'Clothes Tell Stories' Category

Wedding Table Decorations, Favours and Bring and Share Decorations for the (Un)Crafty Bride on a Budget

Months before my wedding, I was playing with my kids in a local woodland when my phone rang.  It was one of my best friends, and bridesmaid.  Noone ever uses phones any more, do they? And I knew she was in her family home country.  I picked up, concerned.  What happened next reminded me of the time my mum, then in the early days of cancer, rang me at work – Mum had an urgent question about a black catsuit (this black catsuit, to match her own…).  My lovely friend had found hundreds upon hundred of doilies, hand crocheted by her great grandmother, along with ribbons and collars of lacework.  

Sharing love-driven, crafted, storied objects was very much something my husband and I wanted to do as part of our wedding.  We marry into a family, into a community, into a history of human love.  My friend and I had a few thoughts about what to make her great grandmother’s doilies into.  One idea was bunting.  Another was to push the bulbs of fairy lights through their centres, so they looked like flowers.  In the end, we decided to dye them the colours of the rainbow, and use them to decorate the large, round tables and picnic tables that we were having our wedding breakfast on, in the gardens.  

We used Dylon polyester dye, seven huge buckets (which we each needed for our gardens afterwards), a bottle of rose and a Sunday afternoon, to make this glorious rainbow…

In the year and a bit between getting engaged and getting married, my family and several kind friends saved jars.  We stored ours in the garden, in crates, which meant that the weather did a lot of the work of removing labels for us.  These went onto tables, with candles, as well as reusable straws, pencils and colouring sheets for younger children, or wood and paper photo props for older children and teens.  The different shapes and qualities of glass caught the sunlight beautifully.  

We put the differently-coloured bouquets of fabric wedding flowers in glass jars when back from the ceremony (here’s how I made the fabric flowers) and made additional pom pom bouquets (here’s a super easy pom pom tutorial).

Favours also served as name cards.  Small children had envelopes with their names on, with stickers and card inside.  Older children and teens had second-hand card games, again in envelopes with their names on.  Friends whose beliefs reject gambling had delicious jam.  For everyone else, we chose Lottery Scratchcards, as they are potentially fun, recyclable and contribute to charity.  It would have been amazing if someone had won their train fare.  The only regret I have is that I bought some brown envelopes with gold, glittery insides, to signify pots of gold (at the end of a rainbow).  I overlooked that this would leave the envelopes unrecyclable.  Moreover, we have since learned about the damage that glitter does to the environment, and are moving away from using conventional glitter and are planning to make our own from salt or sugar (like this) or buy biodegradable for special projects, like this Etsy product I am planning on trying soon (Etsy biodegradable glitter). Any glitter we still have will be for keep-forever crafts, like Christmas ornaments.  We are also a lot more aware about creating the demand for plastic, and perhaps would rethink buying plastic reusable straws, and go for something like stainless steel ones. I would love to hear more ideas for sustainable / zero waste alternatives to what we did, in the comments.

Instead of a guest book, we asked guests to bring photos, pictures, poems, lyrics or anything that showed ‘family’ and ‘love’ to them, and add it to our bunting (twine, with little wooden pegs).  We also printed off photos of us with everyone at the wedding, and pegged this up to get the bunting started.  It was gorgeous, and deeply personal, as well as being a great conversation maker, and we will keep the beautiful things our loved ones shared on it, forever.

(Un)Crafty Bride on a Budget: Handmade Fabric Bouquets, Origami Flowers, and Flower Baskets

Making our wedding flowers was a long and rewarding part of preparing for a highly personal, low-cost and (relatively) environmentally-friendly wedding.  I’m posting about this first, as if you’re planning to make your own flowers, it’s good to start early, so you can pick up and put down this project as time, leading up to your wedding, goes by.  I had never made flowers before, and with some help from friends and strangers, was able to make my own bouquet, and my seven (!) bridesmaids’.

Here is my bouquet — made from the petticoat of my daughters’ outgrown, 2-year-old-size summer dress.

Why would I have needed to make flowers?

Wedding flowers cost hundreds of pounds, cheap cut flowers are often not friendly to the environment.  What’s an uncrafty bride on a budget to do?

Make flowers.  

What sort of flowers? You may well have a theme or colours for your wedding.  For years, I held onto a dream of having a rainbow of bridesmaids; however, after looking at a few Pinterest images, I decided it didn’t work visually.  I had seen that when a group of bridesmaids stood in a line wearing dresses in every colour of the rainbow, they looked like a rainbow, but I imagined that as soon as they reconfigured or mingled or moved – which I very much wanted my bridesmaids to do – they’d look like guests, in block colours.  

