The threads that bind us
When is a dress not just a dress? When it comes with lots of memories attached. Here four dedicated followers of fashion tell Nina Jones about the clothes that hold most meaning for them.
20 May 2012
Peony Lim, 24 (above), has a fashion blog and online shop at
I have such an emotional investment in my wardrobe; it’s more than just clothes for me. For instance, I have a red Prada dress I wore for my 18th birthday. I studied history of art at the Courtauld Institute so my mum took me and my brother to Rome to see the works of art that I’d been studying. I remember going into the Prada shop, and coming out of the changing-room in the dress, and the shop assistant and my mum drawing breath because it was so beautiful.
My mum is my only fashion inspiration, she’s so chic. I grew up in Cornwall and the denim smock I’m wearing is a piece I designed based on a Cornish fisherman’s smock. My grandmother wore them and then my mum used to make them in really graphic, big floral prints and satin that she would wear in the evening.
From left: Prada dress, Hermès Birkin 25 bag, Louis Vuitton shoes, Marie Mercié hat, Hervé Léger dress
I love fashion that has a sense of humour. The Marie Mercié hat is shaped like a cat’s ears and eyes and is kitsch but in a very French, chic way. My unusual style means that pictures of me often appear in fashion blogs. One of the first times I was photographed for a blog was when I was wearing this cat hat, and a black Alaïa coat I have.
For my 21st birthday I had a party on the beach in Malaysia and I wore this vintage Hervé Léger dress with bare feet and a big white feather headdress. It sounds like I was getting married! Every time I look at it, it takes me back. It was such a special time that I don’t know if I’ll be able to wear it again – I may never have the body for it again!
My red Louis Vuitton shoes have heels shaped like a horse’s forelegs that remind me of My Little Pony, with which I was obsessed as a child. My dad gave them to me. He would have no idea what’s going down the catwalk so for him to have picked up on the fact that I wanted these shoes is really sweet, and they were a complete surprise.
The Hermès Birkin 25 bag was a birthday present from my parents. I almost hyperventilated when I opened it. I’ve always loved Birkins, and it was a fantasy to have one. I’d love to have millions of them, if only they were cost-efficient!
Caroline Issa, 35, is the executive fashion director and publisher of ‘Tank’ magazine
PICTURE: JOANNA PATERSON
I live in London but grew up in Montreal. My mum is Singaporean Chinese and we used to collect Chinese robes when I was younger. I don’t really wear them; I hang them in my wardrobe just to have them there. This robe was one I chose when I was living in Singapore as a management consultant. I hope it’s one of those things that you can hand down – I’m about to have a niece and I’m trying to figure out which bits of my wardrobe she can have when she’s old enough.
In my first months at Tank I went to a Christian Louboutin press sale. I’d been wearing bad management-consultant-type heels. All of sudden I was introduced to a world of amazing shoes and I bought this pair of slingbacks. I wore the shoes to my first formal magazine dinner and we won an award, so I thought, ‘These are my lucky shoes!’ I tend not to wear them often, but when I do good things always happen.
Clockwise from top: Chinese robe, Christian Louboutin slingbacks, Prada rose earrings
Prada does incredible crystal-laden accessories. These rose earrings from the spring collection were a gift. It’s amazing how putting on statement earrings completely changes a look. I first wore them at the menswear shows and everybody commented on them.
I had a lot of suits when I was a management consultant, but when I started at Tank and saw all the clothes we were shooting I became more experimental. This gauzy Jil Sander dress with bows at the shoulder was my first big designer purchase. I loved how she knew what professional women needed. When I bought my flat six months ago, I was unpacking and found it. I hadn’t worn it for years but now I’ve started wearing it again.
