Friday 26 September 2008


Fashion, by definition, is ephemeral and transient. Why is it, then, that whenever I open the doors of my wardrobe these days, the contents feel less like a carefully curated collection of seasonal trends and more like a dog-eared old photo album, full of curling pictures of a self I hardly recognise. Have I become hopelessly nostalgic about clothes in my, ahem, middle youth, or has a lack of ruthlessness and a far from bottomless clothing budget meant that I just don’t edit enough. And, like many things in my life, items linger long after their sell-by date.

Who knows? It's just that, in amongst the chiaroscuro anonimity of a work uniform of DVF wraps, Armani trousers and Prada pencil skirts, lurk clothes imbued with meaning. Some of these wear their significance loud and proud: leading the parade is the fabulous and timeless Paul Smith I wore for my wedding with its bold print of ochre, aubergine and viridian leaves and the accompanying provocative pair of purple satin stiletto boots. Every time I put it on I’m suffused with the peace and joy and expectation of that hopeful, sunny October day.

And thus, getting dressed is more a sentimental journey than a simple act of modesty or modishness.

This is brought home to me as I sort through my summer clothes. Finally defeated by the weather, I beat their retreat into plastic boxes where they regroup to fight another, warmer day.

But as I start putting things away, fugitive memories writhe from the folds of a scarlet Ghost dress, plangent with remembrance of times past yet unworn for several summers. A little Proustian madeleine of a frock, it winds me with a sudden punch of feeling, sensation collides with sentiment and I sit down suddenly on my bed, clutching it to me, its fibres great gouts pooling in my lap. Memories start and tremble, calling me by name. At once I’m back at its last wearing: a sultry June day when the cling and drape of its fabric moved over me like urgent fingers, a lover of a dress, enfolding me in an erotic complicity of cloth on skin. The sights and sounds and sighs of that day are as vivid as the flagrant red of the dress and I am overwhelmed. My breath catches.

I fold it, firmly and determinedly, into its box. I shan't wear it again, yet I can't let it go.

Time present and time past
are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden.

1 comment:

Fashion Blur said...

I agree that “getting dressed is more a sentimental journey” and I see my clothes as cherished old friends…