The Dress Project: Designs for life

Clothing can be both camouflage and beacon for our thoughts and feelings. The sensuous fabric, the stretch and change, make it a part of you. Three customers tell us about the dresses they’ll always remember

22nd August 2017

Kim Leggatt, film producer. Horsham store regular

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“I remember the first dress that ever made me feel like a grown-up woman. It was very thin, draping and black, almost see-through. I was going on a date with a boyfriend and it was his birthday so we decided to really dress up. My hair was dark then.  I’d straightened it, so I pulled it back and did classic black eyeliner with red lips.  It was raining, so I threw a battered leather jacket over my shoulders, but I was wearing open-toed sandals so I remember my feet getting wet and the dress was clinging to my legs. I felt like I was in a film noir; walking through Soho in London, huddled under an umbrella with all the neon lights and bustling people around. We went to the Curzon then to a Thai restaurant where everything was beautifully decorated and delicate.  I just felt so cool. So womanly. I’ve worn it a few times since but it was never the same. It transported me to a fantasy world that night.”

How did that relationship unfold?
Oh, it did unfold! It was one of those relationships where you fall so in love but it burns itself out because it’s so strong.

And what love came next?
My love of film production really took hold, but I did marry when I was 30. We were on holiday in Arizona and we stopped off at this UFO diner in Sedona. We got really drunk and bought T-shirts and the next morning, hungover, we got on the phone to county hall and booked in to get married. We wore our UFO T-shirts, jeans and hiking boots and topped it all off with an Apache blessing.

How would you describe your style?
I’m a bit of a hippie. I’ve never been very feminine but I love those bohemian looks.

Where are you happiest?
In my allotment getting my hands dirty.

What inspires you?
Curiosity and passion.

Is there a lost item you wish you could find?
I’m far too obsessively organised for that!

My Scheutz-Spence, police custody visitor. Farnham store regular

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“It was the perfect little black dress. Charcoal really, but A-line and very elegant with a cascading waterfall of silk coming out of the bottom. I remember wearing  it on several occasions but the one that first comes to mind is my son’s chemistry award. There was this reception at Burlington House in London and he was going to Washington straight after. It’s one of those where you’re invited to something and you think ‘I have no idea what I’m going to face here,  I’m not sure who is going to be there, I just want to feel confident and I want to feel like  I fit.’ It made me feel like I could do anything. A real hero dress.”

Do you have any style icons?
I found that dress in a vintage shop and loved that it looked so classic, so I suppose my style icons are the two Hepburns, Audrey and Katharine. We all wish we looked like them of course, but they made even the simplest thing look good and wore everything with confidence.

Which is your favourite city for shopping?
I think it’s a mixture. The UK is very good at vintage and second-hand and if you find the right shop you can get really good quality. I’d say for crazy odd finds though, Manhattan is hard to beat. I’m Swedish but I live between New York and England because my children are in the UK and my husband works in the US, so I get the best of both!

What do you find beautiful?
Individuality and freedom. I’d completely disappear if I were kept in a cage. I think of cities like Johannesburg where you can’t use public transport or places where women can’t drive or wear what they want and it drives me crazy. Freedom is beautiful.

Where are you happiest?
In our home in the country with the whole family around Christmas. Swedish Christmas is Christmas Eve and we bake and have everyone around.

Is there a lost item you wish you could find?
My christening bracelet. It was soft 22k gold with teeth marks from where I chewed it. It had so much sentimental value attached.

Nazli Imtiaz, dentist. Duke Street Emporium regular

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“We had loads of Asian weddings growing up, and the clothes were all bespoke and unique for each occasion. There was beautiful colour and gorgeous beading all the time, but the dress I really remember was one my sister had made for her first university ball. It was this gorgeous vintage satin and velvet dress, very dated now,  but I remember seeing pictures of her in it and I just couldn’t wait for my turn. There’s  a decent age gap between me and my sisters so I actually didn’t get the hand-me-downs that often. I wore it to my first dental student ball and I felt so grown-up, so sophisticated. I was thrilled that I finally got to wear it.”

Was your Pakistani heritage always a big part of your life?
More so when we were children. I actually grew up in Northern Ireland. My dad had a practice in Belfast and my mum worked in hospitals. It’s funny, both my parents are doctors and I have a sister who’s a doctor and another who’s a lawyer. As a dentist, I’m like the family failure!

What was moving to London like?
People were so much friendlier in Northern Ireland. In London, you’d walk down the road and say hello and people would just frown at you. I felt like such a country bumpkin in the beginning.

You’re so glamorous and elegant. Do you get to express that style at work?
I’ve been elected to some national and local committees for the British Dental Association and I run study evenings and networking events, so I do get to dress up then. The nice thing about Jigsaw clothing is that you can wear it to work and then just jazz it up with some heels.

Where are you happiest?
It sounds nuts but I really am happiest when I’m at work. It’s amazing when people come to you in pain or with a problem and you get to fix that for them. I have a master’s in paediatric dentistry so I work with special needs adults and children. It’s all about adapting your approach to each person depending on their special needs — making it fun, playing and allowing people to freely get used to you. It’s really rewarding.

What do you find beautiful?
I think London is beautiful. If you live and work here, you definitely take it for granted.

Photography by Anko
Interviews by Josie Johnson

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