Monday, March 11, 2013


This is a pilling acrylic-wool blend Italian sweater from the 1980s. It's one of my favourite articles of clothing, in addition to being one of my most worn. In high school, I took it from a dusty pile at the top of my dad's closet at the last minute before heading to the airport for my first trip to New York. The sweater was my travel companion for that chilly November week, and we've been inseparable in cold-weather months ever since then. While I have these more recent memories associated with the sweater, when my dad sees me wear it, he's always reminded of how my mom bought it for him when they were dating (back when he actually liked knitwear).

I think that it's fascinating how this dated, scruffy piece of clothing is able to hold and evoke these stories from its owners' personal histories. Apparel, as a design medium, seems inextricably linked to memory and identity through its intimate relationship with the wearer. Unlike forms of art which are installed in a specific spaces and contexts, clothing lives on the body and travels with it. Favourite pieces in a wardrobe indicate their owner's dressing style and personality, but also are imbued with experiences that took place while they were worn.

I'm compelled by the idea of nostalgia and how particularly prevalent it seems to be in today's culture. Growing up with the internet, kids of my generation have had easy access to vast archives of media–photos, movies, and music from decades past. Trends that faded out years ago are revived as people rediscover and appropriate them–from Audrey Hepburn's beehives and shift dresses to Kurt Cobain's grungy plaid flannel shirts (see everywhere from Urban Outfitters to Saint Laurent's divisive F13 collection). Waxed canvas backpacks, vinyl records and Lomo cameras, once relics of bygone eras, have become standard accoutrements of modern hipsters (however ironically they may be used). There's always been cycling in fashion–see the cropped haircuts and waist-skimming silhouettes of the '20s flappers pop up again in the '60s mod crowd–but there seems to be a particular celebration of nostalgia, either real or imagined, in our yet-to-be-aesthetically-defined 21st century. 

A word with Greek roots in 'homecoming' and 'pain', nostalgia is now most often associated with affection and sentimentality, but its roots are in homesickness and illness. These negative qualities have pretty much become obsolete in favour of golden-hued romanticization in the term's modern context. Hearing a song or seeing a photograph that triggers thoughts of a different time and place is more often a source of joy rather than agony, and that's not a bad thing at all.

I'm exploring the concept of nostalgia for my undergrad degree project, through the making of textiles/apparel, art history research, and writing. This blog will be a place of documentation and discussion as I play around with and unpack these ideas. 


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