I haven't kept many of mum's clothes. She was shorter than me - 5 foot to my 5'4" and wore more colour than I would ever dare to. The Space Cadette took a couple of cashmere jumpers because she's always cold and lives in a freegan squat, and because my moths have eaten enough to last a lifetime. There were a couple of amazing things that both the Space Cadette and I have worn occasionally, but frankly don't have the guts to carry off - a Biba black crocheted dress that is entirely see through, an acid floral babydoll nightie, or possibly dress, trimmed in black lace. Clothes for adventures; wildly daring clothes for a Catholic girl from Coatbridge in the 1960s. I love imagining how fiercely determined she must have had to be to carry them off. I do know that her first husband was initially drawn to her for her red shoes (it should perhaps be no surprise to learn that he was in fact gay).
She wore scarves, too, and I just can't master the scarf. I slept with a Jaeger dark red spotted silk one of hers under my pillow for about a year after she died for the smell, initially, and then the sensual memory of how it felt round her neck when she would sneak away from whatever meeting had brought her to London to come and meet me in the RIBA café, or in Russell Square and we would hug and I could feel the silk against her skin and the smell of Chanel 19. I've lost a couple of others, and it makes me sad - there was a crêpe Liberty one with muted coloured starburst shapes that I loved.
But what I do have, and love, is this:
It doesn't look much, and it's almost certainly old than I am. It has a white sibling I love too with a slightly spikier patterned neckline, and they are both made of the most ancient, worn Swiss cotton. I love the way the stitching at the seams and the trim have faded here, giving them a slightly blueish tint. I love the two colours of grey that make up the flowers.
It's one of those things that cheers me up whenever I put it on, even though I can't really wear it with much. But it's good under a very deeply draped top if you don't want to startle the tram driver, or under a wrap dress. And despite the fact that I don't like, or wear vest tops as a rule, being over 16 and having, you know, a sturdy matron shelf (thanks India), I love it on its own.
My lens is filthy, apologies. I think the weepette must have been licking it. Also, I had to sit in the bathroom sink to take these pictures, because I haven't yet discovered the button that transforms the master bedroom into a giant mirrored den of sin (I'm sure it's there though).
I think I'm still hoping that part of her bravery and conviction will rub off through the action of some kind of clothing voodoo. It hasn't worked so far. But I do like to think of her and how much more daring and life embracing she was than me. She dealt with both her parents dying in her early twenties, moved to Ghent without realising it was Dutch speaking (only able to say 'banana' and 'liver pâté'), got caffeine poisoning, stalked a concert pianist, married a gay man, lived with my father and his Smiths Crisps van full of chickens (and on one memorable occasion had to carry a large live rabbit he had gifted her back on the bus to Coatbridge), got so drunk when she got her PhD we had to carry her back to the house, stole chips off visiting professors' plates, had constantly laddered tights, marched, protested and danced on tables. This time I'm going to give you her obituary, because she was fucking ace.
Huh. This was supposed to be about the vest.