This skirt danced with James Bond. It’s by Vivienne Westwood and I bought it in 1992 or 3, when I was working in film production and being a girl about town. Later I made a film with Daniel Craig … we danced at one point. I remember I was wearing the skirt. I don’t know what he wore.
Throughout my adult life I have accumulated and hoarded a large, eclectic wardrobe, with each key garment representing a different episode of a personal history. The (already) vintage Chanel suit that my future husband bought me from the legendary Didier Ludot on our first trip to Paris - who knows who wore it before me?
The Rifat Ozbek suit of lights which was a birthday present and which is one of only two in existence – the other belonging to Grace Jones...
... my Ozbek wedding dress, obtained from Rifat’s studio the night before I got married. Then there’s my mother’s seventies wardrobe, including a vintage Lanvin evening gown, relics from her youthful days….
Along with many other cherished garments, I’ve kept them and worn them and danced in them and loved them like old friends - and now I’ve decided to let them go. After over 30 years of hoarding I have come to the conclusion that these beautiful creations need to be worn and loved and danced in by someone else.
It is not easy to say goodbye to things with such a personal attachment. It has made me think about how we invest emotionally in objects, and how we calculate their value in today’s over commodified world.
I recently attended a fascinating talk by Dr Rebecca Arnold, Senior Lecturer in History of Dress & Textiles at the Courtauld Institute, and Dal Chodha of Archivist, which looked inside people’s wardrobes and examined what our clothes say about us, processes of selection and accumulation and questions of what value our garments have in a disposable culture.
One of the most interesting photographs was from the Hussein Chalayan show A/W 00.
On a stage set, a sleek modernist living room – chairs, a coffee table, a television. Four models wearing grey shift dresses approach the chairs, remove the covers and then convert them into dresses before our eyes. The last model steps into the middle of the table, lifts it up and transforms it into a skirt. The show was inspired by refugees of war, people forced to flee their homes, carrying their worldly possessions on their backs. That was the year 2000.
What do you choose to keep and what do you leave behind? Or in my case, pass on? I’ve been handing out individual pieces to friends for years, not without a few regrets. But there is a great freedom in the idea of letting everything go. It’s genuinely exciting to think the clothes will go on have another life, with someone else. Who knows, they may get to dance with James Bond…
Since I embarked on this project of letting go, I have realised that many others share my experience of the emotional and philosophical aspects of the process, as well as my concerns about environmental and consumerist issues in the world of fashion which have been another big factor in my decision.
And that is the ethos behind Menage Modern Vintage. The sustainability aspect will be discussed in another post, but for now MMV would love to hear the secret lives of your clothes. Do you have anything languishing in your wardrobe with a story to tell?
Please leave a comment below, or email us with a story and a photograph.
If you are interested in seeing the Chalayan show, click here. It's a work of art.