The rainbow was still an important motif for a number of reasons, but another one had become important: my bridesmaids as backing singers.  These were the women who had been there at all the important times, who brought the glamour of true friendship and love.  They have always been with me, backing me. I love backing singers.

I also wanted my loved ones to be comfortable.  So, I asked my bridesmaids to wear their little black dresses (or catsuits / trouser suits / skirts and tops), like backing singers, and to each choose a colour to accessorise with.  Then I made bouquets in their rainbow colours.  

Photo by the brilliant Tracy Morter (www.tracymorter.com ). Three brilliant women. Three out of seven rainbow flowers…

As established in my ‘Why So Many Clothes?’ diary (http://saranesbitt.co.uk/2011/06/12/why-why-so-many-clothes/), during which I wore everything in my enormous wardrobe, I have a tendency towards holding onto clothes.  This meant that when it came to finding meaningful materials to make my flowers, I had plenty.  

I used fabric from our daughters’ outgrown summer dresses.  Around the necks, there were the usual toddler stains etc., which meant they were not good hand-me-downs.  However, much of the fabric was gorgeous and colourful and, importantly, connected to our union.  If you’re making your own bouquets from old clothes, first date clothes might be another interesting fabric, or anything that is unwearable but has some kind of history.

A friend added me to the Facebook group, A Make Do and Mend Life, early on in wedding preparations.  This helped a lot: a community of people who are generous with their skills and advice and gently passionate about conservation.  I was advised to get myself a glue gun and given some ideas on how to make the fabric into flowers.

The method I went with in the end was a combination of several, and well suited to my rudimentary craft skills.  

  1. Cut a strip of fabric, about 2-3 inches wide (4-5 cm), and longer than 12 inches (30cm).  
  2. Thread a needle with a length of cotton, doubling it up and tying several knots in the end so that the knot hooks onto the fabric when you make the first stitch (much like you will have learned at Primary School).
  3. Tack along one long edge of the fabric strip (to tack means to do a very basic stitch, in and out. I know this from a friend who customises all her clothes. She is amazing).
  4. When you get to the end, pull.  The fabric will gather along the edge with the stitches in.  Pinch this fabric between your fingers as it gathers, so it forms the base of a bloom.
  5. Poke a piece of florist wire inside the gathered fabric.  
  6. Apply hot glue to it from your hot glue gun.
  7. Squeeze the fabric into the hot glue to stick the wire to the flower and cover up any dodgy stitching (being careful not to touch any hot glue so you don’t burn yourself).
  8. When you have made enough flowers for a bunch, wrap all the flowers together with florist tape.  This tape doesn’t appear sticky until you apply a mild stretch to it and then it activates – great fun.

 

Total Cost: approx £26

Fabric – reused (free)

Hot glue gun with glue sticks – approx £20

Florist tape – approx £3 per roll

Florist wire – appox £3 for 100 ‘stems’

Time: on and off for months.  Once you get the hang of it, you can make three or four at a time while catching up with a TV show, listening to a bit of music, or even having a drink and chat.

Floppier fabrics were less useful; starchy cottons were best.  I filled in smaller bouquets with woolly pom poms (more on those in another post).  This is my picture of the bouquets, their stems wrapped with tissue just in case the English summer got really hot and the wax on the florist tape bled (almost wishful thinking…)

After the ceremony, the flowers went back to the venue and into glass jars on the tables.


A Little Rustic Stitching…

 

Flower Girl Baskets

As well as the bouquets, we decorated two baskets found in a local charity shop with the fabric flowers.  Two lovely friends and I spent a fun evening trial and erroring making origami flowers, finally finding a video we could follow on YouTube.

We filled the flower baskets with the origami flowers and they were scattered to make a colourful path down the aisle.  It was a perfect way of bringing our wedding into the Town Hall.  

Total Cost: £6

Origami paper – friends decluttering (free)

Baskets – £6 from charity shops

 

Time: a very enjoyable evening, plus a few extra origami flower making sessions while watching First Dates.  

With huge thanks to Natalie S for additional photos.

The Origami Flowers, made from this YouTube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jm_4hFPFAOU

 

Cutting My Own Hair Short: An Act of Grief, Identity or Silliness?

Clothes have been inconsistent for me – they hid, played, cheered up, celebrated, hoped, disintegrated, were beautiful or silly. My hair has – had – been a constant.

