I do like fashion very much. To the degree that I prepare my clothes the night before so that I know exactly what I’ll wear. Over the years I’ve become more relaxed with this. When I’m at home I surprise myself sometimes by having a second option which I can decide on, dependent on the day and weather.
My fashion necessity became a bit tainted when I got MS. Something that comes with MS is incontinence when means I have to always have a spare pair of trousers, pants and socks in my backpack in case of accidents. In the past I didn’t want to lose my dignity so I made sure that the clothes I wore and my spares were the same kind of colour and style so that no one would notice that I had changed my trousers. But now, after many years, I’ve accepted the fact that it’s too complicated to have ten pairs of the same kind of trousers or to speak with the voice of my uncle, ‘just wear jeans that you can wash!’.
Also, since moving to Wales, my style has become on one hand relaxed, on the other bang on trend! I no longer wear suits as an every day occurrence, for example. My wife agreed with my uncle to dress down a bit, especially as we weren’t going to weddings every day! So I followed suit, buddum pishhhhhhh! So I now undergo more ‘smart-casual’ trend. I’m currently wearing mustard colour jeans-cut five pocket trousers, my brother-in-law’s black skater T-shirt and a Gap light grey jumper.
My love of clothes began when my Dad showed me how to knot a tie when I was 6 years old. My Dad was a textile engineer who has always loved the texture of materials, colours, different makes and styles. I remember him going shopping with me in HnM and he could tell the quality of the clothes by feeling the material and determining the weight with one hand, the procedures the clothes went through and the amount of dye. I felt I had a cool Dad. My Dad taught me a single Windsor knot. Later when I was 14 I got a book which had all sorts of tie knots in it, which I studied avidly with my friend Adrian.
These days I volunteer in an Oxfam Boutique in Cardiff. I’ve volunteered in many charity shops over the years as my energies have been limited because of the fatigue I feel from having MS. I’d love to earn work and earn money, but I feel good knowing I’m contributing to society right now. I love volunteering in the Boutique because the clothes in the shop are of excellent quality and are of high-end fashion origin. They sell quite quickly and are an interesting mix, as are the people who work there! Here are some photos of our Christmas party last year:
One time a person donated 30 Georgio Armarni suits for men and women because an old couple had died and their family donated their clothes to us. We often have wedding dresses, fur coats, shirts, baby’s clothes, ball dresses, prom dresses that have only been worn once and lots of accessories. When people donate clothing they can claim tax back as well as helping Oxfam through Gift Aid. There is also a scheme where people who donate clothing bought from Marks and Spencers are given a £5 voucher which can be used to buy anything in M & S. This encourages people to donate to us an buy clothes from us.
As volunteers we have a mixture of old British grandmothers, refugees from all over the world, university students and language students. I get on particularly well with a Cardiff lady called Beryl who is in her mid-sixties and has a tongue-in-cheek sense of humour. There is a lady called Roma, from Hong-Kong who is warm hearted, hard working and up for a giggle. Zan, a lady who walks on two crutches and a pair of sunglasses and a fake-fur lines duffle coat is a good friend. My first words to her were, ‘Just popping in after clubbing?’ which made her smile. She is part of the ‘Alteration’ section and is really good at her job. I enjoy chatting with customers, advising them on what clothing suits them or what they could try on instead and steaming clothes when there’s not much to do on the shop floor.
Why not pop in sometime, have a browse and say hello?