“I love old clothes. This must be distinctly understood from the start. Maybe you do not, but I do: Clothes which have worn soft and comfortable with age, moulding themselves to your shape; clothes in which your hand finds its way unbidden, unerriing, to a familiar pocket; I love the history of such clothes and the memories that they hold. I love other people’s old clothes too for with them you can add your own story to other stories lived perhaps long ago, imagine what kind of person wore them before and the experiences lived. But pride of place in my collection goes to a garment with a particular family connection: cricket flannels that belonged to my father’s brother, James. Now obviously I do not know the full history of these worthy strides (but then what is life without a little mystery), however, I do know that they were bought before 1937, for that is when their owner enlisted in the Royal Engineers.”
“Not a very wise time, you might think, to enlist but now’s the time for a little social history: James had served his time as an apprentice electrician but now that he was qualified, and due a journeyman’s wage, the company let him go; the effects of the Great Depression were still quite in evidence in our slow-moving corner of South West Scotland, so joining the army seemed to offer good prospects for an able young man, and so it proved. He was about the same age as many of you and enjoyed an active social life in the days when people relied on real personal interaction for their amusement and not just on Instagram and Netflix: as well as trying his hand at cricket he was a champion swimmer, and just making a name for himself in the local amateur dramatics scene; he was even invited to do a turn as a model in a fashion show for a local gentleman’s outfitter. All this apperently idyllic between-the-wars life he left behind to join up, and if he’d joined the army to see the world, he wasn’t to be disappointed, and soon found himself in the Far East: Singapore, Shanghai, Hong Kong. But this was just as Japan was flexing its muscles and sure enough, soon Hong Kong fell. I prefer not to imagine what cruelties he endured as a POW but they were many and he was soon destined to new horrors as forced labour on one of the many Japanese engineering projects such as the famous bridge on the River Kwai. But this was not to be James’ fate as he fell victim to the biggest “friendly fire” incident of the war when his unmarked prison ship, the Lisbon Maru, was sunk by an American torpedo. For James, that’s where the story of his short life ended. I found his flannels years later, still just as they had been carefully folded away by his grieving mother, alongside a few medals, his cap badge and some photos of him looking rather rakish in an Errol Flynn moustache. I wore the trousers quite a bit at University and I still wear them today, so, almost a hundred years later, his memory lives, on woven into the fabric of his flannels. They have lasted well; made of good stuff.”
“I was in high school in 2012 until 2015. During those 3 years there was this particular classmate that I remember distinctly. We attended many classes together in the first and last year of high school although we were never friends. We were both very conscientious students and there was this rivalry between us. We were very competitive with each other in terms of our grades. But I began to find out more about his life and this made me feel closer to him. In the national exam we met during the ceremony. Both our parents were French teachers. Our parents had met before and his mum confided to my mum that she had really wanted him to study medicine although he had chosen engineering. We didn’t really talk until the first year of medicine. I went to the engineering building and I bumped into him and we started to chat. We then began to make small talk online. It stopped there until one day in 2019 he shared a picture of Lisbon on his Instagram account. I was traveling to Lisbon and I suggested meeting up! It was his last day there and my first day there. We had coffee together and wandered around. We spent the whole afternoon together. He showed me all the places he’d liked! He took lots of photos of me! He was an excellent photographer. He took the photo that I picked for this article. I began to really open up. I talked about previous boyfriends and my personal life. It was interesting given we didn’t use to get along but now it was like he was a close friend! We took a selfie at the metro station and he walked me back to my hostel. He was traveling to Spain after Portugal. I told him about a strange taxi ride I’d had with this really flirty taxi driver. He gave me his mobile number and everything! After that I sent him more photos of Portugal and my holiday there! Since then we’ve chatted l regularly! I can tell him about my love life, my personal life and I can go to him for advice. He is a lovely person and I really enjoy his company! He has since moved to the UK to London specifically. 2 years later we met on almost the same day as the day we met in Portugal. I was wearing the same outfit and he was wearing the same sweater. I didn’t even realize. We met at a tram way station! He tapped me on the shoulder and it was him! I thought about hugging him but because of covid I decided against doing that. In those 2 years we had become so much closer. On the train he told me about some exciting upcoming interviews he had with a British firm! We went to a lovely coffee shop called Paper’s Club. You can grab any book you want and read it while you have a coffee or some food. We had a great catch up! His cousin came to pick us up! He promised to meet me again but his exams got in the way! Now I really hope I can see him again!”
“The outfit which holds the most sentimental value for me, ironically enough, is one I would never be seen in again. When I was 13, my sister and I went down to London to see Taylor Swift for her RED Tour. Admittedly, I am still completely obsessed with to this day. We decided to really dress up, since she has a ritual where the fans who stand out the most are asked by her mum to come backstage after the show to meet Taylor herself. Naturally, Grace and I went all out. We had red hot pants (which I have never worn, nor ever will wear, since). We had home made t-shirts. We draped ourselves in fairy lights. We had sparkly bows. We even had illuminous shoe laces. We were basically walking Christmas trees. But… it worked! And honestly, I wouldn’t change anything about that night for the world. Especially not what I was wearing. Waffling my way through a very emotional encounter with one of the world’s most famous and successful artists, when else would you have the confident innocence to talk to your idol with smudged red lipstick on your face than at 13 years old ? Although our outfits were maybe the furthest thing from haute couture you could ever imagine, I have never been happier or looked back on an outfit with such fondness or pride. If I ever do meet her again, though, I might try to tone down the fairy lights (and the tears)!”
“As far as I can remember, I started wearing this hat around five years ago, when I was sixteen and a sophomore at my new high school. The earflaps in the winter were a blessing, which could be why I initially wore it. More than anything, I used the hat to keep my hair down (the long hair from then still haunts my passport photo though). It was a mostly calm time, mostly consisting of cruising through school. That winter we hosted a blind boy from China for a few weeks, and he would come back a year and a half later as my brother. One of the weird things I did was watch lots of anime, and listen to lots of Japanese music. My hat became an accessory to this goofy point in my life, when my biggest concern was getting homework in on time. The years since then have been turbulent to say the least. My hat has followed me through the messy latter half of high school, attending university across the Atlantic in Scotland, partying with friends, dropping out of said university, covid lockdowns, moving across the country, and working tirelessly towards building a potential career in law enforcement. I took a picture of myself wearing the hat in my new office because I just recently started a summer job as a Park Ranger with a local police department. A lot has changed in the five years since I first started wearing my silly winter cap. I have struggled and grown tremendously, trying to make the best version of myself as I entered adulthood. While I take myself more seriously now as I solidify my place in this world, I still blast weird Japanese music and use this same hat to manage bad hair days. My hat and I have been through a lot, with many more adventures to come.”
“My mom helped me shop for this outfit for my first internship when I was 17. It was the first time I bought pieces for such a professional setting, but we decided to have some fun with it since I was going to work at a fashion showroom so expressing your personal style was encouraged. The internship was in NYC and I was both excited and nervous to be living and working on my own. I remember wearing this dress on my first day because not only was it my favorite, but it made me feel confident and sure of myself. I may have spent two hours trying to deliver samples to a boutique in Brooklyn which turned out to have changed its name, but at least I looked good while doing it. Now, whenever I wear this outfit I’m reminded that although I was so anxious, I still managed to get the job done, even when I didn’t know what I was doing.”
This has been an incredible project which I have really enjoyed working on and I wanted to give a massive shoutout to everyone who sent me a memory and a photo and shared their tale. I genuinely loved reading them all and putting this together to show the diversity of clothes that are out there and the power they have to tell our stories. Each story is different, and this really shows how we all have a different story to tell the world.