In the latest of a series that sees Standard Issue writers celebrate the clothes that make them happy, Justine Brooks channels her gran in a bit of lamé schmutter.
Every girl loves a bit of shunkle, right?
I’ve always had a thing for it and one day, walking home, way back when I was a student and living in Camden, I came across a sale rail outside a vintage clothing shop. I am, and always have been, a big fan of the sale rail.
On this particular rail hung a fabulous gold lamé cardigan. Slim. Ribbed. No buttons. Rather damned elegant, and in the way that only a gold lamé cardigan can do, it spoke to me. It called out to me and said: “You need me in your life!”
And probably because she too had been a devoted fan of gold lamé, the cardigan made me think of my grandmother – my father’s mother, also known as Nanny Flo.
When I was 11 months old, my parents and I went to live in a central African country, far away from London, Nanny Flo and cardigans. I met her only twice again. On one of those occasions she came out to Africa to visit us. We all went on safari and as we drove through the bumpy bush, and giraffe and gazelle cavorted outside our ancient Land Rover, rather than looking at them, Nanny Flo crocheted. And smoked. Maybe the bush was a bit outside her comfort zone. When she left she presented me with a crocheted cardigan.
Nanny Flo, I mused as I took the Camden cardigan inside to the till, had lived and died in London and when she did pass, back in the 1970s, the family had sorted out her belongings, as families do. What had happened to her clothes, I wondered? Could they perhaps have found their way to a vintage shop in Camden? This vintage shop in Camden? By way of a happy coincidence, a trick of fate, could my grandmother actually be sending me some sort of message? Would I finally have a keepsake of her life?
“In the way that only a gold lamé cardigan can do, it spoke to me. It called out to me and said: ‘You need me in your life!’”
Some time later, wearing the cardigan coincided with a visit to my parents. My father’s first words to me were: “My mother used to have a cardigan just like that.”
I remember the day Dad received the telegram to say Nanny Flo had passed to the great crochet circle in the sky. As he stood on our veranda, fringed with blowsy canna lilies and fragrant gardenia, he did something I’d never seen him do before: he wept. We were too late to make it back for the funeral.
Over the years I’ve worn my gold lamé cardigan to bits. It’s threadbare and darned but I’ll never discard it. It seems unlikely in reality, but I still like to think that life with its tricksy ways really did bring me and my grandmother’s cardigan together, giving me one last glamorous memento.1930 Views
Justine lives in beautiful north Leeds with her 12-year-old daughter and a lurcher called Lionel. She runs a PR and marketing agency and is writing a novel.