Hairstory

I was always Sara, with the really long hair and the teeth (ah, the teeth. They’re another story). I grew up with very long hair, cared for by my lovely mum. Mum brushed and plaited it while I complained at the hardness of the low, wooden stool with its white paint peeling off in layers, its onion-smooth seat worn away by my school-uniformed bottom. Mum would part my hair first with a knitting needle, the curiously nice scrape against the scalp. As we were very poor, she trimmed it after her patient, meticulous brushing and aligning. She spent hours, repeatedly, treating it and combing it with a nit comb. When I was at Secondary School, she would, when she could, save enough for me to have it trimmed by ‘The Monster’, the hairdresser in Notting Hill, near our home, whose green hair and piercings had made me cry when I was a little girl. When I was about sixteen, he made me stand up for the duration of my haircut, to punish me for having such long hair – all the way down to my bum – and tried to talk me into cutting it. I wouldn’t: my mum loved it, and it was integral to how I saw myself.

He wasn’t the last hairdresser to try that. I hairdresser-hopped for years, waiting for one who wouldn’t challenge my self-image. Is that over-serious? My tongue is in my cheek, but it was annoying, and more than annoying, too. Grown-ups I was paying to maintain my choices about how I looked to the world, how I felt about myself, were echoing the calls at the all-girls school I went to. ‘Sara. Cut your hair.’ No!

I did go through a phase of colouring my hair. When I left England at eighteen, I had waist-length, blonde-highlighted hair. This made me somewhat exotic in Thailand. The trouble was, as my dark, brunette hair grew through, and my highlights bleached blonder in the sun, I had pretty extreme roots. After three months, having decided I was going to stay for six months, I got highlights done in a Thai salon in the North. The foils were loose, so that the very roots I wanted to change were untouched by dye. I pointed this out to the hairdresser, and he simply painted highlight solution, or bleach, onto my roots, willy nilly. I came out looking like a tortoiseshell cat: splodges of red and gold on my dark roots, the underneath of my highlights no longer dark blonde but bright red, the highlights, yellow.

In the Ko Samet sun, it all got brighter, brassier and more pronounced. My six months turned into eighteen, during which I visited England to see my mum. Soon after arriving back in London, I was trying to reorient myself, taking the tube as I had done to school. In the curved plastic of the windows, I saw myself reflected, underlaid by the London Underground signs on the platforms. In the convex top of a door, I noticed how patchwork my hair colour had become at the roots, and on getting off the train, went straight to the posh hairdressers on Holland Park Avenue. I’d never had my hair done there. I asked them to give me one hair colour – dark brown, like my natural colour, from what I remembered of it. They explained they’d have to go really dark to knock out the spectrum of tones.

I looked forward to surprising my mum that evening. When she got home, she didn’t notice. I flicked and flashed my stole of shiny, dark brown hair, asked what clothes and make up suited my new hair colour, and was met with a quizzical eyebrow. Eventually, I told my mum I’d dyed my hair back brown.

‘Argh,’ she said. ‘Sorry, Sara. I didn’t notice because you just look like you as I picture you. You always had long, brown hair.’

It turned a rich, bright purple-red within a matter of weeks, a bit like Willow on Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s hair. Not what I wanted: I went back and dyed it dark again. This time the colourist put so much dye in it it deadened all colour and thatched the hair, made it stiff. Around this time, I developed severe acne – on my forehead it appeared as a stucco wall, bobbly and embedded, the same colour as my skin; on my chin and throat, up to my ears, boils, large, red and pink boils. I had a cheese fest, and gained weight. I lost my tan. The hairs on my legs grew thicker and coarser. It was Endometriosis, but I didn’t know that yet.

When I went back to Bangkok, friends said: ‘What have you done, Sara?’

I bought serum for my hair. This made it tamer but not quite straight and smooth as it had been pre-dye-dye-dye. When I had it blown out straight, I looked like me in my first Thai six months – the weight was improving, my skin was better. I spoke to a couple of my Thai girlfriends and they recommended I buy a straightening treatment.

My friend YB, her brother’s girlfriend and I were in a supermarket and found the treatment: a chemical that was for use by professional hairdressers only. Both YB and BG – both Thai with long, straight, black hair – had used it on their hair, and had great results. It was the run-up to a hot date in Bangkok: perfect time for straight hair.

Near midnight, I washed my hair, following the instructions. NOT FOR DYED HAIR, it said, so I thought: I’ll use extra of the deep conditioner. I rubbed the chemical through my hair, let it take effect, then washed it all out, conditioned for fifteen minutes, and was so tired by the end of the process that I went to bed with damp hair. In the morning, when I got up for work, my hair was hot, still holding water. My hair was so hot it was heating that water. I started to blow dry it, beginning at the front so if I ran out of time, I could just put the back in a bun.

