Purple, Patchwork and The Religion of Dress

What the whole world needs now is a purple patch - a period when everything goes well. Rather than being overwhelmed by negative media stories and fake news, perhaps we should all send positive thoughts out into the ether and see what happens?

One of the first people to write about the power of positive thought was Prentice Mulford. In a series of essays entitled Your Forces and How to Use Them (1888), Mulford outlined the Law of Attraction, whereby positive or negative thoughts bring positive or negative experiences into a person’s life. A curious essay in this collection considers ‘The Religion of Dress.’

Everything we wear has a story of manufacture, provenance, or personal signification. It also conveys a message to others. But Mulford went so far as to attribute our very state of being to our clothes. His view was that thoughts are absorbed by clothing so, “if you wear old clothes, you re-absorb into your newest, latest self the old thought you have previously cast off, and with which they are saturated.” Items of clothing could somehow project any bad moods, irritations and anxieties suffered when previously wearing them. In the age of coal fires; before washing machines, dry cleaners and extractor fans, a way to help overcome the negativity brought on by stale clothing was either to leave your clothes out in the fresh air, or to have a constant supply of new garments (then inconceivable to most people due to the time taken to make these, and the enormous cost). Of course, this was also before any understanding of the ethical and environmental advantages of slow fashion, handcrafted, vintage and pre-loved clothes.

Mulford had a lot to say about what to wear when. Tidiness was next to godliness in his world, and dress codes doubly significant. Nowadays, dressing sloppily can still create a bad impression, but Mulford took this literally, so that clothes could impart skills and status by association with previous owners or intended use. And the occasion was also important - meaning something worn for business should definitely not be worn for an evening out. It’s a far cry from today, when many of us wear one outfit all day long, and are wondering how we can inventively get some use out of the evening dresses languishing in our lockdown wardrobes: now it is all about dressing down a dress

Mulford was also an inadvertent advocate of colour psychology, claiming that the increasingly diverse range of colour shades in interior décor and fashion equated to enhanced spirituality. By wearing garments belonging to a superior person, you could absorb some of their status. Purple was one of the most noble colours, having for centuries been associated with Tyrian purple dye, affordable only to the wealthy elite. Purple is still associated with the divine and worn by royalty and church ministers to this day.

Mulford believed a person’s spirit chooses the colours “most expressive” of their “mental condition.” According to Karen Haller in The Little Book of Colour, purple has the shortest wavelength of all colours, making it the last visible wavelength we see, thus connecting to a higher realm, and the universe beyond. “It is the colour we link with spiritual awareness and reflection, which is why it is favoured by those following a spiritual vocation or meditating. It is a colour for contemplation and the search for higher truth.”

The current popularity of patchwork, especially among those up-cycling garments, is unlikely to have garnered much support from Mr Mulford. In his opinion, only if, “your life is entirely without aim or purpose” will you wear, “parts of different suits, pitched on without regard to becomingness.” Whatever would he have made of our latest Purple Patch collection? Do check out these curiously collectable purple and patchwork vintage and pre-loved pieces and let us know what you think. Will you?