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.)

Hi, I'm Amber. I'm a full-time fashion/shoe blogger from the UK, and this is the story of my life, my clothes, and the International Man of Mystery Next Door. You can read more from me at my other blogs, The Fashion Police and Shoeperwoman, and you can follow me on Bloglovin' here.

30 Comments

  • Reply May 9, 2012

    Roisin

    I do love that idea, Amber. I’m sure lots of your clothes do have stories, even if a lot of them are “…and then I spilled pasta sauce down it” (which a lot of my clothes stories would consist of, to be honest!)

    • Reply May 9, 2012

      Amber

      Seriously, almost ALL of mine would end like that! In fact, this weekend Terry and I got a takeaway, and when I stood up to clear the plates, I realised I had managed to get the sauce from TERRY’S meal all over my brand new, sparkling white sweater. Which was weird, because I had ONE BITE of his chicken, just to taste it, AND I was wearing a dish towel tied around my neck to act as a “bib”. How did I do it, HOW?

      (It came out, thankfully. We did have to laugh, though, at the number of times I have to change clothes halfway through a meal, and put my original clothes in the machine…)

  • Reply May 9, 2012

    Katie

    But they do have a story, because they’re the clothes you were wearing in that post about the Jean Varon dress!

    Personally, I think your blog does have a hook in that you can make ordinary things seem completely hilarious. Not everyone can make an international man of mystery out of a mostly-absentee neighbour!

    • Reply May 9, 2012

      Amber

      Oh, thanks for saying that: that’s definitely what I try to do, but the comments have dropped off so much lately I think it’s time to either change things up a bit, or just accept that no one’s reading any more! You’re right though: this outfit shall totally be me “Blogging About the Jean Varon Dress” outfit!

  • Reply May 9, 2012

    Eva

    I agree with Katie – I’ve been reading this blog since 2007 (I think) and something must have made me hang on for so long. I remember it was the autumn of the grey sweaters and everyone had one and you wrote that you had just bought one as well.. Your blog is funny and I covet your wardrobe… so what am I saying here? Well, just keep on doing the same thing because it’s working. Oh, and the story of the dress was lovely and hearbreaking. I have serious issues with attatchment to inanimate objects as well. Especially dresses.

    • Reply May 9, 2012

      Amber

      Wow, 7 years? That’s amazing: I wish I could reach through the screen and hug you for sticking with it for that long :)

      I remember my “grey” phase – I actually still have most of that stuff, too: it comes back out every winter, to match the weather!

      • Reply May 9, 2012

        Liz in Paris

        Isn’t that 5 years? No matter, Eva’s right, I’ve also been reading the blog (all your blogs actually) for several years and really like them! Keep up the great work and the splendiferous photos!

        • Reply May 9, 2012

          Amber

          Whoops, you got me! For some reason I read “2007″ as just “7″ – my bad!

  • Reply May 9, 2012

    Heleen

    I think it would be so interesting to find out whatever happened to that dress. Maybe you could try and contact the ebay user again who bought it? Don’t give up Amber!

    I haven’t been reading your blog for that long… Maybe 2 years? But you have, absolutely, a divine sense of humor. You crack me up every single time.

    (fantastic outfit btw)

    • Reply May 10, 2012

      Amber

      I had a look through my eBay history, but it was such a long time ago I couldn’t find it – I actually don’t think the buyer left me feedback, either, because she’d wanted to return it, and probably wasn’t too pleased when I said no! I am very curious about what happened to it, though!

  • Reply May 10, 2012

    Libby

    I’m sure you have many, many readers who don’t really comment, such as myself. I love all of your blogs, especially this one. I could never make dumb things that I do sound as funny as you do!

    • Reply May 10, 2012

      Amber

      Well, thanks for commenting now – it’s always nice to know that people are still hanging on in there!

  • Reply May 10, 2012

    Lynsey

    Ditto to all of the above. I’m a newbie to your blog and it’s inspired me to be a blogger. Don’t worry so much :) Most people (like me) will read and not leave comments. It doesn’t mean we’re not enjoying what you say.
    xx

    • Reply May 10, 2012

      Amber

      Oh, that’s wonderful to hear – you must give me the link to your blog, I’d love to read it!

