The Story of Clothes

Forever Amber: the story of clothes

(Zara pants, La Redoute sweater, Marc by Marc Jacobs handbag and Gucci sunglasses (c/o Shopbop)

A couple of years ago, I discovered a vintage Jean Varon dress in a thrift store in Edinburgh.

Now, I’m no fashion historian, but this dress looked to me like it was from the early-to-mid 70s: it was in pristine condition – in fact, it looked like it had never been worn – and it was £4.50. So even although I knew I would never, ever wear it, I bought it, thinking I’d stick it on eBay, and maybe make a bit of a profit from it.

The thing was, though, that once I got the dress home, I found myself strangely reluctant to part with it. For one thing, it fit like it was made for me. And for another, well, it was just really, really beautiful, in its own, 70s-tastic kind of way. And that was the problem. You see, while the dress was beautifully made, in a gorgeous green and white floral print fabric (green! my favourite dress colour!), it was very definitely of its time. It was ruffled. And… flouncy. And, look, let’s make no bones about this: it was a 70s shepherdess dress. In fact, when I took it round to show my mum, the second I stepped into the living room with it on, my dad instantly asked me if I’d had any luck finding my sheep yet.

It was that kind of dress. And even although my tagline  is “never knowingly under-dressed”,  I knew beyond doubt that there was just absolutely no possibility of me having an opportunity to wear it (or not outside of a fancy dress party, anyway, which would seem like a waste of such a dress). It wasn’t suitable for a wedding, or a party. You couldn’t really wear it out to dinner, or to visit friends. Well, not unless any of those events were actually happening in 1972, and there were going to be sheep present, that is. And honestly, how often are YOU invited to a sheep-herding party in 1972? Hardly ever, I’ll bet.

So there was really no possibility of me ever wearing the dress. I knew this, and because I really hate the idea of buying things and then not using them, I also knew I should follow through with my original plan, sell the dress on eBay, and then forget all about it.

But I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

Forever Amber

After just a few days of owing the dress, you see, my unnatural attachment to inanimate objects had well and truly kicked in. I felt attached to the dress. And more than that, I was absolutely fascinated by it. What was its story, I wondered? The small amount of research I’d done into the label told me that my initial guess had been correct, and that the dress dated from sometime in the 70s. And yet, it had never been worn. What had happened, I wondered, that some girl (and in my head, this girl wasn’t just the same approximate shape and height as me: she looked just like me, too. Fancy that.) had bought this lovely dress… and then had just hung it up somewhere and forgotten about it for all these years? How had a dress from the 70s come to find itself in an Edinburgh thrift store in 2010, just hanging there, waiting for me to discover it?

The more I thought about this, the more convinced I became that the dress had been waiting for me. It wanted me to find it. And so I would pick it up and put it on, and I would twirl around in it and think about its story.

“Still looking for those sheep?” Terry would ask.

Eventually, I gave in. It had been weeks, and I was no closer to working out what it was the dress wanted from me, or how I could help it fulfil its destiny. And honestly, I needed the money for something which I totally can’t even remember now, so it can’t even have been that important, but whatever it was, I allowed it to convince me that I was NOT the proper guardian of the Jean Varon dress, and that I should stick to The Plan and sell it.

So I did.

I got quite a bit for it, as I recall, and even although I had a pang of sadness as I packaged it up and sent it on its way, I told myself I’d done the right thing. I mean, as I said, I just don’t believe in buying or owning things just for the sake of it. I know that probably sounds strange coming from a fashion blogger, but although I have a lot of shoes and dresses (and trousers, and tops, and … you get the idea), I’m not much of a hoarder. I believe in getting my money’s worth out of the things I buy. I think clothes should be worn, not just left to gather dust, and if I have any clothes that fall into that category, I always end up donating or selling them, otherwise I feel guilty about them. The Jean Varon dress had no place in my closet. It couldn’t possibly earn its keep. So I told myself I had sent it on to the person who would love it, and wear it, and allow it to fulfil its destiny.

I was wrong, though.

You see, the woman who bought the dress didn’t like it. “Don’t get me wrong,” she wrote to me, when she asked for her money back, “it’s a beautiful dress. But it looks terrible on me. You should give it to the redhaired girl who was wearing it in the auction photos: it looks like it was made for her.”

I almost let her send it back. I was almost swayed by the “looks like it was made for her” part into believing I’d made a mistake: that I WAS the true owner of the dress, after all. But the fact was, I still needed the money. And I still wouldn’t have worn the dress. So I held firm, she kept the dress, and I don’t know what happened to it after that. Oh, the humanity.

Why am I telling you all of this? Dammed if I know. No, wait, I do. See, for the last year (or two), I’ve been wondering what the hell I’m actually doing with this blog. The longer I have it, and the less I have to write about in it, the more convinced I become that I’m Doing It Rong, and that a personal blog can never really work without some kind of a “hook”, or theme. And this week I thought my theme could be that I could tell you the story of my clothes. They all have them, you know. They might not be as mysterious as the doomed Jean Varon dress, but for almost every item in my closet, I could tell you a tale or two, either about how I came to own it, how I came to lose it (because no one loses clothes as often as I do. NO ONE.) or what I did when I wore it.

So I decided that’s what I’d do. I would tell the story of my clothes – as well as other things I write about, obviously – and that would be the thing that would keep this site limping forward now that Nigel, the International Man of Mystery Next Door is gone.

Then I wore this outfit, and I realised that these clothes?

Forever Amber

These clothes have no story. Like, none, whatsoever.

Another idea bites the dust.

And I will always wonder what became of the Jean Varon dress.*

(Yes, I know this post would’ve been a lot more interesting if I’d shown you the photos of it. But I spent ages searching my hard drive drive, and I can’t find them, so I think I must have deleted them. Whoops.)