I don’t know if you are aware, but there is a thing going on at the moment called Slow Fashion October which is all about taking the month to think about what you wear, what you buy, what you make, how you dispose of things, and try to help the planet out a bit. I am mainly following it vicariously through the excellent Fringe Association blog (a recommendation for any knitters or needleworkers out there and also a general good read for fashion information), but I must admit I haven’t bought into it in any life-altering way. Or have I? After all, life usually alters through tiny incremental changes rather than huge gestures. However, it has made me think about my attitude to clothes and I realise that I have always been a rather “slow fashion” type of girl.
Buy little; wear it for as long as you possibly can
That is really the crux of the slow fashion movement. It is also apparently genetically coded into my DNA. With two older sisters and an older brother (not so helpful on the clothing front), my life started with hand-me-downs and a general waiting-my-turn for clothes I liked which my sisters were wearing. There was one particular short-sleeved, skinny-rib top in the mid 1970s which we all had a turn with – as I remember it would have been relatively inexpensive, from C&A or some such chainstore, but it had a really solid lifetime of wear as it passed along the three of us.
Even as an adult, I have rarely been one for buying lots of clothes. I think my age group are a product of the generation which had little money or time for buying clothes and we either stuck with our upbringing or we rebelled and became profligate. I saved my rebellion for things other than clothes!
So, bearing in mind this background, I’d like to tell you the tale of my favourite ever dress.
The Blue Laura Ashley Dress
(Unfortunately, no photos seem to survive of the blue Laura Ashley dress, but I was wearing it during the same period that I wore the green Laura Ashley dress in the photo above. My darling daughter is modelling a frilly sundress – her look has changed dramatically since I stopped being in charge of her wardrobe, although her current haircut is startlingly similar!)
On the cusp between the 1970s and 1980s, my oldest sister worked at the local Laura Ashley shop and it was a boom time for that particular type of fashion in our households. Our rooms were decorated with Laura Ashley wallpaper, we shopped at Laura Ashley, we wore Laura Ashley.
The Blue Dress was passed on to me by my sister so it already had “slow fashion” credentials as a pre-worn item. It was a pale blue – cornflower would be my best guess at a colour description – with a pale floral motif, but the style has faded in my memory. Certainly, it was an everyday dress, so in length it would have been somewhere between the knee and the mid-calf. It was a summer dress, so short-sleeved. Did it have buttons down the front like the green dress? Perhaps, but I think not.
What I remember most about the dress is how much I wore it through the summers when my daughter was little. I loved it with a passion, I loved wearing it, I loved how I looked in it. It wasn’t reserved for special occasions, it wasn’t precious, it was simply one of those things that you reach for again and again because it’s just right; one of those things you miss when you no longer have it. I am missing it still – I would have worn the hell out of it this summer!
As I wore the dress and washed the dress through successive summers, the colour faded, the fabric becoming ever more sheer and, at the same time, ever more lovely. Then, as all things must, it simply gave up the ghost. One horrible day, the fabric could take no more, I went to put the dress on and there was an ominous rip. Expecting a seam to need re-stitching I took it off, but in fact the fabric itself had split and there was nothing to be done. Farewell, old friend.
Slow Fashion October
When I sit and think about Slow Fashion October, I think about that dress, and I think about clothes I have which shock me by being much older than I think they are. I think about the garments I have knitted over the years; about my hand-knitted socks. Like everyone else, I am guilty of bad choices, of buying (and, let’s be honest here, making) things that I just don’t really like, that don’t stand the test of time. However, I think the main thing is to aim to keep the scales tipped towards the things you love, that you wear and wear, that you don’t just use for a season then pass on to someone else.
Do you like your fashion fast or slow? What’s the oldest thing in your wardrobe that you still wear regularly?