AMY’S RADICAL CLOSET REFASHION PART X
In my last post
I finally shared the results of my wardrobe inventory.
I’ve been having another type of wardrobe clear-out this week: launching a Keep & Share sale
to help me clear the cupboards of my ready to wear collection as I shift to becoming a commission-only label, remaking styles from my archive
But, returning to my own wardrobe, new clothing-related questions are now popping into my head. The one I’d like to focus on this time is: just how long do we keep our clothes? As I’ve mentioned in my previous posts, there isn’t a whole lot of research on the contents of our wardrobes— and information about the length of time we keep things is particularly scant.
While I have a lot of clothes, I don’t add to my wardrobe very often these days. This is partly because I love many of the things I already have - I know that any new item would have stiff competition. It’s also based on a conscious decision to adopt a slow approach to fashion - informed by my own design philosophy
and linked quite specifically to an article I read whilst studying for my MA over ten years ago.
The article was in View on Colour, a trend prediction journal, and it argued for a move towards slowness and satisfaction. Here are some excerpts that I found particularly inspiring at the time:
"Pollution, over-production, and the possible scarcity of raw materials became a general concern some twenty years ago. The main answer has been recycling … but recycling still demands energy and produces waste. The more definitive solution is to keep…"
"We want to invest. Buying for now and for the future, designing our own sustainable style as years go by…"
"Putting together a wardrobe and a home will become a life-long process and something of a quest…"
"You will not be searching for the perfect object but the perfect object for you. Putting together this alphabet of basic and loyal items will spell out who you are…"
These words - particularly the line about a life-long quest - have stayed with me, more than any other book or article about sustainable fashion. I do feel like I have been searching for the perfect ‘Amy pieces’ - and when I find them, I want to hang on to them and keep wearing them for a long, long time.
Flicking through my wardrobe this morning, I tried to figure out the average length of time I’ve owned the contents. It’s hard, because of course, the answer varies - there are recently-acquired items sitting alongside pieces I’ve had for many years. And while I’ve got lots of secondhand/vintage clothes, which might be decades old, I’m interested (right now) in how long they’ve been in my wardrobe, rather than how long it is since they were made.
I reckon I’ve acquired the majority of pieces in the last ten years, and I’d estimate the average at 5-6 years.
As I browsed the rails of my wardrobe, a few older items stood out and so I took them out into the garden for an impromptu washing-line-based photo shoot…
The longest-standing pieces are a number of shirts and Indian tops that I’ve had since I was in my early teens (think grunge era). I wore them a lot then, and then didn’t wear them for a long time… but they’ve recently come out of hibernation and feel both emotionally significant and totally right for now, so I’m very glad I kept them.
Then there are a few pieces - t-shirts and a sweatshirt - that were handed down to me by family and friends, and so have a longer ‘known life’ (if we include the time worn by the previous owner). The stand-out item here is a well-worn Bob Marley tour t-shirt bought by my parents in 1976. I love to wear it, but keep it for special occasions as it is so delicate, beautifully disintegrating into a constellation of holes.
I had a quick look at my shoes, and realised that the older pairs tend to be ‘posh’ heels - I wear them so seldom that they don’t have chance to wear out! The oldest ones still knocking about are a pair of Red or Dead patterned slingbacks - which I loved so much, I bought two pairs. Man, I love those shoes - though I’m not sure I’m ready for that 90s heel again, quite yet.
And finally - here I am (above), wearing what I think is the longest-standing item I have worn continuously, without a break, since acquiring it over fifteen years ago—a Belle & Sebastian band t-shirt). I’ve paired it with what I think is the oldest-in-actual-age item in my wardrobe —a lovely handmade black jacket— and my most frequently worn garment, my black Old Town
What is YOUR oldest garment friend? I’d love to know.
- Amy Twigger Holroyd
One-woman British fashion disruption engine Amy Twigger Holroyd
is completing her PhD on folk fashion, while conducting stitch-hacking workshops, developing the practise and philosophy of reknitting, and producing fantastically restructured garments under her label Keep & Share. Read (and shop) more here