Posted on 43 Comments

Once Upon A Time In A Closet

I want to share what excites me about the world of fashion (and why the fashion I create is so immersed in stories), and find out what kind of fashion excites you.

The world inside a wardrobe

When I was very young (once upon a time, a long time ago!), one of my favourite TV programmes was Mr Benn. The idea of going into a shop, changing my clothes then going into an adventure somewhere, really stirred my imagination.

I was delighted to discover recently that the creator, David McKee, studied fine arts at Plymouth College, not too far from where I used to watch his programme as a child.

A few years later I discovered The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, where exploring the back of a wardrobe opened up a whole new world of magical and mystical adventures.

Then the world around me became really exciting. David Bowie, Adam and the Ants and the New Romantics dominated the teen scene (I so loved my frilly shirt!) and this was my favourite time of all, because the world at the back of the wardrobe came into my everyday life and I could explore new worlds simply by what I chose to wear.

Who do YOU want to be?

What clothes hang in the back of your wardrobe for the days you feel brave enough to be truly yourself?

What clothes would you like to see more of so you can be you?

Add your thoughts in the comments below

We are all uniquely and wonderfully made. Ignore the fashion judge! Have fun with what you wear. Play.

That’s all creativity and self expression really is: the freedom to play.

I’m really looking forward to reading your comments and I’ll be sharing more about fashion and your personality very soon. (You’ve probably already guessed at mine!)

43 thoughts on “Once Upon A Time In A Closet

  1. How interesting! I identify so much with your fashion journey – Mr Benn, The Wardrobe and my frilly white, new romantic blouse! That was the first time I ever felt in fashion (and possibly the last). I think most of my clothes as a child came from jumble sales, and even now I’m a fan of a well chosen charity shop bargain, and more recently second hand delights from Facebook pages selling the brands I favour (White Stuff, Seasalt, Mistral and Mantaray to name but a few). Clothes for me have to be comfortable and if they are also flattering (I’m very conscious of my tummy) that’s all the better. I like colourful clothes with interesting or pretty prints and sadly have lots of clothes in my wardrobe which are too small. I want to look feminine overall but my clothes have to be practical too so I’m often in trousers of some kind with a pretty top.

    1. That’s brilliant ?

      I think our age group tends to have the same experiences. Unfortunately younger people seem to find it harder to relate to our experiences and I’m sure they’re missing out!

      I, too, prefer comfort and a flattering shape – I have the same tummy problem! I also favour charity shop finds, though I’m hoping to start finding time to sew my own stuff soon.

      1. My favourite top of all time comes from White Stuff but has several holes in it now ? but I can’t get rid of it. I absolutely love wearing a uniform to work – firstly it means I don’t have to choose what to wear, and secondly it’s like playing a Mr Benn part! I’d feel very odd doing my job without my uniform on it’s part of my identity. It takes me quite some time to choose what to wear on non-work days as what I wear really affects how I feel, which I know shouldn’t be the case but is.

        1. Lol – I love that you compare wearing your uniform to playing a Mr Benn part. Brilliant.

          There are lots of reasons why our clothes affect how we feel. The cut of an outfit affects body posture, which parts of our bodies are constrained or free, and the fabric affects how our skin feels.

          Our clothes also reflect how we feel about ourselves, our values and how we want others to respond to us. There’s a very strong psychological link between our inner man and how we clothe ourselves.

          There’s a spiritual element too as our clothes also reflect how we think Father God feels about us – or whatever else we bow to. Jesus wore a seamless tunic that would have been quite valuable. Father God loves us and nourishes us, and that includes how He clothes us. We aren’t to worry about what we wear because the Lord provides for us – like the lilies and Jesus’ tunic. He doesn’t stint on what He provides. And if you look at how He clothes nature, as a fashion designer I don’t think there’s an equal!

          I’ve also noticed how the care and attitude of the people involved in the process of creating our clothes attach themselves to us. It only takes one loving touch on any part of their journey to transform something ordinary into something extra special.