As it dried, it looked as if someone had taken a match to my hair. The front layers were normal for about three inches, then they split and swizzled into strands that ended in nothing, in ghosts of where another several inches of hair had been.

I scrunched the rest into an up-do, hoping it would get better as it dried naturally. At work, on our lunch break, one of the girls looked at my head and said:

‘Sara! What happened?’

My head looked like a burning thatch: as well as drying it out and scorching my hair, the chemical straightener had blown all the red in it to the surface. It was frizzier than ever, and cracklingly stiff.

A hairdresser cut it to just below my shoulders: I can’t remember who or where, I blocked out the experience. Shorter, it was still stiff, red, dry – and shorter. I’d never had nor wished for short hair. I didn’t look like me at all.

For the next year or so, I used leave-in conditioner every day, intensive masks twice a week and had my hair trimmed once a month. It stopped frizzing and started to curl lightly, which hadn’t happened since I was a little girl.

This was around the time we lost our home. I remember in my sleep believing my hair had grown back down to my waist and that I’d come back. I woke up with hair that wasn’t mine, without a home.

Over the next few years, with more regular trims and leave-in conditioner, my hair began to grow again. In my time in Lebanon and Mauritius, it had a sudden spurt and after I got back to the UK, I was able to wear it at the base of my shoulder blades.

On my 25th birthday in October 2006, I had found something like hope in the volunteer community I lived in in East London, a masters degree and brill new job, and I went, boldly, to a new hairdresser, Diego, at Vibes on Brick Lane.

‘I’m 25, Diego, and I’m in a style rut. I’ve had the same hair since forever and I want a change.’

‘What do you want?’ he asked. He was cute.

‘Something sexy and mature; otherwise – really, do whatever you want. Cut it all off if you think that would work.’

Diego combed my hair again, looking: at my hair, my face, in my eyes. He sat down on a little chrome and black leather stool.

‘Ok, what I’m gonna do is,’ he said, ‘We’re gonna grow it all out and then trim it into one chic, blunt length.’

Diego got me, and this process of growing my hair back out, and as long as we could, felt like a return to me.

 

The Now

 

This week, I cut my hair into a bob. I had been out in Monday’s blizzard. My beautiful baby daughter had insisted we go out, pointing and complaining until I finally got her into her warm clothes and her pram, where she giggled and looked about, happily. For the millionth time since she was born, I scruffed my long, thick hair up into something between a bun, a knot and a ponytail, with the nearest hairband. Once again, I caught sight of someone I didn’t recognise in a dark window.

I had been thinking about cutting my hair since Saturday. My mum died last Summer, when C was four months old, after five years’ surviving with breast and then bowel cancer, and a short time dying. Much of the time, I am happy. Mum and I were close and I understand what death means, that her spirit has not gone. But her body has. Some days, that loss, of touch, of care, is strongly present, and Saturday was one. The thought occurred to cut off my hair. I laughed at myself: for having a Betty Bleu moment; I was sad for myself at having the thought.

But think about it later, I noted. And over the next two days, it became a positive. The scratty woman who could never wear her hair down, who felt disappointed at her appearance, the short hairs haloing the face after the change in hormones contrasting too weirdly with the long, long hair scruffed up and tumbling out of a scrunchie: that wasn’t me. So on Monday, after we got back from the walk through the blizzard, while my daughter – who had just shown that some things need to be entered into, even wild winds and snow – slept, I googled ‘How to cut your own angled bob square face wavy hair’, ignored all the advice, and got the hair scissors out of the drawer.

Standing in front of the bedroom mirror, I tucked up my hair till I thought, ‘Yeah, lady, you a fox.’ (Kind of. Not literally.) Then I parted my long hair into its natural centre parting – roughly, without a knitting needle, for I don’t have that kind of patience – and began with the left side, scissors in my right hand. I cut from the front backwards, in a straight line, with the theory that this would make the front slightly longer than the back. It worked perfectly. Then I took the right side in my right hand, and realised I couldn’t cut from the front backwards as I’m right-handed. So I swapped and cut from the back to the front. This created a layered, bouncy effect, in contrast to the angles of the other side. My daughter woke up. So I shook out my hair, tossed it about, and decided the style was ‘asymmetric mussy long bob’.

Three days later, and a few tidies up at the back thanks to the ever-lovely (and patient) Wolf, sometimes I look in the mirror and see Monica Bellucci as Lisa in L’Appartement, and sometimes I think of the scene in It’s a Wonderful Life when James Stewart’s character is told his wife, without him, would be an UNMARRIED LIBRARIAN and he’s all, The Horror! The Horror! Either way, I love my new hair. I feel like me again, although I look so different.

