09:00 Tuesday 05 February 2013

What fashion means to me

Written bySimon Clewes

For some people, clothes are defined solely by their practical qualities. Coats keep us warm. Suits fulfil the criteria to look presentable in the office. Joggers and T-shirts are perfect for lounging around the house and – when the rare opportunity arises – we can don a pair of shorts to help us stay cool in the summer sun.

For others, however, we share an altogether different relationship with our clothes.

A fashionable one.

Fashion is word which strikes fear into the hearts of many. The image of 6ft models sashaying down Paris and Milan catwalks in bizarre, super-human creations such as those infamous 12-inch heels made famous by Lady Gaga. Hoards of image-conscious shoppers gathered in gigantic crowds outside high-street fashion stores like Topshop, desperate to get their hands on the new collection by Kate Moss. Or perhaps thinking about fashion brings up images of Gok Wan trying to wedge some poor female into an overly-fitted dress with a pair of too-high high heels in attempt to steer her away from a doomed life of unfashionable dressing.

However, such images are only clichés. For me, and I suspect a lot of other people as well, I see fashion as simply utilising clothing as a way in which to express myself. Clothes equal confidence. They make me feel better in my own skin. Put simply, nice clothes make me a happier person. Taking pride in your clothes doesn’t mean you need to be a slave to the latest trend; I’m not forever throwing out old items just because they’re not ‘in season’ anymore. When I find a piece that I love, I’ll nearly always keep it (and wear it) for years to come.

In fact – and this might sound strange coming from someone who loves clothes – I don’t even purchase that many new pieces each month. I prefer to make informed choices about what I want to purchase and build up a small but quality collection over a period of time. In this age of super-cheap high street stores and throwaway fashion, there’s something refreshing in spending a little bit more money on a good quality pair of jeans that you love as opposed to three pairs of bargain ones. At least they’ll last you more than a few months – and that’s nothing to do with being a fashion snob, it just makes much more practical and economic sense.

If you don’t want to spend a fortune on designer clothing, then if you walk a little further out of the town you’re shopping in you’re almost guaranteed to find a vintage store or charity shop crammed with gems. Whatever town you’re in, there’s bound to be one of these great little shops somewhere just bursting with an array of clothing. Many clothes shops charge the earth for special ‘vintage’ collections, so why not buy the real thing from a second-hand or vintage shop and save a pretty penny? Plus, you’ll be doing your bit for charity.

In a small local charity shop I once found a beautiful real leather coat, the purchase price at the time was covered by a five pound note. I thought it was probably moderately expensive had I bought it new, so out of interest I looked up the retail price online. I was astounded when I realised just how much money a similar quality coat would have cost me to buy new had I not stumbled upon one by chance. Since then I’ve found countless designer brands hiding away in these brilliant little shops, from Dior to Chanel and Vivienne Westwood and Gucci.

You might think that the image of a little charity shop tucked away in a small town seems a world away from the stereotypical fashion ‘world’ I described at the start of this feature. But that’s the beauty of fashion – it is what you make of it; whether you buy your collections at soon as they hit the rails in designer shops or whether you build a collection up slowly from vintage stores and charity shops.

If something as simple as that can give so much pleasure, surely it can only be a good thing!

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