It was love at first sight. For me, anyway. I am pretty sure my glorious, wool, blue/beige/brown Jigsaw winter coat doesn't have any feelings for me.
It was Boxing Day 2015 and my first winter living in London. I was with a friend, and we strolled into Jigsaw — dressed down in jeans and sweatshirts, still full from all the food we consumed while binge-watching Netflix the day before. I wasn't planning on buying anything (I was new and London isn't exactly cheap), but there it was, hanging in its full, tall, elegant glory. Shades of dark blue and beige melting into each other. Soft wool. Sleek. Stylish. (Expensive.)
I'm obsessed with coats. They make me feel a bit taller, a bit more statuesque, a bit more elegant when I put one on. (I imagine this is how men feel when they put on a suit or a tux: instantly fancy.)
I moved to London after spending almost a decade in the US. I had managed to reduce nearly a decade to four suitcases. Months earlier, most of my earthly belongings had gone to friends, the Salvation Army, or the curb.
My closet was clean, empty, and ready for some new items. When I moved I decided to buy better, but fewer things. Yes, a £350 — I got it with a discount, but still! — coat was exactly what I needed, I told myself. In many ways, the coat was the start of my new life in London. The start of new adventures. And it looked damn good on Instagram.
Walking the streets of London — often not quite knowing where I was headed during those cold, dark winter months — was just a bit better in that coat. Conquering the city was just a bit easier. It gave me the confidence I needed.
More than a year has passed and a lot around us has changed (Brexit, Trump, the end of Brangelina – I could keep going). Meanwhile, I'm settled in London. I've made friends, I know which way I have to walk most of the time. I use words like cheeky and knackered and instinctively look to the right when crossing the street.
A few days ago, I took the coat out of my closet and put it back on. It still fits like a charm. And for a moment, I felt as excited as I did when I just moved here. Let's see what this winter brings.
When my grandmother passed away in 2005, I hadn’t seen her in years, although we wrote often to each other: cordial missives on proper stationary about books and school and what life was like in whatever part of the world I was living. And no matter my coordinates, a card always arrived on my birthday.
News of my grandmother’s death stunned me: I was angry that I’d not made the effort to see her when I had the chance. The sadness snuck up on me like a predator, silently stalking me from afar, until I was walking tearfully behind her coffin thinking how there was so much about her I didn’t know and would never get to ask. After the funeral I combed through drawers in her house I never would have opened had she been there. Except she wasn’t there, not any more. She wasn’t perched on the edge of her sofa with the cigarette she would light and hold dramatically like a 1950s screen siren but never really put to her lips. I remember as a little girl watching the paper burn slowly into ash and guessing in my head how long it would take before it broke away and fell to the floor.
My dad, her only child, heavy-handedly set about emptying her house, ferrying bags of stuff to and from the charity shop, until his partner stepped in to salvage a few items, understanding, correctly, that there may be things I, his mother's only granddaughter, might want. I was left with a jewellery box, a dress I have pictures of her wearing, medals from her successful lawn bowls career, a stack of letters she had received from both of my parents as their acrimonious split played out to her apparent dismay, and a sleek, sumptuous fur shrug – I don’t even know what kind – with little pockets to slide your hands in.
I would-save-it-in-a-fire love it – it’s easily the most glamorous, and the most controversial, thing I own. I’ve worn it only a handful of times since, on special occasions at weddings, awards shows, and other black-tie events. An ex-boyfriend once dubbed it the “stinky mink”, because clinging stubbornly to the fur is my grandmother’s scent: her perfume, mixed with smoke and sweat. When Granny died I’d barely been out of university a year. Her life ended just as mine was really beginning. She would never know me as an adult, to see my childish dreams fulfilled, the places I would go, and the people I would laugh and dance with. But when I wrap her fur lovingly around my shoulders, shrouding myself in her fragrance, I feel her with me.