      • Reply May 10, 2012

        Lynsey

        Thanks! It’s a work in progress right now. I need to stop procrastinating and just do it! I’ll be sure to share once I get over my blushes and it’s live. I’ve got the same fears as you over the type of content to share, what would would people want to read etc. Need to stop being a worry wart and heed my own advice… xx

  • Reply May 10, 2012

    Kathleen Lisson

    I love the story of the dress. It’s like that boyfriend that was moody and wonderful but after a few weeks you found out that you didn’t like the same movies and music and food and books – so what could you do together, really?

    • Reply May 11, 2012

      Amber

      Haha, that’s a fantastic analogy! And even although you know you did the right thing by breaking up, you still think of him every once in a while…

  • Reply May 10, 2012

    Sandy

    For a brief moment there I thought you were going to say you were stopping this blog and then I would’ve been all “Nooooooooooooo”.

    As everyone else has said, your blog is truly funny, in fact I did think the other day “why isnt there a book of Amber?” I’d certainly buy!

    Your blogs are a highlight of my Internet wanderin’s (well, alongside the shoppin’ that is ;) )

    • Reply May 11, 2012

      Amber

      Oh, there should totally BE a Book of Amber! And it would be filled with Commandments, like Thou Shalt Not Whistle and Never an International Man of Mystery Be! I’m going to get on it ;)

  • Reply May 10, 2012

    Claire

    Add me to the list of folk who’ve been reading your blog for years – I don’t comment much but I love the natural way you write and your blog has seen me through dull afternoons in at least 3 jobs. Sometimes I’ve had to bite my lip to stop myself laughing at my desk :-)

    Keep writing – this is my fave of all your websites.

    • Reply May 11, 2012

      Amber

      Ah, making people laugh at their desks is always a good thing in my book! Glad you’re still here :)

  • Amber, I am so loving your posts already, and I’ve literally only just started following! I think I’ll be putting aside a little bit of time aside every day to read them – they are so entertaining and true-to-life (please continue to write them…?!!) :)

    I love the idea of clothes with a story, and I love this uber-chic, minimal sweater and white jeans combo. You’re giving me a 50s movie star vibe!!!

    I’m hosting a giveaway if you’d like to enter?
    http://notdressedaslamb.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/giveaway-revintage-jewellery.html

    Catherine x
    notdressedaslamb.com

    • Reply May 11, 2012

      Amber

      Oh wow, what an amazing compliment Catherine – thank you!

  • Reply May 11, 2012

    Emma

    I have to agree with everyone who reads but doesn’t often comment! I have been reading your blogs for about two years now (ever since I googled ’50s style dress’ for a party) and am well and truly hooked. I think I even read through ALL your archives at the beginning there, and was a bit sad when that came to an end and I had to read the posts on an as-they-come basis =P. This is my favourite of your blogs – maybe you don’t have anything ‘interesting’ to write about (who says clothes arent’ interesting?) but you MAKE it interesting to read.

    • Reply May 11, 2012

      Amber

      God, I wish I could give you a medal for reading the archives! Sometimes a post from them will pop up in the “you might also like” section and I’ll click on it and think, “Woman, what were you THINKING?!” I’m just glad I didn’t have the internet when I was a teenager!

  • Reply May 12, 2012

    EMA

    Wow I love your outfit and you are so beautiful! Keep the looks coming please!

    http://www.themirroronthewall.com/

    • Reply May 14, 2012

      Amber

      Well thank you! I will do my best :)

  • Reply May 14, 2012

    Laura

    I too have been reading your blog for the past couple of years now and have never commented before.
    Your ramblings amuse me no end and although I love all the shoes and dresses etc. and you are super stylish I definitely keep reading for the giggles! You seem to be able to make the tinyest things funny and I love the style with which you write. You should try writting one of those chick lit novels, you could be like totally the next Sophie Kinsella!
    So please keep going with it, I don’t read any other blogs and I can only imagine the amount of drivel I’d have to wade through to find another as good as yours!xx

    • Reply May 14, 2012

      Amber

      Oh, I love Sophie Kinsella, so it’s a huge compliment to me that you think I could be capable of something like that! I would love to write a novel, but I fear I’m more likely to just be the Shopaholic! (Actually, I think that might have already happened, let’s be honest…)

  • Reply May 14, 2012

    Lela

    You pulled me in…and now that dress is a lost puppy to me. Haha.

    Besos,
    Lela
    Enter to WIN my hotel, afternoon tea and beauty Competition!

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