More than seams and fabric…

Your favourite clothes are more than just seams and fabric
Peeking out from the dark hues and deep wine shades that dominate my wardrobe is an explosion of colour, fitting in about as comfortably as a cat at crufts. Dusty pinks, startling turquoise and lilting greens run riot in mesmerizing diamond shapes, replete with a daringly black lace neckline and a diamond cut-out back.

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Bought on a whim for the princely sum of £15 from a vintage shop in Affleck’s, a fashion emporium for vintage fiends in Manchester, this multi-coloured dress is still my go-to outfit on good days. It’s my pièce de résistance. The dress that makes my heart flutter. It doesn’t reflect anything else I have ever worn, which is part of the appeal. It’s brash, it’s loud and I have never seen another dress like it. We all have our favourite outfits which become important to us for a myriad of reasons.

“When people hold on to items of clothing for nostalgic or sentimental reasons, they are reactivating memories of past developments, ties and even past selves,” says Karen Pine, a psychology professor in the University of Hertfordshire. “Through clothing people forge and maintain a strong connection to others, retaining ties with the meanings and memories of the past.”

So there you have it, maybe the reason you so delicately take care of that printed blouse or are head over heels with those sharply tailored cigarette trousers is because they’re tapping into past positive experiences.

But if they tap into your past, could it then not also be said that some outfits are indicative of our future? After all, when you first wore those favoured garments you had no catalogue of memories to connect them to. Perhaps these items are held in such high regard because we see them as aspirational. For example, leather jackets having pride of place in many people’s wardrobes could have a positive association because it’s connected to the music they like. It could be that some of our most prized clothes mean so much to us because of what they might mean for our future.

Erika Fox is a Galway-based lifestyle and fashion blogger over on Retro Flame, who describes her favourite outfit as “a black vintage dress that I recently wore to my college graduation. I absolutely love vintage pieces. They’re unique, well-made and always stand out from the crowd.” Erika bought the dress in Cotton Face Vintage in Galway and believes that if you look good, you’ll feel good.

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“In my research I found that women would be ten times more likely to put on a favourite dress when happy than when depressed,” says Professor Pine. “Five times as many women in the survey said they would wear their favourite shoes when happy than when depressed.” 

Digging a little deeper into why those flushes of colour and uniquely tailored pieces capture us so much shows that our clothes, and particular outfits that we have come to identify as being a first-choice against the backdrop of every other item of clothing we own, extends further than just seams and fabric.

“As adults, as our lives unfold, the clothes we wear can embody our sense of who we are and where we have come from,” explains Professor Pine. “They become our identity, and act as external receptacles for our memories, our dreams, experiences… Memories seem to become woven into the very fabric of some garments.”

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If that’s not a reason to indulge in some retail therapy, then I don’t know what is.  

Words: Aideen O’Flaherty

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