In this series, I ask the contributor to share an image of their favourite outfit – maybe a pair of pants they wore every day, maybe a special party dress – and write about where they were in their life and why this outfit has such significance. Today we welcome Hayley Gibson. If you’ve been around this blog awhile, you’ve seen Hayley’s clothing line Birds of North America (like when I made a lookbook for her FW15 collection). It sometimes feels like a real struggle to not turn this into a BNA fan site. This is her favourite outfit.
My favourite outfit of all time is a dress from my line of clothing, Birds of North America. The style name of this dress is Chachalaca (a bird name, obviously!) and it is from our Spring/Summer 2013 collection. The fabric is printed with a vibrant scene of horses running wild in the countryside.
At the time that I designed and made this dress, I wasn’t wearing much of the clothing from the line. It sounds absurd, but I only started wearing Birds of North America in early 2014. Since starting the line in 2007, my wardrobe had comprised a very basic uniform of jeans and t-shirts. It’s hard to explain, but the level of anxiety I had about the collection and the clothing itself got too much in the way of my being able to wear it in every-day life as it was intended to be worn and enjoyed. Though I have always been obsessive about keeping an impeccable level of quality and fit in the line, I constantly worried about whether the clothing was meeting people’s expectations in the real world. Despite not wearing the clothing at the time, I had the foresight to put a Chachalaca aside in my size.
Around this time, I was doing a lot of self-examination in terms of my design process. When I started Birds of North America in 2007, I didn’t have any direct experience in creating or producing a line of clothing, so I spent a lot of time looking at what other people were doing in order to figure out how the process worked. As with any green designer, I took criticism and suggestions about the collection very much to heart. I found myself designing from a place of trying not to do the wrong thing, rather than from a place of inspiration.
Before the Spring/Summer 2013 collection, I had never used any bold prints in the line. I remember finding the horse print fabric at a wholesaler in Montreal and thinking that if I was just sewing for pure pleasure, as I used to do when I taught myself to sew when I was young, that I would absolutely love a dress in that fabric. I went with my heart and created Chachalaca, a fit and flare dress with a sweetheart neckline, and it was a success! The dress sold out, which was wonderful, but it was seeing other people delight in the outrageous horse print that was the most exciting. It made me realize that I should put more faith in my design instincts, and that I should simply make more of what I would personally like to wear.
When I finally got over my neuroses and started wearing Birds of North America myself in early 2014, this was the first dress that I gravitated towards. I still love wearing it. If I could keep only one item out of my closet right now, it would be my Chachalaca. I feel confident in it – strong, attractive and capable. Like any good clothing item, this dress has something transcendent about it. It is ultimately greater than the sum of its parts, and it reveals something about the wearer’s inside on the outside.