagre pub-kitchen-pot-scrubbing wages go further by shopping in the Lanes rather than the Churchill Square shopping centre. Spending a Saturday free from the watchful eyes of parents, rummaging for bargains and defiantly making purchases that I secretly hoped would shock when I brought them home. I’m sure my parents found my goth phase pretty funny, but they kept up impressive poker faces, and even my most outlandish ensembles were met with a mild “you look nice”. 

The neon pink top that formed part of my work wardrobe when I was a shop assistant at Cyberdog in Camden Market during my first term at uni also reveals another side to my personality. Folk music loving, quiet and contemplative me, who currently loves an early night, was also a big techno and drum n bass fan! I may not be able to party all night (fuelled only by cheese toasties) any more, but my music tastes are as eclectic as my fashion tastes, and probably always will be. 

The piece of clothing that started off my reflections on being a teenager was a blue knitted top. Originally owned by my aunt, who was a teenager in the Fifties, it was passed on to my Mum, who was a teenager in the Sixties, before making its way into a box of dressing up clothes that my sister and I wore as children. I liberated it when I was a teenager and I’ve been wearing it ever since. I love having a piece of vintage clothing that I know the origin story for, but I also love having something that links me to other members of my family. It’s a great reminder that my mum and aunt were also teenage trendsetters, exploring their personal style and trying to provoke a reaction.

I’ve been thinking back to the clothes I wore as a teenager because 90s trends have come back into fashion recently, and I’ve been reflecting on the evolution of my personal style. I definitely went through a phase where my reactions to my teenage fashion statements were “I wore what??” My viewpoint has changed over the years though, and now I’m proud of teenage me, for wearing whatever the heck she wanted, for occasionally inviting ridicule but working a look regardless, and developing shopping habits that have stuck with me to this day.

I might be delving back into this alternative form of wardrobe diary in the future, so stay tuned!

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