paisley dress, Urban Renewal X Urban Outfitters. black knee highs, Express. moto boots, Harley Davidson. belt, Express. turquoise pendant necklace, W'Erin Art X Erin Magoc.
Photography by Dave Mckelvey
Every piece of clothing has a story, a philosophy that actually deters me from shopping too often. I deliberate between this oversized, open-knit Wang-like sweater and that shape-defining Hervé Léger-like dress; this pair of vintage boots versus that pair of Jeffrey Campbells. I go back and forth between items making pro/con lists in my head, one for functionality and another for design. I think about situations in which I would be wearing the pieces, what would I be doing, where would I be; the weather, my form of transportation. My obsession is a little intense.
This particular dress was a special occasion dress but it was bought at an age sometime before responsible adulthood. A time when shopping was something I did more on a whim than as a very calculated investment. Needless to say, this dress doesn’t have as much of a story as it should, at least by my incrementally aging standards, the standards of a responsible bill payer. I’d rather reversion this dress’s story of being bought with capriciousness from an Urban Outfitters for a price that was out of my college-student-income's reach. I’d like to make it mean something new, much like the way I used to play Broken Social Scene’s Anthem for a 17 Year Old Girl in different situations with different moods so as to force its shedding of a meaning ripe with lovey dovey high school romance. Forget the old, and keep it currently me.
This dress is not vintage; for some reason, my vintage prone self has a hard time putting meaning on a dress bought at a chain store. It’s much harder to connect it either to its creator, the designer, or some hole in the wall consignment store that smelled like dust and antiques, and was run by an older woman, but not so old that she didn’t get to thoroughly enjoy the later half of the 70’s.
The dress’s very quotidian origins led me to begin with a word as opposed to a given complexity - - a place, or a person. Paisley is the most intriguing thing about the otherwise simple dress. I rooted myself in that word and what I found was a saga that stretched all the way back to the 6th century B.C. The people of the Zoroastrian empire called the teardrop design boteh, considered it to be a stylized floral spray blended with a cypress tree: a Zoroastrian symbol of life and eternity.
Flash forward to the 20th century, 1960’s summer of love, and contextualize the ancient Azerbaijani meaning with the now, obviously psychedelic pattern as demonstrated by the Beatles with their paisley wielding pilgrimage to India, Fender guitars with their pink paisley Telecaster, and Prince with Paisley Park Records. John Lennon actually went as far as getting a custom paisley paint job on his Rolls Royce. From ancient to contemporary popular culture, paisley holds meaning.
So from “life and eternity,” to “Do your own thing, wherever you have to do it and whenever you want. Drop out. Leave society as you have known it. Leave it utterly. Blow the mind of every straight person you can reach. Turn them on, if not to drugs, then to beauty, love, honesty, fun” (Marty, Myron). The dress has some sense of a new meaning, one simply sewn from old threads.