  2. Hello, really liked this. I like that you share your “private time” thoughts.

    Regarding clothes, I used to wear a kaftan, when I was a late teen and into my twenties. In fact the first time I went to what became and still is 42 years or so later , my church, I was wearing one along with vertical striped trousers ! I was fortunate enough to get a needle chord one so it was quite hard wearing!
    My future wife was horrified at my clothes choice, but I’ve always had a rather individual taste in clothes and combinations thereof.
    An interesting discovery I made was how merely wearing particular clothes can change your mood and how you see yourself. For my son’s wedding, we wore tailcoats and striped trousers. I was amazed at there effect of wearing the tailcoat. It was black, wool, and quite heavy. It really made me feel special, as if I were a man of standing. Sadly it was hired !
    Other than those items, I nowadays tend to dress in a more socially acceptable manner ?

    1. Thank you for your brilliant feedback. I love your openness and sense of humour. And your style!

  3. I’m not that daring when it comes to fashion – i like to keep sort of up to date with stuff on the high street but am usually a season or two behind! i always feel comfortable in my clothes and usually go for like skinny jeans and a top or skirt and top tucked in or dresses for summer but have got more adventurous with colours this year – bright pinks/oranges etc. i usually still to ballet shoes/flip flops/flat boots but will don heels for a night out! The only thing i own which isn’t mainstream high street stuff, is a neon pink tutu which was for an 80s night a couple of years ago lol! i like fairly simple but pretty clothes. i definitely feel more confident shopping recently as ive lost 3.5 stone in the last 18 months and i feel like i can wear way more than i used to feel comfortable in.

    1. I really like how honest your answer is. I think a lot of people feel the same way you do about clothes. I am curious how you felt dressed in the neon tutu though! If everyone started wearing 8s clothes do you think you’d be more adventurous?

      1. Hmmm that’s an interesting question about the tutu…I actually don’t enjoy fancy dress at all, never did even as a kid, not sure why! But I have to say I loved getting Neond up for the 80-90s night (it’s part of Falmouth week and we saw 5ive do a set which was incredible reliving my youth!)… I think m I enjoyed it more because they were just fun more normal clothes rather than just a costume perhaps? I reckon if they became more mainstream I would brace it yes 🙂

      2. Oh I also forgot to mention to me, price is a massive factor in buying clothes! I shop at the cheap places – Asda, new look, peacocks, primark, next and M&S… I rarely spend any more than £10 on a top or £20 on trousers! Being on min wage is tricky sometimes! There are some things I do invest in like swimwear and boots but stuff comes and goes in fashion so quick, I’m happier spending not much on something less quality that’ll only last a season or two

  4. That’s a cool question and as a counsellor and a Christian Ive been on a journey with this… as Ive become more comfortable in my own skin and also grown in my relationship with God and as Ive become more free to be truly myself (did you know my business name is Free To Be? And I wrote a blog about Free To Be… what? 🙂 sounds similar to what you’re asking here).

    I wear bold colours and trendy clothes that I would never have thought I had the confidence to wear. Only they don’t stay at the back anymore. Now I feel confident to be myself, I feel comfortable in my smart work wear be that pencil skirts and pretty clothes, or in my dungarees at the weekend or very short shorts in the summer (growing up in quite strict church I was taught girls/ women shouldn’t wear stuff like that… I now feel free that God is ok with me wearing stuff appropriate to seasons etc so if it’s hot it’s ok to wear shorts etc).

    I love trying out new styles, shoes, hats, accessories that previously I probably wouldn’t have had the confidence to wear. I also used to hide a lot behind black and very neutral tones. I now love being able to choose whether to be bold and bright or be more monochrome etc.

    1. That’s such a brilliant reply! And very much where I’m encouraging people to be ?

  5. 1.) In terms of clothes I own but never feel truly comfortable wearing I have a red leather jacket, quite a few asymmetrical draped t-shirts, black leather pants, bright silver high top sneakers and one of Issey Miyake’s ‘pleats please’ stretch t-shirt.

    2.) In terms of clothes I would love to see more of: I wish there were more asymmetrical designs in the world. I also wish that there was more crossover between ‘performance materials’ and fashion/lifestyle clothing.

    Good luck with the project, it’ll be fun to see the results.

