The unexpected joys of clothing

Rebecca Wadey thinks it's not about the clothes themselves.  It's about the memories we make with him, the stories we choose to tell through him.

Guy Combes

Rebecca Wadey thinks it’s not about the clothes themselves. It’s about the memories we make with him, the stories we choose to tell through him.

Ensemble’s Director of Partnerships, Rebecca Wadey, has over 20 years of fashion and beauty experience, having worked with companies such as Kate Sylvester, Metro magazine, Esteé Lauder and Bobbi Brown.

OPINION: When Tāmaki Makaurau was confined for 140 days in August last year, my favorite clothes were 219 km away in a Coromandel beach house that we had borrowed for the year. It was a fate worse than lockdown 1.0 when I had no flour, yeast or gin.

Without the fluffy powder blue and polka dot chenille robe my godmother bought me after the birth of my first son, 14 years earlier. Without the knee-high Uggs that photographer Karen Inderbitzen-Waller bought me when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003 (yes, I was a kid. Check your boobs). And without the cotton trapeze dress I bought from Kowtow in 2014 and wear as a much-loved housecoat, a symbol that signifies my literal loss of a day’s work.

I was deprived and removed from the comforts I needed to keep my feet on the ground. These are some of my most treasured fashion pieces and I never want to be away from them again.

As someone who has worked “in” fashion for most of my adult life, I never considered myself “in fashion” (probably many would agree. Especially my tweens especially caustics).

And as I’ve pondered the meaning of the word over the past few years – partly related to the pandemic but also due to aging, shifting priorities, sustainability issues, gaining a more nuanced understanding of the issues racial and cultural, etc. – I unconsciously peeled back the layers of what fashion means to me to look deep into its very core. It’s what I draw on for comfort and joy instead of basic looks. I like to think that this spirit of curiosity around fashion informs a lot of what we do at Together.

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It’s not about clothes. It’s about the memories we create with it, the stories we choose to tell through it, and capturing the time and place that make it so special and universal. People may think they don’t care about fashion, but that in itself is a fashion statement.

Buying things for a special occasion never instills such wonderful associations in me as when I accidentally create memories through what I wear. Of course, some objects and memories are very special.

A treasured piece that will forever be in my wardrobe is a Kate Sylvester faux fur coat, bought on the way home from a very stressful mammogram, as a reward for 15 years without cancer. The only problem was that I was so high on valium and elated by the ordeal that I quickly forgot about my purchase, only to find it in the trunk of my car a week later. Later I wore it to a party at the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles and Margot Robbie stroked it and told me how much she loved it (I realized after watching Me Tonya).

Under the coat, I wore a voluminous black strapless Georgia Alice silk dress with a drop waist that the year before I had worn to dinner at the pop-up restaurant Noma in Tulum, Mexico, and the year before I had worn to eat the best sticky pork ribs I’ve ever had at a roadside BBQ stand in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

But like with my UGG boots and my chenille bathrobe, it’s what the clothes say about me and the life I live that matters most. A current favorite is a bathing suit I wore when I finally jumped off a cliff near the Coromandel, which I had watched the precipice for many years.

The notion of fashion as an elitist yardstick by which to measure status and influence is as worn a trope as thinking that there are fashion rules that should and shouldn’t be followed, or things that different people should and shouldn’t wear (cultural appropriation notwithstanding).

My sons, who are now 14 and 12, like to think they don’t care about fashion. But I couldn’t pay them to wear something they didn’t want, so I joked with them. Fashion is a political statement, a vote for the world you want to live in, a mood changer, a cashmere (or chenille) hug and a conduit for confidence. It is anything but fickle.

About Oscar L. Smith

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