The one item of clothing I will always cherish is the tartan scarf I wear each winter. It’s not like any old tartan scarf. It’s soft, makes you want to bury your nose in it when the cool air bites, is navy blue with red and white scores. But most importantly, it’s my dad’s tartan scarf.
I always feel comforted whenever I remember my dad, or abba, wearing his scarf over his beard and black wool coat, smiling, and coming through the door with shopping bags or a newspaper in his hands.
My abba passed away while I was sitting my A-level exams, so I’ve always felt a sadness he didn’t get to see me getting my results, going to university, graduating, starting my first proper job. I made sure I found his scarf and kept it.
I remember wearing his scarf throughout university, wrapped around me in the cold library while I sipped coffee and studied through the winter, leaving me with warm memories and hoping he would be proud of me. Wearing it after university, over my trenchcoat when I headed to interviews, made me feel taller for some reason, and as though I was ready for business.
Of course it’s just an item of clothing, but I think attaching significance to even the most mundane things is what makes us human and treasure our memories, especially when we’re living life so fast-paced now. And as the cold weather starts pinching, it has reminded me to take the scarf out again.
My favourite piece of clothing is not, in fact, my own. It’s a camel coat from American Apparel that belongs to my boyfriend, but we now both consider it mine.
One of the benefits of being in a same-sex relationship that no one immediately thinks of is the shared wardrobe (if you’re the same size that is). When I moved in with my boyfriend a couple of years ago, I suddenly saw my wardrobe double in size and it was absolutely glorious.
My boyfriend is quite a fashionable fellow, and so I suddenly had a wealth of gorgeous clothes to choose from, but the one thing that really caught my eye was this camel coat. I had always wanted one, but never thought I could pull off the look. It’s not particularly risky or anything, I was just used to wearing muted colours, like mainly grey and black.
Fast-forward to now, and that coat is the most worn item in my wardrobe. I practically live in it in throughout the autumn and winter – my favourite seasons – and I have loads of great memories associated with it. One that stands out is a trip to Stockholm. I was in a city I’d always wanted to visit but never had the money to do so, with a new job I’d never thought I’d get, in a coat that I didn’t think I’d be able to pull off. The coat reminds me of the feelings I get during the autumn – fresh starts, excitement in the air, and a warm, cosy feeling.
It’s comfy, it’s stylish, and I didn’t pay a penny for it.
The world can throw a lot of shit at you if you’re gay, and it can be hard to get by in a world that doesn’t quite seem to be made for you. But what the world takes away from you, it also gives, and I now feel that being gay gives you a lot more choices in life than having to conform the normal societal expectations. I can always take solace in the fact that having a boyfriend means I have a lot more fashion choice because of my expanded wardrobe, and this coat is the perfect representation of that unexpected perk.
My favourite item of clothing is a tattered, multicoloured jumper that probably should have stayed behind in the ‘80s. It’s not fancy or expensive or fashionable but it is the only item of clothing I own that has a firm hold on my heart.
To explain why, I have to tell you about the jumper’s former owner: my mother. My mum bought the jumper in the mid-'80s, when she was in her early twenties. I stole it from her wardrobe some two decades later when I was invited to a party where the theme was “dress like your parents when they were young”.
I didn’t end up attending the party but the jumper never returned to my mum’s wardrobe – instead, it found a new home in mine.
The jumper now lives with me in London, where it gets a lot more wear than it did back in Adelaide, Australia, where my mother (and the rest of my family) live. Wearing my mother’s old jumper never ceases to be an emotional moment for me. I am happy with my life in London – moving was the best decision I ever made – but that doesn’t stop me missing my mum every single day.
My mother is the best woman I have ever known. She is my best friend, my guiding light, and my greatest inspiration. When I wear her jumper I feel closer to her. I pull it out on my bad days and drag it over my head to comfort me while I cry on the couch. I wear it on the plane whenever I fly back to the UK from an always too-short visit home. I wear it when I need to feel strong and brave and face a situation I would rather cower from. I wear the jumper when I need to remember that I am loved.
