By Claudia Cole
People would often describe me as an old soul. I’d like to think that was because I was wiser beyond my years, but my love for vintage clothes was more than apparent. Since I was young, I’ve been nostalgic for old trends and their ability to carry a whole era. Whether it was my mother’s timeless outfits, or the iconic styles featured on the big screen, I was obsessed. This is why my closet is full of generational gems.
As vintage shopping rises, it’s hard to imagine a time when pre-loved clothes were uncool. Back when I was growing up, everyone was familiar with hand-me-downs. Yet, the problem was, no one wanted them. Most people define hand-me-downs as receiving oversized, drabby clothes from relatives. That’s never been the case in my household.
Throughout my whole life, the women in my family have served as my biggest fashion inspiration. Firstly, there was grandmother and her closet full of bold colours. Next was my career-driven Auntie, a proud owner of many iconic power dressing suits. Above all, there’s my mother and her chameleon staples. She has the ability to adapt to each decade, with stylish outfits from the 80s and 90s to prove it. No wonder I’m obsessed with fashion!
Vintage Fashion Starts At Home
Beside my family’s fierce sense of fashion, my love for pre-loved clothing is sentimental. It’s a way for me to stay deeply connected to those I love the most.
I started collecting vintage gems at the age of 7. Back in 2004, my mother was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis) and had to have an emergency operation (one that saved her life). At that age, I couldn’t grasp my head around what was happening. All I knew was that my mother was beyond poorly and that she wouldn’t be home for a while to tuck me in at night.
Despite the fear and constant tears, there was only one thing that brought me a sense of comfort. Surprisingly, it was her silk pyjama. The moment I put on the oversized two-piece set, I instantly felt at ease. Whether that was because of her deeply embedded scent or the memory of her wearing it, she felt close.
A Love Lost
It wasn’t until years later that I understood the meaning behind why. In 2013, my beautiful grandmother passed away. We were all devastated. Navigating a loss of a loved one is never easy, but I discovered a way to ease the pain.
In the process of gathering up my grandmother’s belonging, I came across her closet full of gems. There was an entire lifetime of memories. My mother and I spent the evening reminiscing as we tried on numerous outfits. Each one had a story attached, allowing us to relive the past. Once again, I instantly felt as ease, as if part of her was still with me. That’s when it all became clear.
Most people usually box or shelf the things they inherit, allowing it to collect dust over time. However, my grandmother used to find a use for everything. Therefore, I decided to give some of her clothes a new home. That way, I could keep her memory alive.
Since then, my appreciation for vintage fashion has grown even more. Not only is the quality better, but vintage fashion also possesses the sweet charm of the past. With styles and trends continuously making a comeback on the catwalk, nothing truly goes out of style.
To prove my point, here are some of my favourite vintage items.
My Grandmother's Fashionable Gems
Item: Blue and white stripe midi dress
Items: Red tartan scarf & velvet faux fur coat
Items: Two yellow print shirts from my grandmother’s extensive collection
Item: Dotted blue midi dress
Items: Faux fur lined fleece jacket
Item: Jamaican patois white t-shirt
My Mother’s Fashionable Gems
Item: Mini black dress with an adjustable neckline tie
Items: Oversized denim shirt
Items: Black shoulder-padded blazer & silk lace shorts
Items: Black mesh mini dress
Item: Floral tie blouse
Items: Denim mini skirt
If there is one thing that vintage fashion has taught me, is that it starts at home.
You don’t have to scout for gems in overpriced boutiques in central London. Before your next second-hand shopping spree, take a glance into your relatives’ wardrobes. You’ll be surprised by what you find and the stories behind them.
What’s your favourite vintage gem? Let us know in the comments below or share with our Instagram @keiseimgz