Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 April 2014

Fashion buy I'll never part with

Four women tell our reporter about the item in their wardrobes that they've held on to for years

Emma Fitzpatrick pictured wearing a dress which is her item of clothing she can't bring herself to throw out
Emma Fitzpatrick pictured wearing a dress which is her item of clothing she can't bring herself to throw out

Every woman has it, that one cherished item of clothing we are loathe to let go of. Whether it holds sentimental value, was too expensive a purchase to throw away or just makes us feel really good about ourselves, there's always one special item hanging in the wardrobe that means too much to cast aside, irrespective of changing seasons and styles. For one woman, it might be her wedding dress, for another, her first designer buy.

Or maybe it's a perfect pair of jeans that elongate the legs and create the illusion of a pert derriere. Then, of course, there's the hoarder who refuses to part with that black dress she can no longer squeeze into or the coat bought 15 years ago in the hope it can be recycled as vintage.

But what makes a particular item of clothing so very special for women? Is it the glamour, the price-tag, the uniqueness or the memories it conjures up?

We talk to four women who each give us a peek into their wardrobes and reveal the one garment or accessory they refuse to give up.

NUALA MEENEHAN

The 47-year-old advertising account handler and model says:

Every couple of months I attend a fashion souk in Belfast, where I sell some of the clothes I don't wear anymore.

"But there's one item of clothing I could never part with, and that's my Mongolian lamb gilet.

"I bought it a couple of years ago in The Snooty Fox in Dungannon for just under £200.

"I was drawn to it immediately because it's so soft and furry and looks like a vintage piece, straight from the Seventies.

"It's two-tone, well, three-tone really -- cream, green and black. I love it.

"It's very unusual and I have to admit, I've never seen it on anyone else.

"I don't wear fur at all. I can't get my head around that.

"But this isn't fur, it's in the same camp as wool. So I don't feel bad about it.

"I remember the first time I wore it out -- the only time I've actually worn it -- was to the Union Bar in Belfast.

"People were following me around, stroking it, which was quite funny. Everyone wanted to have a wee feel of it.

"I wore it with black skinny trousers, a black sheer blouson top and a pendant, so it was quite a Seventies look. And I got lots of nice comments.

"The strange thing is this, though, I haven't worn it since.

"I take it out of the bag, look at it, then put it back in again.

"I'm dying to wear it again but it's such a statement piece. If I was a funky 20-something rock chick, I'd never have it off me. But I will wear it again sometime. I'm just not sure when.

"I showed it to the designer Una Rodden to see what she thought of it and she loved it.

"And my husband Tony likes it, too. In fact, everyone who has seen it on me likes it.

"I've taken the gilet out of the bag so many times, I'm surprised it's not shedding.

"I have lots of things in my wardrobe that I've hung on to, but my gilet is definitely the one thing I'd never give away."

GRAINNE MAHER

The 39-year-old milliner says:

About six years ago I designed a hat that changed everything for me. It wasn't the first one I'd made, but it was the one that led me to believe that I could really do this, that I could design and make hats for a living and not just as a hobby.

"I'm exceptionally proud of this hat. It's black, my favourite colour, and is a very unusual shape. It's very dramatic, a big 'S' shaped design with a huge diamante feature in the centre. It's very sculptural and there's a piece that comes down over one side of the face. It's perfect for someone who loves a bit of drama.

"Over the years I've had clients approach me and ask me if they could buy it, but it's the one hat I will never sell. I've let a few people borrow it from time to time. One lady wore it to Royal Ascot and I wore it myself to the Down Races. I don't mind letting people wear it, but there's no way I'd ever part with it.

"I have another item of clothing that's very dear to me and that's the DKNY T-shirt I wore when I gave birth to my first child, Sorcha, who's eight. I was in labour for two days, so that T-shirt obviously means a lot to me too.

"The things I hang onto are the items that have a sentimental meaning to me.

"My hat takes pride of place on a display head in the showroom, next to my studio. It's there to remind me that what started out as a hobby became a business for me.

"When I made that hat I realised that I could do something different, that I had the creativity to make a go of things. It marked an important chapter in my life and it made me believe in myself.

"It's fair to say that I have an emotional attachment to that hat. If anything were to happen to it, I'd be gutted. I'd really miss it. That hat means so much to me and I'll never let it go."

EMMA FITZPATRICK

The 35-year-old presenter says:

I'm a hoarder by nature. I'm the type of person who holds on to things like gig tickets or wristbands. And with clothes, I'm reluctant to let go of things too. If I do get rid of something, then about a week later I go looking for it again and end up wishing I hadn't given it away.

“I'm the type of girl who tends to wear jeans and Converse trainers a lot, though I do like to make an effort when I'm going out for a night. I wear black mainly and wouldn't normally go for anything too sparkly or glamorous. So the one item of clothing in my wardrobe that stands out for me is a silver sparkly dress that I wore when I co-hosted the Northern Ireland Music Awards at the Ulster Hall two years ago.

“That dress is special to me, not just because it's not the type of thing I'd normally go for, but because it was such a huge event to be part of and I didn't want to let anyone down.

“It was a real honour to be asked to do it and every time I look at the dress, it reminds me of that night. So many people in the music industry were there and to be co-presenting at such an iconic venue like the Ulster Hall was amazing.

“I went up and down the Lisburn Road, in and out of the designer boutiques, looking for a dress, but couldn't find one that I liked. Then I walked into TK Maxx and found one straight away.

“It's silver sequinned, one-shouldered and sits just above my knee. It only cost £60. The dress looked very small and I was worried that I wouldn't fit into it, but I tried it on and it was perfect.

“On the night of the NIMAs, I got my hair and make-up done as well and I felt very comfortable. I got lots of positive comments too. It's not that people were surprised — I do wear dresses when I go out — it's just it was so sparkly and different for me.

“I haven't worn the dress since. I haven't been to any functions that would require something so glamorous. But I do hope to wear it again.

“My two nieces are four-years-old and they're at that stage of dressing up, so when they come to mine, they head straight for the wardrobe to look at the dress. It's their favourite item of clothing as well!”

CARLY BELL

The 23-year-old who owns Bellaire Hair and Beauty in Belfast says:

Anyone who knows me will agree that the one thing I could never be parted from is my first Mulberry bag. It was my 17th birthday and I saved up my birthday money to buy myself a cream coloured Mulberry wristlet in House of Fraser in Belfast. I kept walking past the bags and purses and was just in love with the colours and the quality of the leather, so I made my mind up that I'd treat myself to one, once I got the money together.

“I was so excited when I bought it. I think it cost me around £280. It's not as big as a clutch bag but I didn't care. It was my first Mulberry and I couldn't wait to take it out with me on a girls' night out for my birthday. We all went to the Red Panda and I produced the bag. All my friends looked at it and said ‘Is that it?'. They couldn't believe I'd spent my birthday savings on this small bag. But I was delighted with it. And it started my love affair with Mulberry hand bags.

“Since then, my collection's got bigger and I must have around 13 Mulberry bags now. I always get them bought for me for birthdays and at Christmas. It's hard to explain my obsession with the label, but I just love the designs and the quality of them. I'm a great believer in cost per wear. I'd rather spend £300 on a pair of shoes that I know I'm going to wear again and again, rather than £20 on a pair that I'll wear once before they fall apart.

“Sadly, my little cream bag is more like grey now. It's a bit worn looking but then again, it's been all around the world with me. It's had drink spilled over it, it's been covered in tan and make-up, even wedding cake. But it's my wee baby Mulberry and I love it. It's special to me because it was the first time I actually saved up my money and bought myself a designer item. And we've had a lot of fun together over the years.”

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