  6. I love the Lion Witch & Wardrobe books too.

    Early clown costumes have had an influence on my clothing since about the 70’s. I guess entertainers clothes give you a certain amount of free reign – opens up the possibilities. I also love shell buttons and have used them to decorate jeans and dresses. I like the idea of keeping certain pieces going for as long as possible ie until they disintegrate. Patching & decorating them – watching how they develop as you develop. I have had my levi 401’s since the 70’s – the are getting to the stage where they are more patch than denim. Over sized vintage dungarees have got to be the most comfortable things out – plus they seem to lift the mood of those around you (clowns again). During the 80’s I sewed sequins on everything – lime green feather boas, pink elbow length, satin gloves – its all coming back to me – what a nut – but wouldn’t change a thing

    1982 Phillippa Clayden 1982 Phillippa Clayden

    1. These are amazing photos!

      I also love that you still have your jeans from the 70s. They’re a work of art and utterly priceless. I know a lot of other people would greatly admire them too 

      Thank you for sharing these with me. It means a lot and is very exciting!

  7. Really loved this – the news reel was great to see – the Kemp brothers looked so young.
    Got a couple o pics I might try to send, I’ll see what they’re like when I get them onto my computer.
    I’ve got the box set of all the lion witch and wardrobe books – I love em

    Keep me posted – looking froward to seeing how this develops

  8. I really enjoyed reading this and watching the video. It made me think about what I wear, how I choose my clothes and what they say about me. I’ve grown in confidence in myself over the past couple of years and found that my wardrobe has also changed – though I still hang on to some old favourites. I bought a fringed biker jacket for a costume for the Montol festival in Penzance a couple of years ago (now there are some good costumes, if you’re free you should come along! It’s always on 21st December, there are parades throughout the day but the evening is the most spectacular part where the guise guilds put on their displays (street theatre I suppose) and attempt to cause as much misrule as possible! I reckon there will be some good photos on Flickr or on Facebook). Anyway, my jacket was initially costume but I have kind of grown into it and wear it the rest of the year as well, not least because it is warm and waterproof as well as making me feel more cool than I really am hahaha! I like the way the fringing on the sleeves is shown off when I play the fiddle, so it’s particularly good for parades where I’m usually in the Cornish colours, black and gold.

    My other current favourite is the patchwork skirt I was wearing at Creationfest on Wednesday, I bought it at a folk festival from a fair trade clothes stand. I like the association with the festival and with the music, I love the bright reds and greens and I wear it when I want to look & feel creative and like a proper job folk musician!

    1. Thank you for your lovely reply.

      I used to have a fringed tan suede jacket when I was in my teens that I wore everywhere until it died and it was great to see them come back in again recently and hilarious that my daughter is after one! There’s definitely something about clothes that move well.

      And funnily enough I was admiring your patchwork skirt at Creationfest. I was trying to work out whether they’d sewn all the patches individually or whether it was one piece of fabric that was just patterned that way.

      I imagine not having to work in an office has freed your wardrobe up considerably too. Mine changed radically after I stopped doing accountancy.

  9. Just wanted to say I LOVE reading your blog post! ? I too was an Adam and the Ants fan and wore my face paint and boots with pride!

  10. Hah! Was thinking about this recently as I’m playing the part of “mother of the bride” soon.
    Mwah haha!! I actually went shopping with my daughter, when I last visited her, so she virtually picked my dress… This was what I chose to do for this occasion:)… it did get me thinking about how we choose our clothes, some days I feel colorful, other days I just want to remain unseen/ anonymous/under the radar.
    Muted greys, greens, blues.
    Our clothes expressing our personality, rather than just following fashion trends is something I think God is awakening at the moment as we are becoming more aware of our identity and accepting people as they are, rather than who we/the world thinks they should be.
    Hmmmmm… interesting, I shall think on Tracey…
    bless you, bless your work, may you be a key in bringing about a move of God in the fashion industry.

    1. How exciting! I felt I would pop with proud the day my son Roy got married. I was really surprised at how special a day it was. I guess that’s how the Lord feels about us all the time 🙂 Have an amazing time!!

      I’ve tended to go for dark clothes a lot lately – a way of being anonymous too. But I do want to be more colourful – I think it’s that lack of confidence, menopausal thing and because I’ve put on so much weight. Interestingly I listened to a colour expert recently who explained that its common for women our age (she was about the same age as we are) to gravitate towards muted colours even though it’s the time when colour suits them best. And she did look amazing and wore a beautifully coloured dress.

      Hopefully my designs will get more colourful too 🙂

  11. I absolutely LOVE this!!

    I too watched Mr Benn avidly and was also a New Romantic with many frilly shirts and ‘big hair’.

    You write really well, uniquely too, I engaged with the content immediately.

