Fashioning my 4 year old daughter, Denny, into a clotheshorse for the styles I hold most dear has become a visual love letter to my daughter about the type of woman I hope she’ll become. The kind of woman who won’t be afraid to speak her mind; who won’t shy away from being different and who will dress for herself and not in the media’s image.
Myself born in 1985, I am proud of my association with a decade that brought us the advent of Microsoft and the first .com, Doc Martens, neon brights, Geldof’s Live Aid concerts, the closure of British coal mines, Grace Jones, the first gay love story in My Beautiful Launderette and less controversially torn Levi 501s. The oft-referenced era of excess set the tone for my life, from wardrobe to social status, sparking a love affair with all things 80s in its ability to inspire my taste in cinema, music and fashion. Eighties starlet and the eventual star of my all-time favourite series, Sex & the City, Sarah Jessica Parker further influenced my wardrobe choices in her role as the inimitably stylish Carrie Bradshaw and it is to her that my daughter owes her own love affair with the tutu and a love of all things 80s.
The 80s was an era that endorsed change, new perspectives and personal expression of many a kind; values I’m determined to instil in my children. The evolution from repression to expression over the decades saw mediums from movies to music give a voice to hidden minorities, political agendas and social issues and similarly fashion employed its visual mode to achieve the very same.
Dressed in my slogan-tee-turned-dress, proclaiming ‘Stay Alive in 85’, Denny will come to understand its dual significance, both as an homage to my beloved Carrie Bradshaw (who wore this style in the first SATC movie) and as a celebration of the power inherent in our fashion choices. The original design was created by English fashion designer and eco-fashion crusader Katherine Hamnett who put the voice back into democracy during the early 80s, by wearing her political opinions, quite literally, on her sleeve. The controversial t-shirt the designer wore when meeting with then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to highlight the British public’s resistance to basing nuclear weapons in the UK, stating ‘58% DON’T WANT PERSHING’, heralded a powerful freedom of expression.
In an age where image is key both to personal success and in enabling issues of state to even nuzzle at our political awareness, I want my daughter to understand the power she has purely in the wardrobe she possesses. Taking cues from someone such as the iconic first lady, Jackie Kennedy, who used her style know-how and Oleg Cassini’s classic American creations, to create an unprecedented hallmark of presidential success, perhaps I can teach my little girl to place as much credibility in the exterior as in her deeper intellect to thrive in a world built on material gain.
From the provocative heart of the punk movement via Vivienne Westwood’s anti-authority brand of fashion to the 2007 craze for Anya Hindmarch’s ‘I’m not a plastic bag’ and young UK designer Henry Holland’s 80s-inspired catchphrase tees; the fashion world recognises the unbeatable power of putting their message, missive or voice out there in black, white and neon bright.
Dressing Denny is my adage for her future self, laying the foundations for her to understand the importance of having a voice and more critically having it heard. At almost 4 years of age, I have no idea what her future vocation might be; teacher, rock star, technology guru, scientist, charity advocate, sportsperson, fashion designer, businesswoman, the choices are endless but in my mind, using style to help shape who she is now, I believe will go on to help instruct who she will become.