It is a marker of loss. I wouldn’t have cut my hair like this while my mum was alive, it would have hurt her too much. If you read about my wardrobe, this will sound less like co-dependency and more in keeping with the realisation that she tended to know what would suit me and make me feel wonderful and gorgeous and special. It also mirrors the physical loss: the hair is gone forever, and is suddenly, irrevocably untouchable. Not there to play with. Cutting my hair short has been a giant, gentle act of grief.

And it is a celebration of change. I am a mummy: this is my mummy hair. I can wear it loose and it doesn’t catch on slings or nappy bags; its less grab-able. It swooshes again. I see me in sunlit windows as my daughter and I take a walk. I know my mum would be happy to see this in her daughter.

 

 

By Sara Nesbitt Gibbons

Week 14: 100 days of…

Solitude, Comedy, Mystery, Generosity, Creases and Comfort 

You need to upgrade your Flash Player

Solitude

Who would have thought clothes got so close to the bone?

30.08.11

Tuesday’s Chinese, red waistcoat.  Years ago, I had picked up someone very close, with severe mental health problems, from hospital.  They had self-discharged but were visibly not well enough to be on their own.  As we walked around the local area, me hoping they’d decide to go back and have their injuries seen to, they told me stories about our past which made no sense.  They saw me as someone else; everything I saw was wrong to them.  Somehow, we wandered into Oxfam – something we would have done when younger.  I absent-mindedly picked up this waistcoat, still trying to hold onto a sense of being there in a situation where I felt lost and disorientated, trying to keep things normal so a casual mention of seeking care might seem undramatic (one of many, wildly different failed approaches).  An American tourist approached me in the queue, stroked the satin, quilted waistcoat, its feathery edging, and said, ‘Wow, I’ve been here for ages and I didn’t see this.  What a good eye you have.’  It was surreal.

As something to wear? It doesn’t button up now (I used to run when stressed and it fitted well when I bought it) but is a beautiful thing.  It does still make other people pleased to look at it. Keep.

The black, faded, v-neck tee underneath has its own, warmer history.  Knickerbox did a loose pair of black, drawstring trousers with coordinating tight tee when we were all about 15.  We were all obsessed with finding a pair of the trousers as the shops ran out really quickly. I found a pair, one evening after school in Ken High Street station.  They didn’t work on my already very curvy figure.  I’ve been roughly this height and build since about 14.  However, the tee really seemed to work.  I bought and loved it.

Faded, somehow without holes, I wore it to meet my friend ZH in Harrods, where she was working, about six years ago.  I was in denial about how sad I was in a relationship at the time.  ZH looked at me and told me to stand in front of the mirror.  I was wearing my faded tee, unflattering, torn jeans, oversized men’s trainers in yellow and green suede and my cycling jacket.  ‘Did you cycle today?’ she asked.  I hadn’t.  I’d tried to dress up.  She told me how much she’d always admired my clothes and make up, since we met in the clothes shop we worked in together.  She asked what had happened, what was happening. She sent me down to the Mac counter to get some positive attention and an eyebrow pencil, then said to come back and we’d go for lunch and really talk.  I can’t bring myself to give the tee up.  Keep.

Comedy 

31.08.11

One of the highlights of Wednesday was the compliment, ‘I love your ruff.’  This is my first wear of the feather gilet: I’ve been trying to make it blend into an outfit and I think the answer is it will always sit like a ruff, out and proud.  The blue, stretch shirt is nicely kitsch, a bit 90s newsreader, but not quite me.  The ruff was a hand-me-down from mum; the shirt an Irish charity shop bargain (20 cents!).  The silver, cowl necked vest was a recent gift from mum.  It’s exactly the style I’d have worn with bootcut black trousers at 17; not quite me right now.  Not Keep the shirt and vest.

Lovely shoes – the gunmetal, vintage Kurt Geiger heels.  Ripped at the toe and heel, but not shot.

Mystery

01.09.11

Thursday, a lovely, round-necked black top.  Where did it come from? On top of the wardrobe.  How did it get there? No idea.  No recollection, unusually, of acquiring it.  Nice, though.  Grey blazer – sleeves are too tight.  Really nice, but too small.  Not Keep.  If I ever need to be smart, I have a few other options.

Generosity 

02.09.11

Friday’s baby pink top with lace back has very high sentimental value, vs. difficulty to wear.  It was a gift from a performer in a very glitzy community theatre company I was working with.  I learnt a lot about make up and being glam on that project, especially useful  tips for getting the most out of basic make up tools.  I should probably Not Keep as I wear so rarely. The navy blue tee underneath is virtually see-through and holey too, it’s probably time to say goodbye to that one.

