Something that is all wool and a yard wide is said to be genuine, trustworthy.
This phrase is often used to describe the qualities of a person and less so an inanimate object. Yet, there is a garment, a two-piece suit, a jacket and pants that embodies these qualities. A garment that provides more sentiment than an embrace; and is created from a fabric of perpetual value with enduring innovation.
Simply feeling the texture allows one to reach into the fibre’s core; and begin to understand the phenomenon of wool.
A two-piece suit, long since worn, was left to me by a relative. With the fashion world’s renewed appreciation for vintage attire, and its expensive price tag, this garment was a welcome addition to my closet.
The piece had potential. An immediate beauty I recognised, but could not dwell in, as the stench of mothballs flooding from the fabric made my eyes water and my throat tighten. With no inclination to wash it myself – and reasoning that a suit created with ‘older technologies’ would disintegrate if I attempted to anyway – I sent it to the dry cleaners. At that moment, I thought of the garment as both boon and burden.
I collected the suit a week later with the enthusiasm of a new purchase. The Woolmark I had glimpsed on the label made me realise the fortune of my inheritance. There is no shame in a woollen hand-me-down. Expensive or not, it has an artful and refined authenticity; and with due care can be as pristine as the day it was bought.
This suit was made of a gabardine that even Thomas Burberry would envy. The tight twill weave and worsted wool content entwined a durable-delicacy unique unto itself. The carded and combed yarns created an illuminative lustre and provided a new dimension of comfort. With a smooth surface on one face and diagonal ribbing on the other, the fabric possessed a striking yet simple beauty – characteristics that are together classic and in vogue.
It was evident the cleaners had worked with caution and intent. Wool, even with all its strength properties and exceptional stretch recovery, is a delicate fibre that needs nurturing to ensure lifelong use. I imagined the suit looked as crisp as it had in that Parisian store from once it came; beautifully pressed and architectural – A power piece I could not wait to wear.
Alas, as the weather was too warm for such clothing, the suit had to be stored precisely; preserved until our next encounter.
I selected the location with care; a bone-dry cupboard, a cool place void of direct sunlight. A place where the memories of the suit’s previous owner would rearrange themselves into the newly cleaned threads and a dialogue between the past and the woollen fibres would continue. A place where old recollections would acknowledge each other and make space for the new thoughts.
This approach is indicative of wool as a renewable resource, of the life cycle, of older generations preparing for the younger ones, of vintage clothes bequeathed to Generation Y to enjoy. Yes, the wearer may change but this woollen suit is constant, never tattered and always cared for.
As I caressed the seams, I noticed that no damage caused by hungry moths defaces the fabric. No catastrophic holes have breached the contract of care between garment and owner. If pilling ever did infect the surface, as it is a complex disease and there is no guarantee of it never transpiring; a careful, routine removal of these fluffy balls has prevented an aged appearance. If any snags had once appeared on this beloved piece, they were immediately drawn from the outside to the inside and sewn down expertly. Thus the garment remains true to its form. Dormant in its solid structure that maintenance and proper storage have managed to preserve, for the next use; for the next user.
This garment is from an age when clothes were not easy pickings of a mass market. Clothes were an investment that took certainty to purchase and wool was always the solution to this conundrum. Renowned for its longevity, there was no substitute for wool; and indeed there still is none.
This precious suit, my gift, is an heirloom that will someday be treasured by another in my lineage. Its woollen content will enable this.
Wool is to immortality as family is to ancestry – perpetual.
This text on Wool was written and submitted by Stavroula Kolatsis for Round 2 of Modeconnect’s International Fashion Writing Competition. Check Stavroula’s entry for Round 1: Merino wool made in South Africa