    You asked about my fashion ideas/likes etc..
    Good question! I have strggled over the years to find my style identity as it were. I have dressed to the tune of the 80’s as mentioned, been a goth with red and black hair, into the mod and scooter scene and been on a few scooter rallies, hung around with bikers for a bit and then sadly got into raves and all things illuminous.

    Then I found Jesus and my identity was established in Him. My only hang ups are due to my yo yoing weight which either allows or denies certain styles in order to be modest or cool, weight dependant.

    Now I live in the South of France where temperartures can reach 35-40 degrees on occasion I tend to wear dressses. This is hilarious as I have NEVER been a dress or skirt sort of girl. Im much comfier in cropped jeans and flipflops, and do wear just that when its cooler, like today.

    1. You sound much more adventurous than I was – all those wonderfully different style tribes! It must have been exhilarating going on the scooter rallies!

  12. That certainly took me on a journey and made me think about my own style and conformity……and whether it’s time to break free!

    I liked the links ( also reminded me that I was a member of Le Kilt and Le Beet Route in Soho in the summer of ’79…. but unfortunately not there the night Boy George apparently met Bowie)

    1. How exciting to have been involved in the Soho scene then! I was in Cornwall so I had to live it all second-hand 🙂

  13. I love the positive message behind this, it really resonates with me! I very much harbour a ‘wear what makes you happy’ mindset. I wear a lot of print and colour so anything vibrant is what I want to see more of. I don’t think fashion should be serious so, no matter what the occasion, I’ll wear a frilly leopard print blouse, bright pink trousers, multi-coloured skirts and a tonne of accessories – whatever appeals to me on that particular day. The brighter and bolder, the more myself I feel.

    1. It’s wonderful that you’re able to enjoy your clothes so much. I do love seeing people being bold in their choice of clothes. I love the sound of your colour palette 🙂

  14. This is so good, and original, a true ‘first!

    Dressing up means that for a short time you can pretend to be someone else. Or, just as you say, you can actually dare to show who YOU are. When I was a teenager I spray painted my hair, used false eyelashes and wore paper dresses – yes really! My mother was happy that I was exploring who I could be without getting into drugs or alcohol.

    Paper dress

    It was fun! My ‘make believe’ world became more than a model in a shop window, and I haven’t changed!

    Painting yourself is cheaper than buying a canvas! So long as we don’t really believe we can improve on the original design it’s surely okay.

    Have you considered paper dresses that tell a story? I haven’t seen anyone else doing this! Just think, one could have a whole book with illustrations ‘published’ on a dress and people would say ‘I can read you like a book’.

    All the very best in your venture.

    1. I have seen paper dresses but none that are illustrated. It’s a brilliant idea, even if I only do one for marketing. How strong were they? Could you wear it more than once or was it just for that day you made it?
      I love the expression about ourselves being a canvas to paint on. That’s exactly how it feels.

      1. My pleasure, Tracey.
        My dress came from C&A which was the cheapest store around when I was a student in London in the 60’s!!! It was quite strong, like a paper carrier bag, and you could iron it! I wore it quite a lot since I was a party lover but in the end it tore and went to the dress heaven!
        Have you noticed how things are never ‘made to last’? It’s a bit like there being no profit in finding a cure! What would all our pharmaceutical companies do? Everything needs to be replaced, so paper dresses might just become the vogue – good luck!

  15. I love your stories!! Reminded me of when I was young and would sit in the car before school, drawing pages and pages of tops, skirts dresses (what we now know as Flats), haha! If only I still had those drawings!! It was only today that I was google searching images of the Polly pockets I used to have as a child, and remembering the rediculous outfits I used to dress them in, and i suppose the small dolls became a short term alter ego – who I wanted to be!

    I suppose now, my wardrobe is dictated by the friends I’m with, where I’m going, and what I’m doing; like most people. However, I think for me it’s less about the clothes a wear, but more the length of my fringe! When it’s at it’s shortest I’m feeling my bravest and most creative, and I find myself impulse buying velvet blue pin stripe culottes and oversized red check swing dresses- and when it’s grown past my eyebrows, is when I’m maybe feeling a bit quieter and I find myself shying away from anything but jeans and a tee shirt, usually a stripe!

    1. I love the association with your fringe! I think I’m the same but I’d never noticed it before! And the more fantastic designs in the 80s always had fantastic hair to go with them.

      Your hair always looks amazing. But I remember you did always smile more and look a bit mischievous when your fringe was shorter!