Creases 

03.09.11-1

The crinkled, pussy-bow grey blouse is not supposed to be crinkled.  It takes so long for me, possibly the world’s worst ironer, to get the kinks and wrinkles out of the poet sleeves and fine fabric that I don’t iron it.  It deserves someone who will. Not Keep.

The scarf was bought by a relative as a gift, for me, in Morocco.  They wore it around their head all holiday in the heat, to absord the sun and sweat.  Good thing I love them.

Black, suede, peep-toe heels are surprisingly comfy, those fabled comfy heels.  Keep.

03.09.11-2

Comfort 

04.09.11

Sunday’s jumper and collared vest are not a set but the exact same knit and colour.  I love it as a combo, although I wouldn’t like the vest on its own.  Together they feel sexy and comfy.

100 Days alert! Ruff day was day one hundred of my Why So Many Clothes? experiment.  Still going… see you next week.

 

By Sara Nesbitt Gibbons

Week 13 of Why So Many Clothes: Because You Shall Go to the Ball, if You Can Walk!

Let Me In At Your Window

You need to upgrade your Flash Player

22.08.11

Found a day dress! Thought I’d run out, but here was a dress with nought wrong but a broken strap, easily fixed with a brooch.  The problem is, it is easily mistaken for a nightie.  When I asked the Wolf if he could take a photo for the day he said, in all innocence, ‘No problem. Just tell me when you’re dressed.’  I feel like Cathy in Wuthering Heights; I should be waving my branching arms about Kate Bush style and smashing windows.  Keep, but dye a vibrant, non-nightie, non-spectral colour.

The shoes are great fun, with cotton ribbon ties and oversized bows, wedged black soles, and a monochrome pattern – but I can’t walk in them without them beating and whipping me.  Not Keep, reluctantly.

Fairy Godmothers

23.08.11

Midnight blue satin, wraparound blouse with a strong collar.  Exactly how girl me thought adult me would be: dramatic, sexy, well-made, different but not ostentatiously kooky.  A hand-me-down from my mum which I’ve never seen her wear… mysterious…

The black lace trim top underneath was from a boutique in Paris, about ten years ago.  I’d never have picked it out; the lady running the shop – deep leather tan, brightly dyed hair, groomed and all in slinky black – pulled it out with a knowing look.  My boyfriend at the time blushed when I tried it on, but when I said I’d put it back, thinking it didn’t work, he said very quietly and firmly: buy it.

The Cacherel mac is one of the most treasured things in the wardrobe.  It was from the sales in a time of crisis, bought by my mum.  What better than a rainbow striped mac to weather a storm?

I think the print is by the same designer who collaborated with Ozzy Clarke.  My mum – this will come as a surprise – used to keep decades-old clothes in an outbuilding attached to our West London flat.  In amongst them was an Ozzy Clarke dress, long and slim, dark green with his signature neckline, which sadly had no hope of ever fitting me.

Ah, the shoes.  Marc Jacobs, as we’re dropping designer names this week.  My inspirational friend and mentor DF had a house sale when she moved from London to South America.  I saw these shoes, next to a selection of old workboots, red and glorious. There was love and lust in my eyes.  The Wolf saw me looking at them and helped me try them on.  They were cheap at £30 but I couldn’t justify buying them, being stony broke as ever.  Later in the evening, DF came into the room, graceful, elegant and mystical.

‘Whoever’s foot fits the shoe…’ she began.

The eyes of the women in the room lit on the shoes, their round red toes nested in her hands like glass slippers on a cushion.

‘They fit me!’ I shouted.  ‘I’m an eight! They fit me! I already tried them!’

Rather indecorous. Luckily, my shoe godmother laughed and said I could keep them if I could walk in them for an hour.  I could. I even learnt some martial arts.

On Tuesday, however, wearing them to meet my wonderful sister, I couldn’t walk in them.  I didn’t get as far as our meeting place.  Perhaps it’s my current bodily condition; perhaps I lacked the magic of foot-numbing red wine.  Keep, mind. They are beauties.  And can transform me even from the shelf.

Witchy Boots

Wednesday’s black boots – black, suedette, ankle-length and kitten heel – aren’t uncomfortable.  I don’t like them.

The green swing jacket is outdated, certainly, but comfortable.  After a lot of dithering, Not Keep too. I have too many coats.

