The oldest clothing item ever recorded is a linen Tarkhan dress from Egypt’s First Dynasty, dating it at approximately 5,000 years old. While my wardrobe does not boast relics quite so archaic, a modest 25 years – in a world of fast fashion – is an achievement.
I remember sitting on my parent’s bedroom floor, sifting through scattered things, and placing them in cardboard boxes labelled in black sharpie: keep, charity, bin. I was about twelve at the time, that age where you are so self-conscious, where all you want to do is blend-in. At least, that is what it was like for me. I had been adventurous with my clothing as a child, favouring the ever-fashionable crocs, and bold dungaree dresses. By this age though, I had realised that was not ‘cool’ (whatever that means anyway). I suppressed that part of myself.
“With the risk of sounding overly dramatic, this is quite possibly one of the biggest regrets of my life.”
So, when my mum handed me a bag of clothes from her wardrobe, I pulled a face of disgust, and dismissed them all with “Why would anyone wear that?”. I threw the entire bag in the bin box without a second glance. With the risk of sounding overly dramatic, this is quite possibly one of the biggest regrets of my life.
After much coaxing, my parents convinced me to at least look at the items. Several pieces I still kick myself over today; a purple embroidered waistcoat is a personally fond one. Of all the beautiful items I was presented with, I was persuaded to keep two. TWO. I know, I know, what was I thinking?! The worst part is that I loved so many items in that bag, still love the memories of them today, but fear of embarrassment kept me from them.
In a fashion world where the buzzwords ‘vintage’, ‘retro’ and ‘Y2K’ reign supreme, and no Gen Z phone is complete without Depop, it is no surprise that these are now two of my most favoured wardrobe staples; a 60’s mod style, mock-neck dress and a Dolce & Gabbana leopard print shirt. Both of which my mum dates between 1993-1996, in her early 20’s.
Leopard print seems to never really go ‘out of style’, more that it teeters from ‘trashy’ to ‘classy’ at a whim. As I have grown older, I have cared less and less about mainstream style though, so you will catch me rocking my leopard print shirt at anytime of the year, whether the fashion gods deem it ‘in’ or not. I have learnt that your style and clothes, should be an expression of you, should make you feel good – very much a Marie Kondo ‘Spark Joy’ mindset. The mentality of ‘fitting in’ is what allows fast fashion to control our self-projection, and our wallets, and yes, even controls little girls into throwing away beautiful, retro pieces.
It is fitting that a shirt from Dolce & Gabbana should be leopard print, given that this house draws its style, in part, from the 1963 film The Leopard.
According to my mother, she wore this shirt as part of her favourite clubbing outfit, with a pair of brown, bootcut trousers and black heeled boots, clubbing “to Graeme Park”, a house music DJ she fondly calls “Parky Malarky”. This is an outfit I can imagine appears on many, many Instagram feeds today daily. A far cry from my lockdown fashion.
Given that it’s sheer, I am sure I would also wear it clubbing provided the chance, but at the moment I most often wear it with black mom-jeans, and docs. The designers once remarked: “We want to use the past to project it into the future”, and here I am, in the future, loving it.
The second piece is the mod dress, which I am often likened to Twiggy in (probably only because of my pixie-cut). Perhaps it is because the rest of my wardrobe is so vibrant and busy, but to me the sleek and simple nature of the dress means it functions in my wardrobe as a tasteful classic ‘little-black-dress’. It is designated to special events, even as my Matriculation dress. It felt special to wear something cross-generational for the infamous Matriculation. It felt like I was carrying my family, and my history – everything that had made me – with me in that moment. It was probably not a great choice on my part though, to wear a mini dress in October – needless to say I was freezing, something my mum says she combated by wearing knee-high boots with it.
I suppose the point of all this is to say two things. Firstly, that your fashion should be whatever you want it to be, and secondly, that if you are ever presented with the opportunity for beautiful, free clothes, please take it (for your sake and mine).
Varsity is the independent newspaper for the University of Cambridge, established in its current form in 1947. In order to maintain our editorial independence, our print newspaper and news website receives no funding from the University of Cambridge or its constituent Colleges.
We are therefore almost entirely reliant on advertising for funding, and during this unprecedented global crisis, we expect to have a tough few months and years ahead.
In spite of this situation, we are going to look at inventive ways to look at serving our readership with digital content and of course in print too.
Therefore we are asking our readers, if they wish, to make a donation from as little as £1, to help with our running costs at least until this global crisis ends and things begin to return to normal.
Many thanks, all of us here at Varsity would like to wish you, your friends, families and all of your loved ones a safe and healthy few months ahead.