A Wardrobe of Dreams

Buy less, choose well
— Vivienne Westwood

(There is a little secret at the end of this blog....)

I realised the other day that a lot of what I'm wearing in my photographs are things I've owned for quite a long time.  It's getting a bit embarrassing having to answer the questions like 'I love that shirt, where did you get it?' with the response, 'Italy three years ago', or 'Zara last summer...'  

It got me thinking about my wardrobe, and what makes the clothes I've hung onto over the years things that I never want to part with.  And what makes my friends on Instagram want to find them too, even though they may not be 'fashionable'?  They all have something in common - they all reflect my dreamer: my hopes for myself since I was a child and my ideal self as a grown woman.  

I have a wonderful friend who I have been friends with since a child. She is extremely stylish and makes a lot of her clothes herself, often unable to find what she wants in the shops.  She once asked me which three words I would use to describe my style.  We chatted about it - such a luxury with a friend who has known you forever and watched you go through every experimental/awkward/unattractive stage of sartorial evolution.  We came up with 'Italian' (partly due to my complete lust over exquisite handbags and partly because I am an unapologetic lover of all things Italian), another was 'dancer' - I have always loved dancing and have danced all my life.  (I can't remember the third... I'll have to revisit the conversation, what a shame...!) And that's what I mean.  The teenaged me discovered a deep passion for Italy, the child I was danced and danced, and now, as an adult, I am still firmly attached to both of those beautiful gifts this world has to offer.


White Muslin Oversized shirt: andotherstories, Jeans: Zara


Converse, Rag & Bone, All Saints

Boots, L to R: Free People, Doc Martens, Converse, Espadrilles


my shopping Checklist

Spending more on something that you know is utterly you, utterly beautiful, utterly well-made, is a true investment when it comes to clothing. You simply need fewer clothes.  I have fallen into the 'buy cheap buy twice' trap too many times...


1.  What makes it different?  Why not get it at Sainsbury's? Seriously, some things are just too dull for words and the same price as something with better detail/shape/fabric/dye. Sometimes I just need to look a bit longer / harder. 

2.  Is it a classic, will it last beyond the current trend? If the answer's yes, it goes on the pros list.  If no, is it something I'm happy to part with my cash for?

3.  How well is it made? What's the fabric like?  Again, if these things are not in its favour, consider whether you'll regret it and whether, if you like the shape and think it could last beyond a season, you could find it elsewhere in better fabric, for a little more, and better made.

4.  How does it make me feel?  Fantastic?  Is it more than you were going to spend? Hold on to it whilst doing a quick walk around the shop whilst you think your budget through, then, really, do buy it if you can. But if it makes you feel sensible or like an old version of yourself you'd rather not remember maybe think again...

5.  Do I love it? Only if I love it do I buy it.  I often say out loud 'I love it' in the changing room.  That decides it.  If I don't say those words spontaneously I question whether I want it.

Label, price, status, none of these things matter if the item is right and unusual.  It can be a label-less jacket from Fara, which fits you just right, or a stunning skirt from Plumo you decided to save up for because it's the kind of thing you dreamt about wearing all your life.  If it fits in with your dreams, your dream-self as opposed to your sensible adult self, you MUST ALWAYS BUY IT if you can. 


What is 'Classic"?

I've begun to think that there's no such thing as a generically 'classic' piece of clothing. We all know the trench coat or the Birkin bag are 'classics' but what makes something classic, I think, is how 'you' it is.  If your thing is dungarees, you will never go out of fashion because you will be undeniably you, you become your own 'classic' and the comfort you feel in those dungarees will mean that you ooze confidence. 

My way of knowing what is classic for me is how in tune something is with my dreamer, my lover of images and films, stories and worlds. Whether it's a shirt from a high street shop, such as the beautifully classic muslin one above from andotherstories, or a pair of boots from All Saints, they have to spark a story in my mind - even just a two second image of trudging through sand in a windy desert, or sitting on the verandah of a log cabin watching the sun go down - the romantic in me has to be in the driving seat when I'm choosing even the most practical of clothing.  


Both pairs of shoes: LK Bennett

Skirt: Needle and Thread, London (bought on ASOS)


The skirt from Needle & Thread London is a great example of something I really didn't think I needed.  Until I saw it.  Then I knew I needed it, I knew I'd never look for another skirt to feel that fabulous in.  And sometimes we need to feel utterly fabulous. It's not designer, but it might as well be for the quality and quantity of fabric and the way it makes me feel.  It was sourced on ASOS two summers ago and I wore it on my birthday.  I feel it's such a huge expression of so many parts of me, it tells so many stories, and it's not surprising that it's had such a reaction when I've posted pictures of it on instagram.  


My TOAST coat that I wear every autumn is six years old.  Its colour, cut and fabric are timeless and elegant, and it tunes right in to my Out of Africa story - a film I watched almost on loop as a teenager - escaping via Meryl Streep's unparalleled acting to the parched, stylish African plains and into Robert Redford's blue eyes.  But it's also current me, and rather than wearing it with jodphurs and a safari hat if I team it with a pair of ripped skinnies, a t-shirt and my free people lace up boots, I'm honouring the teenager whilst allowing myself to be the woman I am now.

The blue blouse in these photos was something I bought in Whistles when they had a small concession section, it's made by Pink Soda Boutique and is pure silk.  I feel as if I'm in La Dolce Vita when I wear it (are you getting the picture?)  It was discounted as it was the last one in a tricky size, but it fitted and I decided to go for it.  That was about twelve years ago.  Every summer I wonder whether it's time for it to move on and every summer I hang it up in my wardrobe.  I'll hold onto it until it falls apart.


Left to Right:  Aldo, Aldo, Zara

All from Zara


Alongside these unusual, timeless finds, I'll always try and find seasonal things that are on the cheaper side and either pretty, cool, or comfortable, sometimes all three.  They will give my treasured faithful clothes an injection of 'now' thereby giving the impression that the rest of me is on-point.  I love mixing up the new styles with a classic, such as in the photo below - my treasured TOAST coat is given a stylish update because I'm wearing the most comfortable and beautiful pair of 30 Euro shoes I had just bought in Arezzo.  


Coat by Toast, Shoes from an independent shop in Arezzo, Italy



Time for the secret....

Not many people know about it... It's the LK Bennett Clearance Store on Kings Road.  In it you will find timeless, elegant, detailed, exquisitely-made beauties.  I'm not an LK kind of woman most of the time. Her beautifully classic clothes are a little too on the conservative side for me, but it seems that her shoe designs are where she lets her creative wild-child roam free.  I love the frills, tassels, leathers, variety of soles (platforms, killer heels, espadrilles), and the divinely comfortable factor, even if you're tottering a few inches above your usual height.

I went in there about four or five years ago, and bought two pairs at £50 each which were originally £185 per pair.  They are classic, elegant, shiny, and worn occasionally so still look like new.  They are a fantastic investment, and I didn't break the bank. You can easily spend nearly that on a pair from the high street that will make you miserable with the discomfort after half an hour.  


T-Bar Shoes, LK Bennett

molly gaisford