Sunday, 20 January 2013

Telling Stories








If this hand-knitted dress were the main character in a novel, the opening chapter might detail it being carefully wrapped in starry paper – opened the following day. Then there would be a flashback to the night some three weeks previously when a woman with red hair sat at her computer, screen illuminating her face as she placed her bid. The action would be suspended so that the author might make some ever-so-meaningful point about the beginning of a new story.
Put simply, my mum bought it second hand on eBay, as a Christmas present.
We love to give things narratives. A piece of costume jewellery from a market stall had a previous life while a battered sideboard was obviously either unloved or much loved in its former existence. Inanimate objects are personified. Their use and experiences are discussed. Trunks, dresses, tins, clocks, vinyl records, hats, cushions, books – on and on goes the list. ‘Second hand’ signifies a previous owner. Items are brought into the home and cleared out again; a tidal pattern of emerging and retreating. As objects move from one set of hands to another, they take on (or rather we give them) extra resonance.
There are two types of stories – the known and the unknown. Actual stories attach themselves to embroidered coats bought on a trip to the Winter Olympics or skirts made from a lace wedding train. Family heirlooms are a tangible connection to the past. My mum has kept a single button from her late mother’s ‘goat coat’ (a rather smelly anorak worn to feed the reeking billygoat on the smallholding where they once lived) because it symbolizes a significant time and place in her childhood. That button has become a link to her mother in that particular moment. Similarly, an athletics vest worn by my late paternal grandfather at Stanford was kept as a memento of his aspirations and achievements. These objects act a little like grappling hooks, with the long rope of history and heritage trailing behind them.
Unknown stories manifest themselves in items whose origin remains mysterious. Here indulgence is speculative. A name in the flyleaf of a poetry collection or an old snapshot with anonymous subjects gives a small sliver of insight. Both inspire fictitious possibilities. A narrative can be created for the girl who inked her initials or the group of friends shielding their eyes from the sun in the photo. Similarly, one can conjure the ghostly figure that once inhabited a vintage skirt or pair of Fifties' heels. It is a process of fabrication.
Why do we do this? Mainly to anchor ourselves, to inhabit our surroundings and give our own daily stories meaning. It is a means of both mooring and securing. The majority of us build a cocoon of the material and solid. Whether bought or received, designed for adornment or practical use, the ‘stuff’ we own both defines us and gives us access to other lives beyond ours.
Even items bought new are brushed by others’ fingers. Everything has a creator – whether it’s the craftsperson who made a cupboard or a poorly paid worker piecing together sections of a cheap t-shirt. For of course, sometimes the chronicles are unpleasant, such as a ‘blood diamond’ - so named having been mined in a warzone, with the sale being used to fund violence and corruption. These stories, the relation to suffering, the slave labour or the carbon footprint produced, are the ones less regularly told. 

The photos were taken by my dad while on a walk with family and friends (all pictured in the last shot!)  I'm wearing an original sixties hand-knitted dress from eBay, Joules wellies, a second hand polo neck and faux fur coat & a vintage hat. 

21 comments:

Yours Truly, x said...

These photos are lovely! You have such a natural poise in front of the camera! xx

Emalina said...

What a great outfit, glam but practical. That hand knitted dress is a real find, so special! You look gorgeous.

kate said...

I love this post. Well written and gorgeous photos to match!
thisiskatefunk

Helen Le Caplain said...

Great pics - and love that dress... I love how pre-loved items have that sense of history, whether it's something you definitely know about (family heirloom) or giving an outfit its own elaborate back story!

www.mancunianvintage.com

Jean at www.drossintogold.com said...

At first I couldn't help but think of the stories those trees would tell us. I love old trees, the keepers of secrets and time. I was lost in the romantic narrative when I scrolled to the last picture. I adore that picture because it brought me firmly back to the here and now in such a joyous way.

The older I get, the more I enjoy my flights of fancy tempered with the beauty of the so-called everyday. They merge until sometimes it's hard to distinguish one from the other. I like that. It's good to embrace life in the here and now, as you appear to be doing!!

