Thoughts on collecting

My blog post today is on a topic which is particularly close to my heart, and has popped up a few times in recent weeks. That of collecting.
I am, undeniably a collector. Now, my collecting habits focus primarily around collecting vintage clothing, but over the years I have collected many things. I think it probably started around aged 6 for me with Spice Girls memorabilia (I may have collected other things first, but this is the first thing I have a distinct memory of collecting), after this I collected things such as barbies, teeny weeny families, beanie babies, flower fairies, Swarovski crystal ornaments, bus tickets (yes…honestly), buttons, gig tickets, pocket ashtrays (strange as I’m no a smoker, but was briefly obsessed with), butterfly wing compacts, mid century shot glasses and of course vintage clothing.
Collecting is closely tied to the personal perception of “self” and how one would like oneself to be viewed. The following quotation exemplifies this and comes from the piece that gave me the get-up-and-go to get writing on this topic again;
“The histories of collections share a life story with their owner. Each object, in a group and as a singular entity, becomes a physical repository for memory, time and place. “(1)
I have a very bad memory (owing in part to dyspraxia/dyslexia) and find that being able to visualise things helps me to remember them. Therefore by collecting objects relating to particular events I find it easier to remember what happened. The collected items takes on a new meaning therefore becoming a physical living representation of an event.


The black dress at one of my friends 21st birthday parties in 2011
This black dress is probably the best example. I call this my “dress of memories”. Purchased in Brighton in 2008 this dress dates to 1960/61 and was worn by the original owner to her engagement party. After I purchased it I have worn it on a number of occasions. The night I met my first (ish) boyfriend, my Grandfathers funeral, a wedding, two 21st birthday parties, a halloween party and on the exhibition poster for Little Black Dress at Portsmouth city museum (before the dress featured in the exhibition for six months). Not only is this dress caught up with my own memories therefore, but that of the previous owner too, and quite possibly the memories of others…especially considering it was on public display for six months.

The black dress at my friends sisters 21st birthday party in 2008


 Wearing the black dress on the exhibition poster for LBD in 2010


The black dress in 2012
When you begin to think more about your collection you start to ask yourself why did I collect things like this? The answers you provide for yourself often have layered meanings. I know for me, this is particularly true. Objects come to represent people or memories, they become talking points, valued for both their sentimental and/or monetary value.
Collecting can be a dangerous game, of which I am only too aware. Collecting beautiful objects can act as a defense mechanism. As a dear friend of mine once said, “only people can love you, clothes can’t.” Filling your life with objects when you feel lonely yourself, will only ever act as a temporary substitution. I know I’ve done this before, and I think to some extent this is the curse of being an only child, loneliness led to a necessity to fill my life with something other than people, hence why I collected thing that in a lot of respects had humanistic characteristics (dolls, soft toys, ornaments etc.). This is possibly my “emotive” reason for collecting. But for others this emotive spur can be quite different. I know of people who have lost everything through fire (or going further back) through war damage, and this led them to hoard and collect items, due to their memory of having nothing/ loosing everything.
Collecting though does not necessarily have to be a physical pursuit. It can be a mental one too.  As I like to think of it,  collecting knowledge. This is how I view the academic process, and it acts as a motivating factor in encouraging me to continue studying and learning.
 One of my real passions in life is the study of dress collections, and both why and how people have collected dress, in relation to the museum and private collections.
How do collections of dress that were once worn alter in their meaning once they enter the museum?
What made museums acquire fashionable dress?
Before it became fashionable to wear vintage clothing for what reasons where people buying it?
How can those outside museums display/ use their fashion collections?
In the past did people wear collect historical dress with a knowing connoisseurship, or did they simply treat it as “old clothes”?
This (as you might be able to tell) is the beginning of a series of blog posts focusing on aspects of collecting fashion. I don’t think I could really do this topic justice in 1000 words. So coming up over the next few weeks will be posts on some of the most interesting and enigmatic collectors of dress. From private dress collections to insights into dress collected by museums.
There will be posts to come about the Messel family, Talbot Hughes, Doris Langley Moore, Cecil Willet Cunnington, Roger Burton and a few of my dear friends too ; )

If you want to read more about the notions of collecting I must recommend Susan Pearce who has written a whole host of books on the subject, and is, quite frankly, the authority on collecting.

(1) Lauren Fried, Collecting things. 2013. Accessed via:

This is how my collection REALLY looks

At the moment, for the first time in four years I have my ENTIRE vintage clothing collection in one place. For one thing this is an incredibly weird feeling. There’s something about my own collecting habits that mean there is a satisfaction to have it split up (so I don’t realise quite how much I’ve collected).
Anyway! As it is all together (bar a few pairs of shoes and some jewellery still at my mums) I thought I would share some pics of it all.
If anyone is interested in further details about anything in the pics do ask away : )

Brand spotlight: Karina’s bags

When I’m not buying/ looking for original vintage pieces I’m always hunting for something that is a little bit different, and a little bit out of the ordinary. Something  that makes a statement. There are a few contemporary brands that really appeal to me in this respect. Amongst my favourites are Tatty Devine, Miss L Fire and Get Cutie.
Today I’m going to introduce another brand I particularly like for the “out of the ordinary” factor. Karina’s bags.
I online “met” Karina through facebook and was instantly fascinated by this amazing lady, who not only had worked for one of my favourite 70s brands (Miss Mouse) but also regularly shared interesting tid bits relating to fashion history through her facebook page. It is thanks to Karina that I have found out about a number of my favourite early 20th century textile designers.
But what makes Karina’s bags different and why is this not just another “handmade company”? Karina often uses original vintage fabrics and/ or vintage frames for her designs. Creating items that reference the past without reproducing it.
Its all about a hybrid fusion of ideas, new and old coming together to make something that is not only unique but also a talking point. One of my favourite items she currently has for sale is a fabulous bag using Linton Mills tweed that was originally woven for Chanel. This is what I mean about the “talking point” nature of the bags.
Here are a couple of my favourite pieces that are currently on her website:
Not only does Karina produce a collection, but she also offers bespoke bags, have a look on her gallery for some wonderful examples.
Here are a few from the archives that are also particularly appealing:
Bag using 1939 world fair fabric
Bag using Grayson Perry scarf fabric
Last year Karina produced a number of commeorative pieces for the jubilee, still wish I had purchased myself one of these!
I think this quote from Karina’s website really exemplifies where her inspiration comes from:
Over the years, so many things have inspired me. In particular, the harmonious colour palette of Luibov Popova, Russian artist and fabric designer, 1889-1924. Elsa Schiaparelli, for the sheer volume of work and the skill with which she executed it. Rosalind Russell in “His Girl Friday”, 1940, for her quirky panache and Marlene Dietrich, for having the audacity to wear beautifully tailored men’s suits combined with handmade bags and shoes from Italian artisan Massaro, a popular look now, but she wore it in 1932, long before Yves Saint Laurent created his “Le Smoking” range!”

Items on Karina’s website start at just £15 for a phone cover. Everything Karina makes is an individual item, so if you see something you like, get in there quick!