24.08.11

The patterned halterneck, from H&M for my 23rd birthday, is an old favourite and still going strong.  The combination of colours is unusual and attractive, and the choker tie neck and dropped, floaty back are flattering.  The sea-green halterneck underneath is useful for layering, though not something I’d wear on its own.  Keep, for layering.  The royal blue cardigan is much-loved, ancient work uniform, so worn that the elbow has nearly come through.  Keep until it does.

Pumpkins

The three pinks vest under Thursday’s black, button front top helped me transform from the shrunken, fat person I felt like in my first year at Uni into someone who had a right to be at the ball.  At a Greek restaurant which closed its shutters and kept the cheesy music going till breakfast time, on the first wear of the pink and pumpkin layered vest, I found myself with one man hanging onto my hand from his attempt to chat me up while another tried from my left.  I extricated myself from both with my inner candle lit.

The battered, black leather jacket was once a swish, slim-line one which made me, in my blonder days at eighteen, look like a Bond girl.  I was so convinced that this transported me from local girl to a woman ready to shriek, ‘James!’ that I mentioned it to the man writing the screenplays at the time, who lived on my street.  He laughed.  I was confused.  In retrospect, I’m not embarrassed. Why shouldn’t a young woman see herself as good enough?

25.08.11

How quickly the transition to a frumpy-feeling 19 year old at Uni happened.

Finding the Other One

In the laundry room of a volunteer community I lived in with fifteen others, I saw the skirt to Thursday’s black and embroidered top.  The owner of the skirt became one of my best girlfriends ever.  Perhaps it was a sign of what a great match we’d be.  The top’s knackered, now.  Not Keep, and keep the memories.

Princess

26.08.11

I love my horsey red jacket (Friday).  The buttons have horses on them and the label says ‘Dressage by Paul Costelloe’.  My mum found it for me in a charity shop.  Whenever I put it on, I get the song I Want Money in my head.  I feel like I’m holding a whip.  The crinkly blouse is old uniform from the lunching ladies clothes shop I used to work in.  The boots, which I’d previously gone off, are really comfy for a heel, and have a sort of pony feel to them.  Keep all.

You Turn Me To Jeelie

27.08.11 - 1

Hmm. I love the pink, wedge jelly heels (jeelies) I’m wearing on Saturday but walking in them is really beyond me.  I’ve worn them out a few times, maybe once upon a time, and am likely to turn into a knee-quivering jelly if I try again. Not Keep.

Rich Fabrics Over Rags

27.08.11 - 2     28.08.11

Saturday and Sunday’s tops are like two alternate endings: the happy and the disappointing.  Saturday is the happy ending: chiffon vest, silk top and velvet jacket. All Keep.  The chiffon was a few quid in the sales; the silk top, a hand-me-down from mum; the velvet jacket, £2 in the sales.  I’ve hardly worn the velvet and1 the chiffon but now I choose to be swathed in soft textures.  This isn’t an expensive decision as the clothes are already in my wardrobe.  I’m going to feel good.

Sunday’s (Not Keep) tops are old, panicky, contingency tops.  Things I’ve kept in case the world falls apart and I run out of clothes.  I choose not to feel like that anymore.

 

By Sara Nesbitt Gibbons

 

 

 

 

 

Week Seven of Why So Many Clothes : Because Clothes Tell the Wearer Stories

You need to upgrade your Flash Player

Fairytales With Endings We Change

At twenty-two, I’d been working in a clothes shop, put on full make up every morning, and bought into trends for their own sake.  By this, I mean I bought into the idea that wearing clothes marked in magazines as ‘Bohemian’ (this was 2004) and ‘Gypsy’ actually transported me into these imaginary lives. The much-parodied fashion talk about buying into dreams was a waking reality for me.

This Monday, I’m wearing my satin, aqua blue vest, with mesh trim, bought in Warehouse in 2003 at full price (about £15), layered under the white shirt.  I rushed out to buy it after seeing it in a glossy, in a section marked ‘Mermaids’, showing all sorts of watery, oceanic textures and colours.  I wore it first to a house party, with a statement, beaded necklace in more sea colours, fitted blue jeans, and stilettos.  Another wavy-haired brunette was wearing the same, Warehouse vest, in more of a sea-green, with a different, beaded, statement necklace, tight jeans, and heels.  We took a photo together: two mermaids.

Of course, this didn’t consign me to a life with my too-human legs bound forever in tight denim, my feet stabbed at each step, much unlike the sad, original Little Mermaid – although I didn’t ensnare any handsome young men either, at that party.  The vest lives on in different guises, most recently, today, as part of a quite pantomimey ensemble.

