Well Worn: Falling Back in Love With Our Clothes (My Workshop For the Secondhand Cultures Symposium)

On the 15th and 16th June this year the University of Cardiff hosted an online symposium – Secondhand Cultures in Unsettled Times. I opened the event with my workshop Well Worn: Falling Back in Love With Our Clothes.

It wasn’t my usual kind of workshop as there was no making involved, it was all about sharing, listening and telling stories. It was also the first public activity I’ve done linked to my PhD research, although at the time I did the workshop I didn’t know whether I had even got the place to start my PhD as I hadn’t yet had my interview!

Well as you now know I did get that place and have now started that PhD. So I thought it might be a good time to share the recording of the workshop to give you a flavour of some of my research. Participants at the workshop were encouraged to either bring or wear a piece of well-worn and/or well-loved clothing to talk about. I had prepared some slides about one of my well-worn garments – my trusty 12 year old North Face jacket – which is what you can watch here (start at 5m 20s and end at 15m).

Participants at the symposium then went into breakout rooms to share and discuss their own garments and when we all came back together I’d asked everyone to try and sum up their garments in three words.

I summed up my jacket as: protection / reliable / adventure.

Here are some of the participants and their words:

There was a real mixture across all participants of how the garment made the wearer feel, what the garment made them think of, and when it came to the material physicality of the garments a bit of a split between the physical properties of the garment (eg. soft, warm) and a description of the “style” of the garment (eg. timeless, folksy).

I want to organise more workshops like this and maybe even “host” some via social media. I’ll be putting callouts on Instagram and Twitter asking my followers to post their well-worn / well-loved garments with the hashtags #wellwornwellloved and #thepeopleswardrobe and to sum them up in three words. Is it possible to build up a visual library of the nation’s best loved clothes – a ‘People’s Wardrobe’??

We all have a few precious favourite garments, can we learn anything from them that we could apply to the rest of our wardrobes? Could they help us to better understand ourselves, the people making our clothes and the society we currently exist in? Could these precious favourites help us to appreciate all of our clothes more and keep them for longer? Could they remind us of the value of the existing above the new and the importance of being a “guardian” rather than a consumer?

If you’d like to join in with this experiment and contribute your favourite garment/s to my People’s Wardrobe here’s what to do:

  • take a photo of your garment or garments (ideally with you wearing it/them, but if you’re camera shy just laid out flat on the floor like my jacket above is fine)
  • post the photo on your Instagram and/or Twitter accounts, tag me @thatwendyward and use the hashtags #wellwornwellloved #thepeopleswardrobe along with 3 words that you feel best sum up the garment and why it’s important to you, if you want to share, you can also add more details about the story of your garment/s
  • if you’re not on social media but have a blog you can also do the above as a blog post.

I’m really looking forward to seeing your garments and hearing their stories and remember, as shown by my example of my jacket your garments don’t have to be beautiful old heirlooms, they just need to have earned a well-worn place in your wardrobe and I’m most interested in hearing how they’ve earned that place.

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