Closet Fashionista said...

I just love that dress!! And the photo of all of you is so fun! What a good looking group :)
It's so true about second hand items, I love imagining what kind of life the item had before it came to me - and a possible life after me :)
http://www.closet-fashionista.com

Lydia said...

That last shot is so amazing. I love how you're addressing the camera, and everyone else is just sort of there. Reminds me of an album cover or art shoot or something.

The Foolish Aesthete said...

Hello, dear Rosalind! Your mum handpicking (or clicking) your dress for you on eBay is a lovely continuation of the story woven into this Christmas dress!

I so love being surrounded by objects with stories. Our home is filled with pieces of ourselves and tell of our adventures. Some may sneer and call it "eclectic" - a euphemism for nothing matching! I recently brought out a Berber wedding rug, picked up from a soukh in Morocco many many years ago. I had kept it in a closet for a long time because I thought it smelled of sheep! But now, with the bovid scent fading, I've thrown it on the floor next to an ancient Tibetan Buddha I picked up from Asia long ago and some native throw pillows from my tropical homeland. That entire area now is like a chapter of my life signifying the exotic world I inhabited at the time. I have a friend who just renovated her home and I realized she was as crazy as me. All the lamp fixtures in her house were antique lamps she had picked up from her trips home to Turkey, which she had hand carried back to the US against her husband's protests on impracticality ("the wattage is wrong", "the sockets are different", "we'll never find the right bulb" ...). But they were a part of her. Somehow, going into a department store to pick light fixtures just doesn't carry the same meaning nor deliver the same pleasure.

I liked how your photos progressed from you marching around the woods and cliffs to being surrounded by your merry entourage! -- J xxx

Sacramento Amate said...

Nobody tell stories the way you do: in writing and pictures.
I love the last one. It is better than any editorial.
Much love, dear Rosalind.
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Uliana said...

Aw, such a cute outfit. I love this hat

Joy said...

argh you look so good here!

Vanessa, Take only Memories said...

There is a vintage store here in Berlin where the owner always asks the people who drop of clothes for the story of these items. She then writes the stories on little cards and attaches it to the clothes when she puts them out. Such a beautiful idea, don't you think?

Lovely photos :)

Willow said...

Ah, yes - contemplating the story of an item's past, the endless possibilities of how that little stain or tear got there, or wondering how many times a 40's gold sparkly purse was taken out and donned with an evening dress. I love to find the names and stickers on vintage suitcases, or a transport ticket in a vintage bag. I once found a letter in a book from an 'Auntie Flo' to a young nephew. There's some amazing used diaries from the 1800's on etsy which I am coveting.

What a lovely dress whose past you can ponder, you've styled it brilliantly for what looks like a wonderful time with family and friends. The first and last photos are my favourite.

Angharad Poole said...

I love this post - i am forever doing this myself, creating my own story's in my head for charity shop items, however 'vintage' they are. and i love the very last photo, no idea why, but it really is lovely!annie x

www.cheramibloger.blogspot.co.uk

Bella Q said...

Hello beautiful Jana family! You are all lovely!

Milex said...

oh darling

FASHION TALES said...

This is such a wonderfully put together outfit. It's so interesting how everything that we wear really has its own tale. I just adore these splendid shots! :) /Madison

Vix said...

I adore that short of you all out rambling, you look like you've been zapped in from another era!
I don't find that I make up stories to the pieces I own, the thrill of the way I acquired them is enough to keep me amused! x

sharpenstyle said...

Not only your outfit and photos are stunning and both have a vibe about them really unique, but also your writting is impecable.

Congrats on such a great blog! And we really mean it.
KISSES
http://sharpenstyle.blogspot.com.es/

Ivana Džidić said...

Your writing (and it is such lovely writing I have to say) made me think. I think that just might be the reason why I like second hand's clothes. I like clothes that tell a story or look like they do. Second hand or third or fourth hand...clothes you get from your nanny, things you get from your friends, borrowed items...it is all about a story I guess.

Mocha Daily said...

I love last photo! It really looks like from a novel or a fairy tale:)