An international fashion research project exploring the 'craft of use'

Alternative Dress Codes

The choices we make about what we wear are influenced by life present, lives past and our ideas about our future selves. Expressions of values, aspirations, heritage, understanding and the physical shape of our bodies build a rationale for dress that transcend narrow commercial views about fashion. Instead they give us broader perspectives that honour our reality as well as our aspirations; and connect our psyche with our fibre and fashion choices.

Style evolved together

"Everything I’m wearing is a gift from somebody else and that’s increasingly the way my wardrobe is coming together.

I live in New Zealand but I’m from Ireland and my mother sends me a lot of clothes. The ladies in the administration office will attest to that..! It’s become this dialogue between us. It gives her a lot of joy and it also gives me a lot of joy to have this garment that makes me think of her, that is, I’m wearing and I’m connected to and I don’t know maybe replaces that physical touch that I can’t hug her, I can’t –a s much as technology allows me to connect with her, I can’t be beside her... She loves shopping for me and thinking about what will bring me joy.

Sometimes she buys duplicates of the garments so she has one and I have one as well. I know it sounds really cheesy. When she came over to visit we ended up in the same garment a lot of the time. So we’d have the same coat on at the same time. We went whale watching in Kaikoura and we both had the same coat and I think there was a time when, gosh, any kind of similar appearance to my mum – like as a teenager you know you want to slightly distance yourself and create your own identity. But it’s this weird maturing place I’m in where I actually quite enjoy it.

My dad was teasing us that we’re like sisters now. It’s kind of a nice place to be, simultaneously daughter, sister, friend. It looks different [on each of us]. We’ve got quite different physiques. She’s about my height. I’m an inch taller - she doesn’t like that. But she wouldn’t be as busty as I am and I’ve got curly hair, she’s got straight blond hair. And she’s quite slim. I’m a little bit more curvy. So it does take on different characteristics.

And it’s kind of funny because I think it’s like our tastes have merged and it’s like her style and my style have kind of evolved and come together. And sometimes she sees things in a different way. Like I may not have bought this dress for myself. But it’s quite interesting, I like aspects of it… it mightn’t be the version of myself that I recognize but I appreciate that she sees me in another way. I do feel [a sense of relief from not having to make a decision of what to wear] to a certain extent. I do feel a sense of guilt that I have more stuff and I probably have enough. I definitely have enough. It’s a mixed feeling.

They kind of take me to somewhere I wouldn’t have necessarily thought of. So like for me, I’m curious about everything and want to know as much as I can about different things so it shows me a different perspective and takes me on a different path or a different journey and I think people’s appearance or their attitude to life is an evolving state so it’s a reminder that I can’t dictate everything, I can’t plan everything and sometimes being open to different perspectives is good and can take you somewhere else."

Wellington, New Zealand - March 2013
Photograph by Aliscia Young