Fashion, News

Falling back in love with your clothes: aAh! Magazine share their oldest pieces of clothing

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Featured image: Caitlin Baber

According to climate action NGO Wrap, the average lifespan of a piece of clothing in the UK is only 2.2 years, revealing society’s throwaway culture. However, there is hope. The search for sustainable goods rose by 71% between 2016 and 2021, demonstrating a decided shift away from fast fashion.

While many of our garments have admittedly short lifespans, certain pieces have held tenancy in our wardrobes for decades. These items capture years of history, and have memories woven into their fabric, preventing their eviction. Each garment has its unique sentimental value and tells its own story, some even having been handed down through generations.

In the spirit of falling back in love with your clothes, the team at aAh Magazine share the stories behind their oldest items of clothing, in hopes that this will inspire others to reconsider their relationship with their clothes.

Music editor and journalist Jennifer Grace – Cotton maxi dress

In recent years, I’ve come to appreciate the history held within the fabric of older and pre-loved garments – all the more important within the fast-fashion climate. One of my oldest second-hand items is a white cotton maxi dress given to me by my mum; it’s almost 30 years old now, older even than me, but still in fantastic condition.

Mum actually bought it with the intention of getting married in it, but her friends convinced her that she needed to get a ‘proper’ wedding dress. She kept it as a memento though and years later, coming across it in an old suitcase, asked if I’d like it.

Wearing something that holds family history and means so much to my Mum feels special, particularly knowing that clothing she loved and lived in herself is finding a new lease of life within my own presentation of personal identity and style. Living away from home, it also provides a comforting connection to her in spite of physical distance.

Fashion editor Isabelle Moore – Viyella navy blazer

I have realised over time that my creativity and love for fashion can be traced back to my mum. She worked as a textile designer in her early career, meaning she knows a thing or two about style. Her treasure trove of old clothing is something I will always cherish.

My favourite and the oldest piece she has handed down to me is a classic oversized wool and cotton blend navy blazer from Viyella. It may sound slightly basic, but thanks to its simplicity the blazer is a timeless garment that can be styled in many different ways. 

The most memorable time I have worn it was for my first day at university as a Manchester Fashion Institute student. I was a bundle of nerves, and definitely felt homesick, so it was comforting to wear something that connected me to my family and home. It was also a very proud moment for my Mum; me starting my new creative endeavour while wearing something that had been with her throughout her career many years before.

Fashion editor Caitlin Baber – ‘cool as fcuk’ baby-tee

I remember so clearly being eight years old and for the first time really looking at the clothes my mum was wearing; multi coloured festival ponchos, knee-high lace up Dr. Martens and band t-shirts. I didn’t always understand or appreciate my mum’s fashion choices while growing up, overwhelmed with all my pre-teen teenage angst and longing to blend into the crowd. It wasn’t until turning 17 and wearing a hand-me-down French Connection, ‘cool as fcuk’ white baby-tee my mum had passed onto me, on my first day of sixth form that I realised how standing out was far better than playing it safe – a lesson I learnt from her.

Seven years later, now studying a degree in Fashion Promotion and in my final year at university, I am still wearing that French Connection top (now almost 18 years old). Looking back, I can see how the individuality and unique sense of self my mum always displayed in her clothes sowed the seeds of my decision to study fashion years later, where I now have the opportunity to bring those same feelings to other people.

Artist Tommy Bui – Hellboy T-shirt

This was an acquisition from my very first Comic Convention, where it would have been a sacrilege to leave without some kind of nerd souvenir. And this over-priced shirt was it. I’m always amazed at how, when I was younger, I was able to economise and find the means to do things without any income. It was all just savings and penny-pinching. I had no allowance or side hustle. I made do with my zero salary. I somehow found my way to San Diego and toted back a shirt – a shirt that’s served me well. The screen print still looks pristine after countless washes, and it fits snug as a bug. These days, now 20-years-old, it is just a little stretched around the midsection. 

I often tell the story that I received some disapproving cocked eyebrows while walking around the Vatican in this shirt. It’s a story I’ve regaled so many times I can’t remember if it actually happened, or if I just willed it into existence in my memory of my time abroad long, long ago.

Journalist Anna Klekot – Soviet cute dogs T-shirt

Moving countries at a young age has resulted in me randomly finding bits and bobs that my family members have brought from Poland as keepsakes after moving to the UK. Only the most prized possessions have made it here with us and surprisingly, one of them was a cute T-shirt with two dogs on it. 

No one has any idea where this t-shirt came from; for the longest time, I thought it was my sister’s from the 80s, but she believes it belonged to one of our cousins. With no one claiming the tee, I guess I will never find out who it originally belonged to. What I do know is that it is from the 1980s, from soviet times in Poland. 

It is one of my most valued oldest items of clothing. Most of my family members grew up towards the end of communism in a small city in Southern Poland, while I grew up in Leeds in the early 00s – resulting in us having very different childhoods. However, this trope of mysterious hand-me-down garments creates a link between us that I find comforting. 

About the author / 

Caitlin Baber

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