I have always been fascinated by other people’s stories. I am enthralled and interested to hear people’s different life experiences. I assumed everyone was like that- it was such a natural and significant part of me that I truly believed that’s how other people saw the world. I still don’t think I completely understand that part of myself but when I studied anthropology I began to. I realized I loved the discipline, so this article is anthropically based and pays homage to the power of anthropology to bring people together and truly understand ourselves through in particular with this article clothes we’ve worn that bring back or represent powerful and joyous memories.
I’ve always loved color and design ever since I was young, and of course fashion. If you saw my wardrobe and the two additional clothes racks you would know what I was talking about. So, let me just say this article combines two of my interests and the memories and pictures which you will come onto read act as personal fashion histories showing the power of clothes to retain memories.
I had this idea earlier this year and wanted to explore the concept of how our memories are woven into the fabrics of our clothes we wear whether that was the leather jacket you wore to your first interview, that iconic yellow dress you wore when you went with your friends to the beach and stayed out all night, or the blazer you wore on your first day to school. Stories are powerful so I hope you enjoy the plethora of different personal fashion histories below.
“As a child, I remember watching my grandmother hunched over a sewing machine. This was a hobby she had from a young age. At the time when my grandma started her family, buying clothes was expensive, many Italian housewives knew how to sew and would do so for their numerous family members. I remember when she would spend long summer afternoons (while everyone else was napping, as is typical in Southern Italy) working on a dress, or crocheting a beach cover-up. As she aged, she stopped sewing, only hemming a skirt or sewing on a button here and there. Although she’s stopped sewing, the clothes she made for my mother, my aunt and I still retain the memory of her artistry.”
“This dress in particular holds special meaning for me as my grandmother had initially sewed the silk dress for my aunt. As she can no longer wear it, I happily took it off her coat rack to wear it myself. To me, this dress holds the originality and timelessness I’ve grown to value in clothes. Having been sewn by my grandmother and worn by my aunt as a young girl the dress holds a memory of my family that I can find comfort in even when I am far from home. While a very simple silhouette, the dress not only reflects the summery style of the 70s but also holds the memory of my grandmother’s years of work and dedication to her family. “
“One thing I really miss from my home country is the sunshine. The other my friends. The sun is, unfortunately, an infrequent visitor here in Scotland. So, when he graced us with his presence a few days ago my mood immediately turned equally bright, and I could not resist abandoning my studies and going for a long walk around town. My mood became even better the moment I opened my drawers and started going through my spring clothes, trying to decide what I was about to wear. Even though I knew the weather was undoubtedly going to turn chilly and cloudy once again, that sunny Tuesday felt as the beginning of summer. I had no difficulty picking up my outfit. The one you see on the picture is my all-time favourite look for the same two reasons I miss my home; it reminds me of my sunny summers in the city and my best friends.”
“The cotton white puffy crop top – short buttoned-down skirt with tiny red roses combo screams summertime. Together with black tights and a pair of classic brown fisherman sandals, the outfit turns more appropriate for spring. I wear it all the time during the spring and summer months, and I have lived many sweet memories in it. The most prominent is one of my last coffee shop visits with my best friend from school a few weeks before leaving for Scotland. We went to a cute little colourful place in a hidden paved alleyway in the centre of Athens. We sat at a table under a blooming tree, the sun was strong, and it was pleasantly breezy. Soft jazz music was travelling towards our way from the bar inside. He ordered a glass of coke and lemonade. Even though it was one of our simplest afternoons out, I miss it the most dearly. I wore the same outfit again when I went to visit one of my closest friends from my university. I was waiting for her at the side of the road when a girl approached me and told me my blouse reminds her of Lolita. I told this to my friend when she arrived, and she laughed at my apparent obsession with certain literary works. Remembering that event and my friend’s well-meaning teasing, I accessorised my outfit with red lipstick, red cherry earrings, and red heart-shaped glasses, all items a nod to Nabokov’s novel. Needless to say, I do not romanticise the relationship of the two protagonists, but I adore both the book and the 1997 film adaptation. This association of my outfit with the story reminds me of my other beloved friend from my undergraduate years. The summer before leaving home we spent a few days together at my grandmother’s beach house. It was the sweetest vacation. Every afternoon we chilled on the porch, sea-smell in the air, eating fruit and reading; she Dracula and I Lolita. I could keep on going about all the memories I revisit through this specific outfit, but those three are my most cherished. Fashion bears a lot of power, and its profound impact on our psyche is impressive, to say the least. But, as far as I am concerned, it is more than enough that I can put on a shirt and a skirt and immediately smile, for I feel closer both to my friends and to the most carefree summer of my 23 years on this Earth.”
“This French marinière has been my ‘pal’ since my first year in Uni. The navy theme has been omnipresent present in my life, as the women in my family are very fond of this theme in clothing. Blue, red and white stripes have since a child been part of my closet: from kindergarten until now, I fancy these combinations, practical to match and pretty to the eye. This particular marinière has accompanied me in trips, parties and trivial but special moments of life, whether with jeans and sneakers or with a skirt and my espadrilles. I have not lived by the sea, but I love the ocean, and maybe wearing it is a way of having a bit of it in my daily life. I also like the ‘canoe’ cut of this long-sleeved shirt, and if you take care of it (I got mine from the brand Petit Bateau, which I highly recommend), this striped piece of clothing will gracefully last many years, hopefully.”
“The skirt I’m wearing is Burberry, and it originally belonged to my mother. She first bought it around 2006, specifically to wear during a trip we were planning in Scotland! That was my first time visiting both Scotland and the UK in general, and I always associate this skirt with memories from that trip. I, of course, had no idea I’d be returning 12 years later for uni! She gifted me the skirt as I was packing for the move here, and went with me to get it tailored. I have bittersweet memories of that time, as I was both excited to start my time at St Andrews but also sad about saying goodbye to not only my parents for the first time, but also goodbye to my home in Singapore, since my parents would be moving to the US as soon as I left. The t-shirt I also bought with her, specifically in London, where we went together when she visited me at the end of my first year of uni. I never really got homesick during uni until covid, so it’s nice to wear these pieces that remind me of spending time with my family when that happens!”
“It’s a french inspired outfit and it reminds me of being able to fit into the french community in Edinburgh, so quickly after moving here.”
“Although on the surface this is just a simple white shirt, the memories that are threaded through it make it so special to me. With the cropped, floaty sleeves and the delicate spotted pattern, this is a top that simply feels like me. And that is something that shone through when I subconsciously reached into my wardrobe for it on countless early mornings during my year abroad, getting ready to go to work as a teaching assistant at a school in southwest Germany. Whenever I wear this top, I am immediately transported back to the classrooms filled with pupils inspiringly eager to learn. I am transported back to teaching Year 5s how to talk about their favourite animals in English, teaching Year 7s how to Ceilidh dance, or (often hopelessly) attempting to answer Year 12s’ questions about the intricacies of British politics. Whenever I wear this top, I am transported back to warm evenings sipping Riesling by the Rhine after work, the sun beaming through its light fabric, laughing and sharing stories with the loveliest group of fellow foreign language assistants also living in the region. I find it fascinating how vividly these memories can be retained by a piece of cloth. So vivid, that I am somehow almost reluctant to wear it now, for fear of diluting the feeling of these happy memories coming flooding back to me whenever I put it on.”