  16. Firstly! How can you claim to have been brought up with Mr Benn! They must have been reruns!!! Lol.

    You know I liked Mr Benn for different reasons.

    I have never been interested in fashion! Until now that is. When I read what you wrote “Who do you want to be?” It sparked an interest in what I wear. While we was out today Sarah (my wife) wanted to get me a fleece, normally I would just say ok to anything; but today I chose nothing because I didn’t like them. (How deep do you want me to go?) well I can tell you I only have two suits in my wardrobe, my clothing past has been mostly what was cheep and wether my wife liked it. The suits I have I bought one for my sisters funeral, (I know it’s not a good reason for a fashion statement) the other one was for a works night out. I hate suits! Perhaps hate is to strong a word, but I feel stuffy and fake in them. I preferred before now plane clothes something to hide behind. I prefer casual wear, because of that view but recently with what has been going on within regarding my self esteem, I suppose I want my own look, something that says something about who I am. Until now that, I feel has been one of neglect for fear of being noticed! But that is past now.

    How strange you would ask me such a question at this moment in time. I, having been set free I am finding out by discovery! Exactly who I am, and never thought about this outward appearance called fashion.

    1. Thank you for your lovely reply.

      I’m not sure when the Mr Benn series began! But thank you for the compliment anyway!

      I think a lot of guys wear what their wives buy. Often because their wives have good taste and know what they love seeing you in so its interesting to chat about what they like and what you like and why. (I don’t want to be the cause of a domestic!!)

      But it’s healthy to explore what you like and what best expresses who you are, the Paul God created you to be. It’s also fun to look at what others wear to see who you identify with and get ideas.

      It does take time and some experimentation, so charity shops are brilliant for exploring new ideas without it getting too expensive.

      Thank you for being so open. I find how people view clothes really interesting and would love to hear about your future adventures

  17. Loved this Tracey! So inspiring!

    I have had a weird relationship to my clothes for all my life. Only now am I starting to truly buy things that I like and that show who I am instead of wearing something just because it looked good on a hanger or what is acceptable to wear in my workplace. So I’m still in the process of that. I’m also trying to get more minimalistic with my wardrobe because I’m always wearing the same sets anyway.

    Keep up the awesome work!

    1. Thank you for your lovely reply.

      I was the same. I think its a trial and error process when we’re younger until we learn what suits us best and what we feel most comfortable in. Like you I tend to wear the same things most of the time now, though I’m getting to the point where I’m starting to get a bit bored and wanting to explore more interesting clothes again! ?

      I’m planning to do an email at some point with styling tips for keeping a minimal but much loved wardrobe of clothes interesting and why it’s such a good idea to have fewer clothes. But before then I’ll be focusing on the Timeline 67 story and creating a video on how I created it in Illustrator – just for you!

      Loving your story by the way. Can’t wait for the next instalment ?

  18. I’m not sure I have ever shared about the clothes that I truly like! I feel most comfortable in clothes that look kind of old fashioned, of days gone by, long and flowing. I could live in practical versions of the Downton Abbey clothing with scooped necklines but always short or 3/4 sleeves – I have to have sleeves. Long dresses and long skirts are my preferred clothing with long beaded necklaces.

    1. Thank you for your lovely reply.

      I love the Downton era too and have pretty much the same criteria for my clothes!

      My first line will be t-shirts that tell a story but after that I plan on creating clothes that hint at previous eras and some of those will have an Edwardian flavour to them ? I’m also planning a line of jersey dresses that would fit our criteria and be comfy but sophisticated.

  19. This is great! Love all the pictures and the background that you give, and especially the Mr Benn reference (hubby has a DVD of all the episodes which my kids recently discovered and are loving!)

  20. just been online to look at Gudrun Sjoden and they are beautiful. Lovely colours too!

  21. Lovely post! Set me thinking of what I would really like to be wearing this Winter without thinking about my age how short I am and how people would view this weird woman!
    Therefore sketched a picture and it made me feel much better.

    skirt design rosybro

    1. You’ve missed your calling! It’s kind of a blend between 50s circle skirts and designs by Gudrun Sjoden

  22. Let’s see pictures of you in your anti armor first!
    (Here’s a visual for you. Short shorts, doc Martin’s and a Thriller type powder blue leather jacket in NYC. (And I’m straight.) Lol

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