11.07.11

Clothes With Little Lives

I’ve written a few times about realising, through this blog and looking more closely at my wardrobe, that quite a few of my clothes are worn out.  Looking at this white, tuxedo shirt, I can see it’s past its best: rusty drops on the shoulder where I’ve brushed past lily stamens, coffee and very faded red wine on the front, if you look – and I don’t iron (once, my wonderful friend and ex-housemate KR ironed it for me, and I went unrecognised, honestly, at work the next day).  Love this shirt, though. Keeping.

The shorts are a favourite, although they don’t have any specific sentimental value.  I just like them.

I’d miss each of these items. I realise: I keep some, if not many, clothes because of how they look to me, and not how they look on me – as if they have lives of their own and I want to keep them in mine because they tell some sort of story to me as I wear them, rather than their always meaning something to my own life story or simply looking good.  It reminds me of looking at a picture book recently that I’d loved as a child: Angelo, by Quentin Blake.  I’d spent hours reading it, then adult me looked again and realised there were no words, and wondered where everything I remembered had gone.  I’m still at the dreaming stage with clothes.

I wonder if I should worry about this?

Adult Clothes

12.07.11

There is a large degree of adult fantasy, too.  The stripy top under Tuesday’s dress has a deep V on the chest and back, and I bought it as a reference to Brigitte Bardot.  It sits very high on the waist and looks very sixties French movie chic with high-waisted drainpipes or pencil skirts.  Today, though, I’m working practical chic, with the black dress.  Fifty cents from another Irish charity shop, and too comfy and easy (good sensible length, nice smooth, tactile fabric, sensible neckline) to Not Keep.  The strappy red sandals slip off different parts of the foot, but I want to keep them.  ZH pops up in my head, saying, as she did while we shopped on King’s Road a few years ago, that adult sandals are always a good investment.  Keep all. Except the embroidered coat – I love it, but it’s just too tight on my arms. It’s taken me four years to admit that.

Duvet Days

Wednesday is a genuine duvet day.  Really not feeling well.  Thursday I still feel unwell, but need to go out for a couple of hours to keep a promise to help a friend, before curling up in bed again.  The long-sleeved maxi feels like the closest thing to a duvet.  This dress is pure story.  I bought it in tribute to a friend’s poem for a poetry theatre event, Peter Ebsworth’s ‘The Very Brief Rise and Fall of Andy the Amoeba and his Contribution to Popular Music in the Late 1960s’ (about an amoeba who inspired the Cellular Song) and it became my Incredible String Band dress.  I wore it to my mum’s 60th birthday shortly after, because of her love of the song and band, and my wish for her, as the song says: May the long time sun shine on you and all love surround you and the pure light within you guide you all the way home.  Like a duvet, like clothes, the dress is enveloping, comforting and full of dreams and stories.

14.07.11

Weathering a Storm

15.07.11

On Friday, I need to wear all grey and practical clothes to shift things about for a performance of The Tempest, with puppets.  The grey dress makes me feel strong and shaped, although it shows my tummy.  Back in Week Two, I gave a green dress to a craft group to become a puppet. Today, that puppet is coming to life, as Caliban.  Seeing the dress in its new role, in a beautiful performance, triggered a poem, which is on a new page in its first drafty form.

16.07.11

On Saturday, the Wolf and I travel to Manchester to see Bjork’s Biophilia  (yes yes, now equal to Bob Dylan for best gig ever) with the Wolf’s lovely parents.  I seem to be in storm colours, still, appropriate because it doesn’t stop raining.  I do love rain.  At the concert, people’s buttons and zips catch on the extraordinarily loose-knit jumper.  They are all very friendly about it, and one man asks if it’s a net for catching people, new friends.  Perhaps it is.  Fisherwoman is more effective than mermaid.

One man also says he would wear jumpsuits if he was a girl, as they look so comfy.  Quite right.  I knew catsuits and holey jumpers were useful.

The Dream is Over

Bjork is wearing a short, gold, leatherette dress, with a foumphy multi-coloured top and a wavy, orange wig.  She looks stunning and glorious.  Her dress reminds me of a gold bandeau dress, very similar to hers, I didn’t buy in a Glasgow charity shop.  Longing.  Did I mention Bjork is amazing?  I want to go home and dress like her.

Sunday’s dress is, like the white shirt, way past its best but still too loved to Not Keep.  Ink stains on the bottom, mottled with light bleach, and once offered the compliment: ‘I like your dress, it reminds me of my kitchen curtains.’  The velvet leggings, however, are a failed fantasy.  I’ll keep them only to keep me warm in winter, under high boots and long skirts.

17.07.11

Here’s the link the old green dress poem http://saranesbitt.co.uk/poems/

 

by Sara Nesbitt Gibbons