Is it possible to suggest that fashion, or personal style, is in the blood – inherited from a parent or far-flung relative; that certain traits are passed through successive generations, regardless of location or circumstance; that my great-aunt’s brief training in the art of pattern cutting has somehow contributed to my own love for well-tailored jackets?
The phrase “in the blood” is odd. It provokes images of white cells in the shape of tip-tapping high heels, or platelets scurrying through arteries like pillbox hats. It suggests somehow that such a passion is something pumped around the body, through veins as intricate as spider’s silk, carried in velvet-red blood. Of course, it’s a figurative trope; a way to imply that we can inherit the same interests as our ancestors thanks to shared DNA.
But perhaps it’s more a matter of environment. I’m not sure whether my collection of silk shirts would be as extensive if it weren’t for the influence of my mum and grandma in bringing well-dressed relatives to light. Certain themes and professions do stitch themselves through families – ours being entwined with the worlds of drama, science, geology, writing and teaching – but these threads have to be brought to attention. I would have little idea of my rich, clothing-related heritage if it weren’t for the boxes of black and white photos of picnics and days out, or for the dresses and accessories that have been passed on to me. These are the links that pin the past to my present. My paternal grandma’s couture Balenciaga dress bought in a NY thrift store (such a favourite that it is mentioned regularly here) or the fur collars rescued from my maternal great-grandma’s house are the evidence needed to prove that my interest is partly genetic. It’s a combination of the innate desire to collect vintage suitcases, and the sources of information that provide details of exactly what role fashion has played in the lives of family members.
My mum, as mentioned above, has had a key role in this uncovering of the past, whilst inspiring me daily with her own looks. She was my first point of contact, the initial example of the potential for self-expression and creativity held within clothes. I can remember the coat appliqued with fabric leaves that she wore to pick me up from primary school, and the long, cream dress that has now been sucked into my wardrobe. My inbuilt ‘charity shop radar’ is entirely thanks to the woman who dives into the nearest Oxfam or Red Cross at every opportunity. She dresses fantastically, and I think that my own immersion in fashion has heightened her interest too. We share clothes regularly, and often look to the other for approval or opinion of an outfit. Of course, we have many other mutual passions – particularly when it comes to literature – but there is a lot of pleasure to be found in a day out at a vintage market, or in the many shoots we do for the blog. It’s very satisfying to reverse the lens once in a while though, and an offer from John Lewis to treat my blog 'other half’ (also known as the resident blog photographer, although I should mention that my dad sometimes takes up this role too) to a selection of clothes sourced online was a perfect opportunity. A voucher duly arrived and although my mum was tempted by things as diverse as these Berties shoes, or this jacket with a vaguely RAF silhouette, she eventually chose two dresses to style with her own mix of second hand and vintage accessories.
As a woman who never shops on the high street, mum enjoyed the prospect of casting her eye across an unfamiliar array of possibilities - with John Lewis claiming that they have "brands to suit all styles". Knowing also that John Lewis carry sustainable/ethical label People Tree, she was particularly enthusiastic about making a purchase from this wonderful company, albeit disappointed that the Orla Kiely diffusion line was not stocked online. However, People Tree's gorgeous 'Amy' poplin boat print dress matched the soft waves of the Welsh coastline beautifully, the organic cotton soaked by evening sun. Ten minutes before taking the photos I was swimming in the sea – a very cold bliss. The second dress is by NW3, and mum appeared to be sailing through the field of barley as I snapped away, the pleats brushing the seed husks. She chose this one for versatility of wear in all seasons. Unfortunately her very impressive balancing act in precarious heels was hidden from the eye of the camera – although watching her climb over a farm gate in them was rather amusing.
All the accessories are vintage or from charity shops - with special mention going to the clutch in the first set of photos, which is actually the most beautiful pyjama case I have ever found. The silver 'chevron' necklace worn with the first dress was made by my hugely talented friend Esme (she of the 'backbone' brooch in the header). Big thanks to Jo for organising this initiative.