It was tricky to choose a second garment for my Wardrobe Stories series, but I figured it had to be something pre-loved. Something I’d fallen in love with on first sight but that had a previous owner. All of my clothing has stories attached to it, but I started this series as a way to explore a deeper connection with clothes and I feel like a lot of my second hand pieces have a little more of that. Ultimately, I aim for every piece of clothing I own to have amassed many stories by the time we part ways which is one of the reasons I love clothes swaps so much, as I often get to share those stories with the new owner!
About 12 years ago, when I started working near Goodge Street station in London, I discovered a clothing exchange called Bang Bang. The (sadly now closed) shop bought and sold vintage, designer, and high-end high street pieces, and was always a great place to spend my lunch hour. I found a few Vivienne Westwood pieces in there in my size over the years, plus some lovely vintage and often hand-made dresses and skirts, but the garments I was really drawn to would often contain a surprise on the label. Turns out, my love for Topshop runs deep.
This gorgeous white cotton dress with a blue floral print, scoop neck, V-back and lovely floaty sleeves really caught my eye in the shop and I was amazed to discover that, not only was it my size, but it was originally from Topshop! Seeing as I’m very short-waisted the fit wasn’t perfect and the shoulders would keep sliding off, but I didn’t let that put me off making a purchase (no doubt with the store credit that I’d built up from taking my own unwanted items in). I figured that a small alteration would make this dress far more wearable and I vowed to do that.
Anyone who knows me well will be able to tell you how often I actually get my sewing machine out versus how often I say I’m going to. That alterations pile rarely gets touched, and so I knew I was going to have to get expert assistance with the task. Thankfully, in 2015 I had a Kickstarter reward to cash in – a three-hour alterations workshop with a professional dressmaker – and this helped to make the dress fit much better, without it being ruined by my inexperience! You can see a bit more of the print (and the shoulders) in the photo below. This is definitely a frock that needed expert TLC.
The cotton fabric is so soft and light that it’s just as well the dress is lined, or else it would be as scandalous as some of the late 18th century muslin gowns which could reveal far more of a woman’s body than had been seen before, if the wearer was outside in very windy or wet weather. I haven’t worn this dress as much as it deserves, due to a fear of merely existing in grimy London while wearing something that is predominantly white, but I have worn it to work on a few occasions when the weather has been good and there were people who I wanted to impress.
The surface of the fabric is a little bobbly in places now, but it still looks good… and, amazingly, it still fits! I wore it to work when I was planning this post, but sadly working from home meant that my colleagues (and friends, in our weekly Friday cocktail hour) only got to see the top part. Perhaps next summer will be this dress’ time to shine once more? All it’s really missing is pockets, but I suspect I’m never going to be brave enough to try adding some myself!