ready to wear
Heirlooms are often thought of in terms of jewellery, but clothing can be much more interesting, if not as valuable. One of my most treasured possessions is a hand-woven waistcoat that belonged to my grandfather. It's especially precious to me because it also has something of my grandmother in it - her darning is clearly visible inside. Whenever I wear it, a thousand childhood memories come to mind. The other piece of heirloom clothing I own has a grander history. It is a military cloak, given to me by a family friend, dating from the 19th century - her grandfather rode into battle wearing it. While I wear it to keep out the cold (something it is very good for) the thoughts it evokes are awesome; was he afraid, was he ever injured, why did he keep it and who has worn it in between? You begin to see how clothes can have compelling histories - you can ponder on where they've been and what they've witnessed. Therefore, we asked various people to look through their wardrobes to see if they had anything that had been handed down the generations and what the garments meant to them. Curiously, we found no men with heirloom clothes. But you must be out there, somewhere.



"My grandmother made this dress from a Vogue pattern in the Sixties. When I finished my degree, she gave it to me as a present. I will be wearing it to my graduation ball in October. I know she will be really excited when she sees me in it, as she also wore it to a London ball. It's odd that we are exactly the same size, it fits me perfectly. I'm never going to part with it because it's so precious."



"I was given this black silk chiffon flapper dress by my grandma. The dress originally belonged to my great-grandmother. She wore it to her husband's funeral in 1927. My grandma knew I was interested in beautiful clothes, so when she sorted through my great-grandmother's possessions she thought the dress would be perfect to pass on to me. Unfortunately, I rarely get the opportunity to wear it. If I did, I'd really worry that something might happen to it because it's so delicate."



"I was given this sequin shell top by my mother when I was 18. It originally belonged to her mother in the late Thirties. I have fond memories of my mother going to UN cocktail parties, when we lived in Gaza, looking incredibly glamorous wearing this sequin top with a bottle-green taffeta skirt and very coiffured hair and dangly gold earrings. The first time I wore it was to the Pony Club ball in Edinburgh in the late Seventies and I have worn it on numerous occasions since then."



"My grandfather's dressing gown was originally passed down to my father. I never knew my grandfather as he died when I was only two, but I wanted to own something that belonged to him. My father never wore the dressing gown, so it still had my grandfather's smell. I didn't wash it for quite some time, even though I have worn it to shreds. I'd never part with it."



"When I had my first baby, my mother arrived at the hospital with what I initially thought to be a bed jacket. She explained that it was a lace evening jacket which had belonged to my great-grandmother. It's in very good condition because she was widowed at a very young age and it is not the kind of thing a widow would have worn then. It doesn't have a label, but I believe it was made for her in Paris in about 1870. I have worn it twice, to the opera about 25 years ago and to a fancy-dress party."