Emma, the lovely designer behind Haus Dahlia uses her clothes as form of escapism, a way of expressing herself, and tells us how and why they can be so powerful.
Emma, what do clothes mean to you?
Clothes have always been a part of my life; I remember as a child I would dress up every chance I could get and being just 7 years old I can remember designing my first “collection” and being obsessed with drawing beautiful clothes. Since then, clothes have been a way for me to keep evolving. As I grow as a person and become wiser, my style grows with me and reflects my emotions and desires.
What is your favourite item in your wardrobe and why?
My favourite item in my wardrobe… my god that is a very hard choice! I think it would have to be my Windmoor vintage coat, it was an investment in terms of coats, and in the past, I’ve never been that bothered with coats, but this was just dramatic, and sexy and gave me such confidence! I think also, I have a few pieces that I share with my partner, cardigans, and jumpers, so it’s so special to share clothes with someone you love, and I love that versatility about my wardrobe!
Tell me a story about an item in your wardrobe, or a story that you remember whenever you wear that piece (doesn’t have to be your favourite or anything particularly special)
I still have a dress from when I was just 16, which was 6 years ago, and it still fits! It was my first year of college and I wanted to stand out and be true to myself through my clothes at the time, and there was this gorgeous velvet strappy dress in New Look, and I begged my mum to buy it for me as I didn’t have a job at the time. And she said fine but try it on first, so I did, and I just fell in love even more because it made me so confident! 6 years later it still makes me just as confident! It also opened lots of opportunities for my styling skills, I learned to layer all sorts with it, something I would never have done before getting this dress!
Do you have any clothes past down to you (maybe from a parent, or relative) that gives it extra meaning to you?
I used to have a lot of hand me downs from my mum during secondary school, which made me look a lot more mature for my age than I was, as it was a lot of office work wear that she brought that didn’t fit. But apart from that I have always been wary of hand-me-downs, because growing up the styles for fat people just weren't there, they were usually jersey dresses or leggings and jumpers. So, some hand me downs consisted of that because that's all that would fit me, so I felt a little out of place for a while because I couldn’t buy my own clothes. I think hand me downs are a wonderful thing especially if its vintage pieces but for me I have just never been into it.
Is there much in your wardrobe which you don't wear often/at all?
Funnily enough I have just gone through my wardrobe and done a whole couple of bin bags for charity and to go on vinted. So, there were quite a few items I wasn’t wearing, mainly clothes bought just before lockdown and things that just don’t fit or suit me! There is one dress in my wardrobe that I have never worn, and that's my graduation dress! I graduate next year and at the start of my university course I actually found a stunning dress, red velvet, floor length, off the shoulder, the whole deal! But the question was when am I going to wear it? What special occasions have I got coming up? And for some reason my graduation came up, but that's just a one-time event, when else can I wear it? So, I decided it would be the dress I wear to weddings, because I hate the whole pressure of oh you have to wear a different dress each time, sod that, I barely go to them so the same dress would be fine! There is nothing wrong with re-wearing something, especially if it's a killer dress!
Given you’re a designer, do you think you view clothes differently to someone who hasn’t made clothes before? Do you think understanding what goes into making a garment makes you appreciate them more?
Most definitely, I think because I have knowledge and experience in pattern cutting and sewing it helps me appreciate the time and effort gone into making a garment, especially when I buy from a small business! And with vintage clothes, they teach me how techniques might have been done in the past!
Who/what do you take inspiration from when you choosing clothes to buy/make for yourself?
For me, I take inspiration from aesthetics and emotions more than anything. I love living a little fantasy when wearing my clothes! For example, if I wear a cardigan and a long skirt, I always feel like a little cottage witch going off to bake an apple pie. I feel peaceful, cosy, and warm. And I always try to capture those feelings when making clothes not just for myself but for everyone else! I guess I love that clothes can transport you just as much as music or books can, and I think it's rather magical when you think about fashion like that.