Why Every Girl Deserves a Secret Wardrobe by Ali Harris
2011/10/31  |  By:   |  Features  |  

In my debut novel Miracle on Regent Street, the main character, Evie Taylor, is a shy, unassuming stockroom girl. And just like Hardy’s, the faded, forgotten old department store in London that she works in, she feels utterly overlooked. But behind her plain clothes and duffel coat she hides a big secret: a passion for vintage fashion. At home she has an antique Armoire full of beautiful, individual pieces from every era, each garment has the potential to change the way people see her. But she has never worn any of the clothes in ‘The Wardrobe’ as she believes her life isn’t good enough for them. Instead she patiently hangs them up and closes her closet, dreaming of the day when she’ll have the opportunity to step into them – and out of the shadows.I believe that every woman has got a secret closet – even if you don’t own a beautiful Armoire, like Evie’s. Perhaps your unworn garments are hanging next to your every day work clothes, or maybe they’re still in their shopping bags with the labels still attached or packed away in the loft.

Just like the wardrobe that leads to Narnia, the clothes in our secret wardrobes hold the key to the lives that we want to live. Like the ‘thin’ clothes we buy that we can’t actually fit into, the special, can’t-breathe-it’s-so-beautiful evening dress we own ‘Just in case we get invited to the Oscars one day’ or the chic designer top we bought to wear to an important business meeting with the bank (if we ever get off our butts long enough to do something with that business idea we’ve had for years). There’s our wedding dresses, worn once but never forgotten. The beautiful shoes that are too high to walk in but we splurged on anyway because buying them made our day brighter somehow, the expensive handbag we’re too scared to use in case a pen leaks inside it…

You’d think these garments in ‘The Wardrobe’ would haunt us with their presence, reminding us of everything our life isn’t. But for me, they hold the key to possibility. They embody my hopes and dreams. There’s the beautiful 1950s style citrus bright Louis Feraud dress I spotted in the window of my favourite vintage shop and bought, even though I knew my social life, which consists of an occasional a dinner at a local pub, would never be good enough for it. And the skinny jeans I bought when I was pregnant became something to aim for once I cared enough about my body again after giving birth to try them on. My glorious Christian Louboutin wedding shoes have pride of place on my shoe shelves because they hold memories of that day that are better than any photograph could capture – and I get to look at them every single day. I’m keeping them for my daughter in case she wants to wear them on her wedding day. If not, I’ll give them to a vintage shop in 30 or so years time and maybe, just maybe, someone like Evie will have their life transformed by them.

So don’t ever feel bad for having a secret wardrobe. Like Evie, you may suddenly find the day finally comes when you need to open it. Remember that beautiful vintage Louis Feraud dress I bought thinking I’d never have anywhere to wear it? Reader, I wore it to my first ever book launch!