A salute to life

Mending something old feels different from mending something new. I unpicked stitches that were once sewn by my friend’s grandfather long before either of us were ever thought of. Now, this Christening gown is ready for the latest addition to their family: a baby boy and the third generation to be swept into its folds.

The gown has served its time. It is itself a token of time, stained with babies’ drool and wrinkled with wear. Babies who have now grown into adults, parents and grandparents. It has that faint smell of old, evoking memories of blurry black and white photographs, fur coats and wide-brimmed hats stored and forgotten under a film of dust in some dark attic.

It has the glamorous feel of a wedding dress, heavy with luxurious folds of fabric. My friend’s grandfather was a dressmaker. He worked for a time at the national theatre, I think. The imagery of elegant costumes and high drama seems fitting for a garment that has as its sole purpose to celebrate new life.

I unpicked the bodice, traced it to make a pattern and sewed on a new one.

It feels like I am continuing a line of history. History. I am putting my mark on its story. Mending it feels more special, somehow, than patching a pair of jeans. Why, though?

Because with this gown the table is turned. Unlike most of the clothes that pass through our lives, this gown may still be hanging in the deep depths of some wardrobe when we ourselves have grown wrinkly, old and worn. It is a reminder that we are temporary beings.

Will the stitches I sew survive me? They may do. This gown may well outlive me. It provides some perspective to the hectic rush of modern life. No, it says, you are not at the peak of history. Yes, it says, it will continue from here.

This gown lives a very slow life, briefly saluting the generations that pass through it. Slow, slow fashion. May it live on to celebrate many more!