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Photograph courtesy of the author. 

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19 January 2024

A Piece Of You In How I Dress


Style has always been intrinsic to my family’s DNA, having seen my mother dress eccentrically (to say the least) for my whole life.


Before I appreciated that dressing up could be more than a frivolous hobby, or even just a necessity, I always knew that my mum’s approach to clothes was quite different from a lot of my friends’ parents. Clothes were never things that she just wore. They were accessorised, personalised, discussed at length, crafted individually for various scenarios, and most importantly, they were an opportunity for story-telling.


I remember the ritual of sitting on my parents’ bed and watching my mum attentively choose another stylish and dramatically accessorised outfit. Her stories would always start with something like “I remember I wore this when I was on a first date” or “I saved all my wages for 6 months for this”, before revealing a gorgeous, one-of-a-kind vintage piece. With each new look, I learnt more and more about her life and the kind of person she was as a young adult. It was such a visual experience, imagining her on her way to work down the King’s Road in boy skirts and Doc Martens (completely work-appropriate), having moved to London alone when she was only 17.


It always felt to me that her wardrobe was a kind of self-imposed projection of how she wanted to feel. It gave her the confidence to live in London whilst surrounded by various socialites because she was in control of how she could be perceived - she wanted to be seen as fierce and independent.


Clothes are a fundamental part of our identities. They are a physical manifestation of our nature, even for those disinterested in creative expression. They tell us something about our hobbies, our personality, what films we like, and what books we take inspiration from. Of course, you can say this about a lot of things - but in my experience, feeling truly

comfortable in your clothes is one of the most satisfying fulfilments of your outlook

on life.


So naturally, when I first registered my mum’s flamboyant dress sense, she became a woman of complete abundance and exuberance to me, and this remains true.


In her life, in her work and our home, she oozes abundance. In her words: “barren thinking leads to a barren life” and who wants a barren life? Boring! To her, mine and my sister’s outfits were never “too much” or “over the top”, but rather an expression of our character and an excuse to bring out the Ra-Ra skirts (who says they’re just for 10-year-olds?!). She’s not stingy with her wardrobe either (as long as her clothes are returned immaculately and on the right hanger - colour-coded of course), blessing my sister and me with 90s gems from Tocca, Osbek and early Missoni.


Vintage clothes hold stories through the memories we associate with them, creating a cycle when the next generation gives representation to them.


My sister and I carry my mum’s stories with us in her clothes, simultaneously forming our own memories in them. Countless times my friends have heard me say “Thanks, it’s my mum’s” in response to their compliments. I, in turn, pass on the stories she has gifted me and continue to give each outfit a story-worthy occasion myself. These clothes have seen generations of pubs and clubs in their time. Her encouragement of wardrobe recycling also meant that me and my sister were less inclined to fall into the fast fashion trap. Having so many clothes already under our roof, it felt unnecessary to splurge on another badly made denim jacket that would end up being thrown out a few years later. As much as it is exciting to have packages turn up at your door week after week, the need for recycling clothes has never been more vital. And when our parents were already dressed so well, we can’t really complain about inheriting their wardrobes.


Nowadays my mum can be seen clad with ever bright clothes, taking mirror selfies in hospital lifts. Her frequent visits do not stop her from wearing the clothes that make her feel powerful. She graces the treatment rooms with energy and (yes…)

abundance. Whether her clothes are a “fake it til you make it mentality”, or a kind of mutual reciprocation of positivity, I’m not completely sure. But her ability to look radiant no matter how she is feeling and what treatment she is having that day will always amaze me. Her wardrobe and style are a testament to her unfalteringly abundant outlook on life, and this kind of expression will always be, to me, at the core of dressing up. Stories that clothes convey have the potential to speak on

behalf of generations and moments in time that are overlooked in so many other

aspects of our lives.

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