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Shall I compare thee to my old jumper? Stories of love for old clothes – The Guardian

Lockdown is a great time to rediscover pieces already in your wardrobe. To mark Fashion Revolution Week, we celebrate tales of long-lasting love for favourite items
Last modified on Mon 27 Apr 2020 11.18 BST
Lockdown is a great time to rediscover pieces already in your wardrobe. To mark Fashion Revolution Week, the organisation, who are focused on creating an ethical and sustainable way forward for fashion, are exploring new models of behaviour for clothes lovers across the globe. At the start of this special week we celebrate 10 tales of long-lasting love for favourite items.

My name is Nikki and I’m an addict. A vintage clothing addict. Asking me to write a love story to just one garment is like asking me to pick my favourite child. I have an awful lot of clothes and I love them all.
During the coronavirus lockdown my massive vintage wardrobe has been a source of endless comfort and joy. I’ve been able to play, guilt free, in my dressing room to my heart’s content and a couple of nights a week my partner and I “dress for dinner”. Even if dinner is only a bowl of pasta we don our finest threads and make it a special event.
I’ve picked this late 1950s red taffeta cocktail frock by Suzy Perette for its sheer joie de vivre. Suzy Perette had a licence to make copies of Christian Dior designs in the US in the 50s and I have several examples in my collection. All are impeccably made and although they are about the same age as me the dresses are still as good as new. This dress is always ready for a party.
Clothes can have such a dramatic effect on mood and dressing up definitely makes me feel happier. I particularly love vintage clothes of the 40s and 50s for their quality, individuality and enduring charm.
A sari for me isn’t just symbolic of my Bangladeshi culture. It’s also a historic emblem of sustainability through fashion. Saris are simply extended pieces of material you adorn your body with, in a myriad of ways. It can be worn when washing the dishes, going for a walk or to your own wedding. They’re timeless and generous in the stories they lend.
One of my favourite saris is this red and green georgette number. I’ve worn it to a Mehndi ceremony and also when visiting Bangladesh recently. When I bought it, for £25 in Green Street, I knew we would be friends for a while. This sari will be shared, so my nieces and children, inshallah, will also wear it. Just like other parts of my culture, it’s a tribute to all those women in Bangladesh and their skills in making something beautiful and made to last.
In 1990 I found myself, at the age of 30, in a job that required “professional office wear”. This wasn’t really my thing so I found it hard to find items that I found acceptable and also fitted the requirement.
I shared my dilemma with my mum who was a hugely talented dressmaker – and 30 years later I still have, and wear, the beautiful tailored blazer that she made me.
The jacket is a classic navy made from wool suiting and is fully lined, with two patch pockets, two buttons and a flourish of contrasting piping hidden on the inside where the lining meets the fabric. Very Paul Smithesque.
Mum died in 2017, but she lives on not only in the memories the family have, but also the clothes she made.
At the risk of sounding like a hopeless romantic, it seemed perfect for my item to be what I wore when I married the love of my life. I wanted my wedding dress to be unique, hold a story and be representative of my home country – which is why my dress is designed and handmade in the Philippines by my mum’s school friend, Therese Andaya.
Working on the dress together was so intimate, with countless messages and phone calls across the sea, so when I finally met Therese in real life it was like meeting an old friend.
I wanted a simple dress, not just because I prefer a minimal aesthetic, but also because – and this seems unorthodox for a wedding dress – I wanted to wear something beautiful over and over again.
This is a shaggy jumper story of two identical knits. When I was a child my mum knitted a signal red wool jumper for her younger sister. My aunt wore it through the 1960s as a young teacher in Cardiff and Canada then passed it on to me when I was at art college in the late 70s. I loved it and wore it constantly in my freezing studio in Brighton. But after darning the elbows and cuffs it eventually fell apart and was consigned to the compost heap.
A couple of years ago I found a bundle of gorgeous red yarn which glows cherry pink in the sun in an Aberystwyth charity shop. Mum, at 80, still had the pattern and immediately started knitting a replacement.
My daughter has become quite attached to this new sweater, wearing it every day in the run-up to the last election and now on Zoom calls while working at home during lockdown.
These challenging and uncertain times remind us the importance of justice, empathy, wellbeing and love. We need to rebuild the fashion system by using social, natural and creative resources constructively.
This custom-made silk shirt I am wearing is from the 1970s. I inherited it from my father and have been cherishing it ever since. The silk Gucci scarf was a gift from my mother-in-law who had treasured this iconic piece in her wardrobe since the 1970s. Last but not least, I keep on proudly using and loving these jeans that I purchased back in 2002. These are some of my empowering pieces that remind me of my values and that inspire me to work harder in order to help the fashion system become more sustainable.
As a child, I was either naked or in a swimming costume. My parents were not keen on kidswear bikinis, so when I was gifted this one, aged seven, on a camping trip in the Isles of Scilly, Cornwall, by a lady it no longer fitted, I was ecstatic. I have been wearing it ever since.
In 1998, the bikini travelled to Nevis, the Caribbean. Despite my mother saying it was ballooning and did not fit, I remember swimming in the warm sea with my friends and jumping off a fallen palm tree.
I’ve grown up in and with this bikini. I played in it as a child, chatted with friends in the mountains wearing it and romanced on the beach. Wearing it now, I’ve pondered existential questions and accepted that stretch marks are here to stay. It’s joined me for a beachside dance and a chance holiday romance.
I am happy to say that today, over 20 years on, it’s still a good friend and that my clothing love story has not reached the end.
I don’t think about my work overalls when I put them on. I don’t think about how they make me feel or the fabric or the fit. That’s simply because they are an extension of me. I’m not trying to prove anything when I put them on, there’s absolutely nothing aspirational about them. They just signal “work, now”.
Trying to work without them just feels wrong. I took all three pairs home for a wash recently, and felt at a loss at the studio the next day without them, barely getting a single thing done. I can only conclude that the overalls are integral to my mindset and work.
When my son, Roman, was born, my mother-in-law gave me a bundle of beautiful hand-me-down baby clothes, all lovingly handcrafted by her mother. The clothes had been worn by my husband and his sisters in the mid-1980s.
I’m particularly fond of this little waistcoat which is now a staple in Roman’s spring wardrobe. Not only is it beautifully made, it is also reversible with a blue paisley pattern on one side and red flowers on the other.
It has been so special to dress Roman in these clothes as he is growing, knowing that they were worn by his dad and aunties and have stood the test of time. Now his aunty Lily is taking the baton during isolation and has made Roman some fabulous yellow plaid trousers to add to the archive. Who knows, maybe Roman’s children will wear them one day.
This is my love story for a map dress which I have worn hundreds of times. Here it is, refreshed and ready for another day on my body.
When I first bought it, I kept it exclusively for the evening, wearing it with my grandmother’s pearl necklace and monster heels. Many times after wild nights out (or in) I woke up still in it.
After a few years it graduated from evening to daytime wear – but still for special occasions only. However, I always knew that I wanted to wear it as a nightie / Sunday slouch, so I have been waiting for some kind of tear, or an indelible stain to appear.
But it’s so well made, so easy to care for (a quick steam under the shower and a lick of sponge and it’s all new again) that zero damage has occurred. And so now, in the midst of lockdown, I wait no more, self permission granted, and I wear it every day – my trusted friend, my second skin, my clothing hero.

Fashion Revolution Week takes place 20-26 April.
Share your own Clothing Love Story here.
This article was amended on 27 April 2020. An earlier version referred to “the Scilly Isles, Scotland”. This has been corrected to the Isles of Scilly, Cornwall.