Since her charming 2016 bestseller, A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald, Western Australian author Natasha Lester has garnered legions of loyal fans including prominent fellow Australian author, Rachael Johns: ‘I loved this book.’
Devotees of her special brand of glamorous and romantic historical fiction will definitely not be disappointed by her latest entrancing novel, The Paris Seamstress.
Words || Natasha Lester
While I was researching The Paris Seamstress, I became aware of what a huge issue clothing waste is, and how catastrophic it is for the environment. With clothes becoming ever cheaper, the temptation is to buy something, wear it a few times and then throw it away. Clothing takes decades to break down, thus causing major problems for our already overloaded landfill systems.
Plus, there’s the ethics. I was recently in a discount department store where I saw a rack of T-shirts for $3.00 each. They were made in Bangladesh. When you can buy a shirt for less than it costs to buy a cup of coffee, and when you think about how little the Bangladeshi worker at the other end of the shirt is paid, it makes it very difficult to justify indulging in such “bargain” shopping.
And, I was astonished to discover that Australians are the second highest consumers of fabric in the world, which means we are major contributors to the landfill issue. My research made me realise I had to do something, no matter how small.
Thus My Year of Vintage was born. I’ve made a vow not to buy any new clothing (besides underwear for obvious reasons!) for an entire year. It’s obviously a drop in the ocean compared to what needs to be done, but my goal is that, if other people see how amazing second-hand clothes can be, more people might recycle rather than buy and throw.
If you’ve read The Paris Seamstress, a book set around the fashion industry in the 1940s, you’ll know just how passionate I am about fashion history. So my vintage clothing project actually allows me to explore my passion on a more personal scale as well. Because I know so much about styles and designers in each era, I can make informed decisions about what I buy.
But anyone can do it. I don’t necessarily buy well-known labels; in fact a gorgeous black halter-neck 1950s sundress that I bought and wore for my book launch has no label at all. It has the classic New Look line and styling which doesn’t date and which can be worn in any era.
It’s all about forgoing trend and fad – why should we all wear cutout shoulders for three months just because somebody decides it’s “fashionable”? Why shouldn’t we wear clothes that endure instead? Every time I tell people that the 1950s sundress is nearly seventy years old, nobody can believe it. Decades ago, things were made to last, and the quality is exceptional.
My most favourite purchase is a navy blue Claire McCardell dress from the late 1940s. Claire McCardell was one of the pioneers of American ready-to-wear fashion and she appears in The Paris Seamstress, so to own one of her original dresses is just wonderful. Once again, even though it’s so old, it’s very wearable and not a bit dated.
If you’d like to join me in buying second-hand clothing and helping the environment, or if you’d like to just follow my vintage journey, you can find me on Instagram @myyearofvintage
Natasha Lester is an Australian-based writer, public speaker and teacher. Her latest novel is The Paris Seamstress.