What’s the oldest item in your wardrobe? Five writers reveal their most cherished clothing…with memories that mean they’ll never throw it away
- Five writers reveal why they keep some cherished clothing items for many years
- Reasons range from cultural significance, beloved memories or confidence
- They say clothes which have been in closet for decades can still be important
In 2016 the oldest dress in the world was found to be an ancient bundle of rags discovered in an Egyptian tomb more than a century ago; a simple pleated V-neck shirt thought to be a portion of what was once likely a floor-length Tarkhan dress.
While the oldest item in your wardrobe isn’t likely to date between 5,100 and 5,500 years (according to radiocarbon dating) it’s clear humans haven’t quite let go of their penchant of holding onto clothing which may hold importance beyond its material function.
Five writers have opened up about their sentimental reasons for keeping something in their wardrobe instead of throwing it into the charity pile.
Be it igniting cultural importance, bringing back the memory of a loved one or a confidence boost – sometimes all it takes is a decades-old garment in the back of your closet.
The deathbed gift from my devoted husband
LINDSAY NICHOLSON is the former editor of Good Housekeeping magazine
Thirty years ago, John, my beloved husband, was desperately ill in hospital, where he was being treated for the leukaemia that would eventually kill him.
Christmas was fast approaching but a present was the last thing on my mind. I just wanted John home, so I was thrilled when I was told I could collect him late on Christmas Eve.
On Christmas morning, he handed me a beautifully wrapped present. I had honestly expected nothing more than something from the hospital gift shop, and would have been thrilled he had been able to manage that.
Lindsay Nicholson MBE, got her jumper from Joseph in 1991 – as a gift from her late husband – and it has lasted till now
Ms Nicholson, pictured in 1994, writes: ‘For many years it was my go-to Christmas jumper and I still get it out every Christmas and wear it for a few hours’
But wrapped in tissue paper was a slouchy, bronze lurex sweater from the upmarket boutique Joseph.
I had seen it in the shop window some weeks earlier and must have mentioned that I had fallen in love with it while chattering away about inconsequential stuff during a hospital visit.
This being 1991, it was before online shopping or mobile phones. John had not only remembered the detail of this sweater that I’d talked about but had got in touch with one of my girlfriends using the ward pay phone and gave her instructions to buy it.
He then had to send her a cheque to pay for it, because it wasn’t cheap. Finally, he concealed the gift in the locker next to his bed.
He even got the size right — the sweater fitted perfectly and looked amazing. Looking after him and our daughter (I was pregnant with her sister, inset above, when John died), I had given up on thinking about my appearance. But it was so easy to wear, just thrown on over leggings or jeans.
For many years it was my go-to Christmas jumper and I still get it out every Christmas and wear it for a few hours.
It still fits, it’s still one of the most beautiful pieces I own and, even now, wearing it makes me feel close to John.
Sari brings me closer to my grandma’s spirit
SHRUTI ADVANI, writer
Over the past two decades, I have lived in seven homes.
Some, like my place in Mumbai, India, had custom-built, walk-in wardrobes; in a tiny, one-bedroom flat in Mayfair, central London, I had only a few clothes rails from Argos.
But across countries and continents, one item of clothing has been a constant. It is my least practical outfit, weighing 3.5 kg (7.7 lb), and I typically wear it just once a year.
But each time I do, I feel a powerful connection to my grandmother (inset above), who died more than a decade ago at the age of 93.
The outfit I refer to is a sari, which in Sanskrit means ‘strip of cloth’. But it is so much more than that. For Indians, it is a part of our national identity, one we are incredibly proud of.
Shruti Advani writes: ‘The sari was ordered as part of my grandmother’s trousseau and she wore it with a modest long-sleeved blouse like the one I have on here’
‘I first wore it for Diwali in 2010, the year my grandmother died,’ Ms Advani writes of her sari
This sari was woven in Benares, a town in northern India, where weavers have been spinning magic on hand-operated looms for hundreds of years.
A gauzy cream and gold base fabric, called tissue, has been hand-embroidered with traditional motifs using a technique called Zardozi, believed to date back to the 14th century.
The tissue fabric for this sari was spun using pure silver woven with silk yarn. Today, there are only a handful who know how to weave it.
The sari was ordered as part of my grandmother’s trousseau and she wore it with a modest long-sleeved blouse like the one I have on here.