Zoe Lem, 36, is a stylist, designer and consultant. She runs the Vintage Wedding Fair in London and sells vintage-inspired wedding dresses under her own name at
PICTURE: JOANNA PATERSON
This 1950s-inspired Balenciaga dress was my wedding dress. I was out preparing for a shoot in Selfridges when I saw it. I’m very impulsive, and I guess because of my job I know what I like and what suits me. I knew I wasn’t ever going to go down the traditional bridal route, and as my legs are one of my better attributes I felt it would be a shame not to get them out!
My sister also held a vintage beaded bag for me. It’s 1920s and had a little mirror in it. There’s something quite feel-good about vintage, especially if it’s been hand-made. You don’t necessarily know the whole history of the piece, but you can kind of imagine.
The Marni print dress came with me to a friend’s wedding in Namibia, and it conjures up memories of being on holiday out in the desert. There’s no point wearing some glam sequin dress when you’re in the desert; it’s about feeling like you fit in with an environment. I’ve worn it through pregnancies, too, so it’s been on a few journeys. I think it’s even got a few rips under the arm that need mending. I don’t actually go shopping much myself because I do it as a job, so when I find stuff that I really like I wear it quite a lot.
From left: Marni dress, vintage beaded bag, hand-embroidered scarf, tiger’s claw necklace, Balenciaga dress
When I was in Namibia I bought quite a lot of antique jewellery. I bought a hippo’s tooth and a tiger’s claw, which are both almost 100 years old, and I’ve got an Ethiopian wedding ring that’s worn on a necklace. I’ve been lucky enough to go to a few nice places, and I always pick up things and work them into my wardrobe. I’ve got a hand-embroidered scarf I bought in a market in Mexico. It’s kept me warm on shoots and I’ve used it as a blanket on the kids’ buggy when they’ve got cold.
The 1940s dress I’m wearing was from an auction in Dorset, near my parents’ home. In its time it would have been quite functional, but now it’s just a really good cut. It’s a shape that I know works. For me, the feeling is as important as the looking. Obviously I have bought bits from the high street, but I don’t think they make you feel that good. It’s about how clothes feel, not just physically but emotionally as well.
Jules Winstanley, 45, owns and runs TCS boutique in Teddington, south-west London
PICTURE: JOANNA PATERSON
My grandmother always dressed immaculately and she used to dress me up, too; I was like her little doll! I used to be allowed to play with certain things in her jewellery collection. I went to visit her when she was getting quite elderly and she asked if there were a couple of pieces I wanted to take. I went for this brooch from 1912. I love the colours in it and the fact that it just keeps me in touch with her.
When my sister and I were teenagers and finding our own style I remember taking one or two scarves from my grandfather’s collection. We’d say, ‘Can we have these, granddad?’ and he wouldn’t have much of a say in it! I remember wearing this red-edged paisley one round my head because it was that Madonna, Bananarama look. Now I’d wear it with a jacket or a piece of knitwear.
My other grandmother was from a working-class family and when she was younger she used to wear lovely print dresses. I inherited this one. It doesn’t do anything for me at all because I’m so flat-chested, but I’d like to think that my daughter could wear it. I’m sure she’d like to do that vintage look at some stage.
From left: vintage print dress, 1912 brooch, Mootich shoes, vintage scarf, Marsell boots
For the tenth anniversary of my shop in 2006 I decided I wanted some really wide trousers. I saw these Ann Demeulemeester trousers in Selfridges but they didn’t have my size. I couldn’t get them out of my head. They were nearly £600, so they were ridiculous. I rang around and managed to find some in Liberty. The fabric is a heavy satin, so it needed a heel, and my Mootich shoes were perfect. People don’t normally see me in heels – I’m tall already at just over 6ft. I just loved that the trousers were so exaggerated on me. It was a strong image I wanted to express to my friends, customers and suppliers.
My Marsell boots have a mannish quality that works with my style. I need to have something comfortable to walk around trade shows. I feel people’s eyes on them. You see them thinking, ‘Mmm, I wonder what those shoes are?’ They’re a bit different, just a bit edgy and earthy. A strong pair of boots makes you feel more powerful.
The threads that bind us
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