Worn Stories, Netflix: new fashion documentary series goes beyond the gloss
Even if you are one of the inspired few who still gets dressed up, you probably find yourself rotating pieces from just a small portion of your wardrobe, the cycle through the same clothing adding to the Groundhog Day blur of lockdown.
At a time when so many of us feel disconnected from friends, family and the wider world, feeling untethered from your wardrobe might seem like an insignificant side effect.
But clothing is so much more than a sum of its parts: pieces of fabric stitched together by all-too invisible hands, often in another part of the world, undergo some alchemy to become the physical manifestation of our hopes and dreams (and disappointments) when worn.
A portal to the past that, whether we choose to treasure or jettison them can never leave us entirely.
The charming new Netflix documentary series Worn Stories is a timely reminder of the power of a piece of clothing. Featuring interviews with a range of (mostly) everyday Americans, rather than ‘fashion people’, the programme tells the story of their lives through a single, emblematic item of clothing, a ‘memoir in miniature.’
And while there are obviously weighty memories attached to certain items – a wedding dress, that first job suit, a sports uniform – the clothes that matter might surprise you.
A yellow sweater that helped an older Korean immigrant find her community; the red silk tie that connects a New Yorker to his Sicilian seamstress grandmother; the little black dress that allows a recovering alcoholic to see how far she has come.
The series is based on a blog and the best-selling book of the same name by New York-based artist and author Emily Spivack who told Vogue.com: ‘A closet is an archive of memories and experiences. When something unexpected or momentous happens to us while we’re wearing a piece of clothing, it suddenly becomes imbued with so much more significance.’
For many lockdown has meant the complete removal of anything momentous, our lives restricted to the same routines in the same rooms, with little opportunity for excitement. But as lockdown eases in the UK, now is the perfect time to reacquaint yourself with your old clothes and reconnect with your old self again too.
Because surely recognising that our clothes are a part of who we were/are/want to be is a key step in the journey towards sustainable style. Orsola de Castro, founder of Fashion Revolution and a pre-eminent force in sustainable fashion, believes that loved clothes last, so much so that she chose it as the title for her first book.
‘Loved Clothes Last: How the Joy of Rewearing and Repairing Your Clothes Can Be a Revolutionary Act’ was published in February, surely something of a riposte to the Marie Kondo school of clearing out anything that doesn’t ‘spark joy’ and an invitation to readers to instead invest time and care into such items as a way of building a closer relationship with them.
It’s a timely lesson, not least because the true value of clothes isn’t in the trends they tick off, but the way that they can change your mood, take you back in time or help you believe in a better future. Whether it’s unearthed in your own wardrobe, a second-hand store or a new purchase, who wouldn’t want that?