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A FRIEND OF MINE RECENTLY bought a book called What You Wear Can Change Your Life. She commented that it was rather sad that society places so much emphasis on appearance. As someone passionate about clothes, I had to disagree. Even if you are one of those people who think clothes can't change your life, you can probably remember what you were wearing when your life changed. Although fashion provides a record of society's changing concerns and preoccupations, clothes can also document enduring emotion. As Anne, Countess of Rosse wrote and pinned to her bottle-green wool crepe dress: “Had a wonderful time in this dress, am ashamed to say. 1941!!”, page 54.
I have enjoyed the charming reminiscences of our contributors and friends about their most memorable outfits and I would love to hear similar stories from you, perhaps with a photograph. In this issue you will discover the way textiles punctuate our lives and are used to celebrate rites of passage: from the poignant Misuko shrines in Japan, that commemorate the loss of unborn children, page 52, to the joyous confections paraded in the high school proms from the 1950s, page 26. The cultural significance of cloth is explored in Brinda Gill's article on Indian weddings, page 30.
When looking for fabric to celebrate in we often turn our attention to silk. With its noble history and unique lustre it truly is the king of fabrics. Our Top ten Silks highlight some of the most beautiful furnishing fabrics around, page 38. Also see page 96 where subscribers can take advantage of our offers including a beautiful scarf by Celia Birtwell, Clarissa Hulse lavender bags and a unique badge made from a vintage silk scarf for every new subscriber.
Finally, quilts, one of the greatest repositories of history. Quilting bees were the group therapy of the past and the objects themselves treasured for their social history. Shelly Zegart traces the history of quilt collecting in America, page 46.
In January and February, when the weather is cold, warmth and comfort can become the only criteria we use when dressing ourselves. I hope this issue will encourage you to pause and consider your clothes in a different way, as emotional reflections and markers of time and place. •••
Polly Leonard Editor
We asked this month’s contributors what was their most memorable outfit.
EMMA O’KELLY pg 58
PTOLEMY MANN pg 86
SHELLY GOLDSMITH pg 52
It's hard to pinpoint a favourite outfit as there have been so many – stripy dungarees at 11, jumble sale finds throughout my teens, in particular a pair of psychedelic pyjamas which I wore to the first gig with my band at 16. For the moment it's the Pucci dress (pictured) that my husband gave me.
With a name like mine, I just had to have a Myths and Legends party on my 30th Birthday. I was Cleopatra, who was herself a 'Ptolemy'. I wore a backless 1930s inspired dress in Egyptian blue with a gold beaded collar and a headress designed by a friend for a RSC production of Anthony and Cleopatra.
I grew up with this picture of my mother and father dressed up for a 'dinner-dance'; I coveted the beautiful Indian print dress my mother wore. Years later, after they had moved to the USA I persuaded her to ship the dress back so that I could wear it to my 30th birthday party. It looked wonderful.