I first wore it for Diwali in 2010, the year my grandmother died. I missed her so desperately on that day, but wearing it was almost a spiritual experience that made me realise I would always have her love and wisdom to draw on.
Love gave me the confidence to wear this
KATE FREUD, writer
The thigh-skimming minis, knee-high boots and revealing tops of my youth are long gone, and in their place are cashmere knits, T-shirts and skinny jeans.
But hidden among this sedate assortment is a strappy dress with embellishment around the neckline.
Bought from Whistles, around 2003, when I was channelling my inner Sienna Miller, I know full well it will never see the light of day again. But I can’t quite bring myself to get rid of it.
Kate Freud, pictured wearing a dress from 20 years ago writes that she ‘bought from Whistles, around 2003’ when while ‘channelling my inner Sienna Miller’
Ms Freud met Jack, pictured, ‘in the summer of my first year at university, when I was fresh out of a pretty destructive relationship’
For me, it is such a tangible reminder of the start of a new chapter, a time when I was in love with the man I would one day marry, at the very beginning of the life we would build together.
I met Jack in the summer of my first year at university, when I was fresh out of a pretty destructive relationship.
My best friend Candy had scooped me up and taken me to Barbados to get away from it all, and there I ended up meeting the love of my life.
I’d been so shy before we met, but the confidence he gave me changed the way I dressed. This dress, worn to a party in London, is a memorable example of my new daring. And I wore it with heels!
At 5 ft 10 in I’d previously been too nervous to wear anything but flats, but Jack encouraged me, even though I ended up taller than him.
I am sure he wouldn’t object to me donning it again, 20 years and three children later.
Silk gown fit for a princess
CAMILLA RIDLEY-DAY, fashion journalist
A recent house move means my wardrobe has been cut to the bone, but there’s one dress from years ago that lives on.
A ‘princess dress’, as my children call it, and not one I’ll be donning for our upcoming trip to Disney World, despite the fact I can still wear it!
It was made for me by a dressmaker in London, a generous 18th birthday present from my (fairy) godmother, who told me I could choose whatever I liked to be made for my party.
Camilla Ridley-Day pictured in a dress which was made for her ‘by a dressmaker in London, a generous 18th birthday present from my (fairy) godmother’
Ms Ridley-Day at her birthday party. She writes: ‘These days, I do without the gloves and tiara, and add a strapless bra, but it still gives me an instant feeling of glamour’
We’d gone for a Hollywood theme and I opted for Cinderella, searching for the distinctive pale blue silk in the fabric shops of Soho.
As a fashion-obsessed teenager, watching the boned corset being made was fascinating, an experience only rivalled later when designer Bruce Oldfield did the same with my wedding dress. You can’t help but fall in love with a piece tailored just for you.
More than 20 years on, it still looks the same. These days, I do without the gloves and tiara, and add a strapless bra, but it still gives me an instant feeling of glamour.
Dress that keeps the 1980s alive
ROSIE MILLARD is a writer and the chair of BBC Children In Need
What I really yearned for in the winter of 1982 was a sweater-dress. My favourite brands at the time included Miss Selfridge and Kickers, but I aspired to all things Fiorucci — a label I couldn’t really afford.
Such was my obsession with the label, that when I spotted this turquoise sweater-dress in a tiny boutique near my home in Wimbledon, I just had to have it.
Decorated with black jungle foliage on the shoulders and a leaping panther on the back, it cost £65. I saved up the money from my paper round to buy it.
Rosie Millard pictured in her turquoise boutique-bought dress which she ‘will never’ throw away
Ms Millard writes: ‘I often wore it with thick black tights from Miss Selfridge, Cuban-heeled ankle boots and a black velvet ribbon tied around my wrist, channelling Madonna’
Whenever I wore it, I felt like a Milanese woman hanging out at an espresso bar. I wore it to key events in Wimbledon such as trick or treating and the Youth Club outing to Boulogne.
I often wore it with thick black tights from Miss Selfridge, Cuban-heeled ankle boots and a black velvet ribbon tied around my wrist, channelling Madonna.
I will never throw it away. It’s kept in a red suitcase I’ve had since the age of ten, alongside its partner in crime, a bubble-skirted mini-dress from Miss Selfridge.
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