I love clothes. My style is very important to me. Every month, as a way to treat myself, I buy an item of clothing. So all my clothes mean something to me; they are all precious. The jeans that make my bum look perky mean an awful lot to me. The dress I wore to my graduation has a special place in my heart, and a red off-the-shoulder bought on sale is also pretty irreplaceable. But most precious of all is the dress I wore to my sister’s wedding.
It doesn’t have its own special place in my wardrobe – in fact, it’s tucked all the way at the back – but I love it so much. I love the colour, I love how it made it me feel the one time I wore it, and I love all the memories attached to it. I will remember the first time I saw it, hung up right in the centre of a little bridal shop in Finsbury Park. It was the third time my sister and I had gone dress shopping and we were both fed up, and then we saw it. We both felt instant joy and did a little squeak, the kind of squeak we used to do when we were given a pound for the ice cream van. It was the one.
I also remember wearing the dress while I walked down the aisle holding up my sister's wedding dress. I remember crying that my sister, who I had shared a room with my whole life, was actually leaving me, and I remember using the bottom of the dress to wipe my tears, forever classy.
My sister did a brilliant job with me – she is my biggest inspiration. She is loving, patient, and selfless, so the dress I wore on the happiest day of her life will always be my favourite item clothing.
Black T-shirts. I have them shipped, in bulk, from the US every three or four months or so. Finding the perfect T-shirt is not an easy task. Most T-shirts are either too long and baggy, which is no longer acceptable after the age of 13. Or too tight, which is never OK, no matter how much you work out.
This brand took months to discover, and was eventually found after a lot of research – aka shopping around – but is just right. They're soft 100% cotton T-shirts – a crucial detail if you care about the wellbeing of your skin. It is also quite possibly the last brand on earth that I can get away with wearing a small.
I own about 30 at any given time and use the older ones at home, or at the beach.
A black T-shirt works with pretty much anything. It can be smart or it can be the centrepiece to a detail-oriented, faux-“I don't give a fuck” casual look. Black T-shirts go with most jeans and most trousers. With a leather jacket or a blazer. Under a hoodie or under a cardigan.
They also make choosing what to wear a lot easier, so you can focus most of your energy on more pressing matters. Like deciding which shoes or colour of socks to wear.
I don't really have a particular style. I rarely wear jeans, preferring to live in skirts with a deep-coloured cami or a tucked-in tee. Otherwise you will find me in a basic H&M dress at the weekend, avoiding tourists and bad dates.
The item I love the most is one that I lost most recently. It's a simple black wrap midi dress that I haven't been able to source again. I've come across some that are *almost* right but no cigar. It's gutting. When I realised I had returned from a trip to Paris without it, I felt genuine remorse. I mean, I know it's just a dress, but it was the only thing I felt confident in. Content, even. It was a dress full of such promise that when I wore it, I didn't immediately fall into my self-conscious habit of hiding behind my long hair in hopes that no one would notice how un-put-together and awkward I am.
I've worn it to weddings, dates, and parties. Basically, any event where I've needed a jolt of confidence to keep my anxiety at bay long enough to be fun and social. I usually wear it with a pair of velvet heels and a gold choker necklace and promise myself that the next time I'll try something different, except I don't. It holds the stories to some of my favourite adventures. It was the dress I wore to a party in a penthouse in Miami that I was sure I was too uncool to attend. (I was, but I didn't let that stop me.) It was the dress I was wearing when a boy I had a long-time crush on asked me out on a date. The dress I wore when my friends visited me from Glasgow and cured my overwhelming homesickness with laughter and hugs.
I have yet to find another dress where I can rock a red lip and just forget the insecurities that usually cloud my mind. I have hope, though. As party season approaches I find myself wading through the shops online and IRL to find that item that will get me through. Confidence comes from within, it's true, but a perfect little dress definitely helps.