Interview an Old Person about an Old Textile

Assignment #1: Interview an Old Person about an Old Textile

Assignment Instructions:

To get you in the frame of mind, take a look at this Local Wisdom project lead by Kate Fletcher.   (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

See, especially, the GALLERY part of the website.

Kate is a researcher based in the UK, at London College of Fashion, and is known for a couple of books she has written or co-written about fashion and sustainability. She is one of the people who popularized the term “slow fashion”. One of the many things she has been advocating for is more emotional connection with our clothing. Her presumption being, that if we care more for our clothing, we’ll buy better and less, and that would be a significant shift in terms of environmental impact and maybe make us happier with our fashion choices.

Let me remind you, that when I say fashion, I mean simply what we wear. In this day and age when “everyone wears everything” (not quite true, I’m stretching the point), it is not necessary, in this course, to make a lot of distinctions between words like fashion, apparel, clothing, garments, dress.

  1. Interview the oldest person you can find. It better be someone at least 60!  It could be a relative, friend, or stranger about a fabric, garment, toy, tablecloth, curtains, whatever, as long as it is fabric.

Find out why the garment/object is/was emotionally important to the person and understand as much as you can about the physical and aesthetic aspects of the fabric and the thing as a whole.   

For the emotional dimensions, don’t take first responses to your questions as the end of the question. Probe with prompts like, “tell me more”, “Why do you say that?” “How to you come to think that?”, “Can you compare that to something else in your life?”, “Give me an example”, etc.

For the physical and aesthetic aspects, think about anything that can be experienced with our senses: for example, colors, pattern, textures, the feel on your fingertips, feel in your hand, luster, yarns, weight, drape, techniques. Don’t forget smell (think wet wool) sound (compare the sound of a nylon laundry bag to the quiet of heavy velvet. The tip of the tongue is a good instrument for measuring fine textures.

Physical and aesthetic aspects also includes things like durability, tension, stretch, absorbency, water or fire repellency, etc, what we might think of as performance factors, but are also unavoidable aesthetic: think about lululemon fashion.

Key Question Suggestions: Add your own.

What is it?

What do you know about its origins?

How and when and under what circumstances did it come to you?

Describe it in as much detail as you can. Do you know anything about:  the fiber?, the yarns? , the structure of it?, it’s reputation (for example, what people think it’s good for or not good for), or other characteristics?

Tell me about your relationship with it. How long has it being going on? How has it changed or not over the years? Where is it now?

What is the most important thing about for you?

  1. Write up the useful or interesting parts of the interview including our own ideas, or additional information. Include at least one picture.

Also say something about if you heard or didn’t here in the interview something that relates to Kate Fletcher’s Local Wisdom project.


*** Here is the interview questions and answers from my Interview with a Nordstrom store Manager:

Interviewee: Allison Panagakos

Q: What is it?

A: a vintage silk chiffon coat.


Q: Where did you buy the coat?

A: A vintage consignment store in Santa Ana, CA about 20 years ago.


Q: Why do you like the coat?


– I feel that I was born in the wrong decade and my fashion style is vintage and classic as opposed to trendy so it fits in with my wardrobe

– It is perfect match to the vintage dresses I wear to evening parties. Before I bought the coat, I would wear newer designed coats with these dresses and the outfit would never look as good as it does when I wear the vintage coat.


Q: How does the coat make you feel when you wear it?


– I feel girly and classy

– I feel like I am going to a party back in the 20s when people really dressed up for every occasion.

– I get many compliments on the coat which makes me feel good when I wear it.


Q: Why do you still own the coat?


– I still wear the coat often, for example every month my friends and I have a girl’s night out where we get all dressed up in our vintage wear and go out to a show and dinner.

– The coat has sentimental value. My mother had a coat that was very similar when I was young that was one of my favorites that she used to wear.


Q: Why do you buy classic fashion as opposed to trendy fashion?


– I prefer to invest in the long term. The fabrics of classic fashion is often higher in price and more durable. Although you are paying more for the item you will get wear out of it which will justify the price.

– I feel that most of today’s clothing is made from cheap fabric to which makes the cost of the garment cheaper because it is only supposed to last a short time since trends come and go quickly.

– My job in retail has caused me to buy more trendy fashion items than I would if I didn’t work in retail. I still prefer classic fashion over trendy fashion but I will mix them together for an outfit.


Q: How do you feel about the fashion industry working towards being more sustainable?

A: To be honest I don’t really even think about that. I know I should be it’s not high on my list.


Q: How do you fell about recycling clothing items?


– I shop a consignment shops often looking for vintage styles. So recycling clothing items is a great thing.

– I take very good care of my clothes so when I clean out my closet, I donate my items to many different donation centers. As for my designer items I take them to The RealReal consignment shop.

– I think that if you invest in durable clothing and take care of your clothing you should absolutely donate your items to those in need.