I've been working on this post for some months now. I've written and re-written it more times than I could possibly count. It has been a dissertation on my life story and then deleted again and again. Quite often, it has been given the cold shoulder. Far more important things to do like drilling in new shelves for the shower...(isn't it amazing what comes up as very urgent when there's something tricky to be done!)
I wanted to share the difficult events I went through in the past few years to get to this point. The cause of my career change. The reason I left the NHS and academia and found myself selling antique clothes and building this website.
It was the post I wanted to publish after the launch. It felt like the next natural step before anything else, but it was difficult. It IS difficult. And so all the other posts I've written and all the other items I have ready to add to the shop have been sitting gathering dust waiting for this one to be finished (great logic, Tassie..did I mention I'm in the middle of a bit of an overhaul of my organisation systems!)
I've worked in mental health for years. I've done my own personal work on my own thinking and negative thought patterns. I know that I have found other people's authentic stories helpful and supportive and yet, when it comes to sharing what I went through - exposing my own vulnerability - I get stuck.
But something in me shifted recently. Something about sharing everything. I realised I wasn't quite ready to share the everything behind this part of my story and actually, that was ok. What I felt I had to put in this post, didn't have to come right now. I am - after all - still evolving.
Yes, there is a great big complex story behind getting to this point but it doesn't have to be put out there all in one go - an emotional tsunami as Brene Brown calls it. If you met me through instagram you'll know that my captions are usually just a few characters short of the maximum! I'm still learning to break down what I want to share into manageable pieces and taking my time with them! I think it's an important skill to learn.
So reigning it in a bit, I'll take some baby steps (advice I always give to those around me feeling overwhelmed and stuck) and share with you the mini story behind the name! Time to get blogging and sharing and moving things on a bit. Here goes.
So, why Chiffe?
Well...it means "rag" in French, of course (stick with me here..) and is the root word of chiffon. A perfect transformation!
It was also my Theatre Design tutor's nickname for me at art school thanks to my love of all things floaty in my sets and costumes. He'd welcome me with an "alright, Chiffe?" said with a half smile and a patient request to see an update on my reluctantly shared work
A bit more searching taught me that a "chiffe" or more specifically "chiffe molle" is a wet rag or person of weak character! And yes in many ways - without wishing to be too harsh on myself and all - this is also pretty relevant, at least where my creative career is concerned. A good gentle reminder that "wet rag" really doesn't work when it comes to finding the courage to pursue my dreams.
Back in the middle of a big, life shake-up that was taking place (more on the subject to come!), I rediscovered the wonderful Marie Kondo. Some years before, when moving house (yet again!), I had found her whilst seeking help with decluttering. But this time I started at it with more purpose: clearing out physical stuff to allow for more mental space too.
It was at this point that I also rediscovered my collection of antique clothing which I had been slowly gathering since the 90s. I had been working for the renowned (and extremely lovely) Virginia Bates, the mother of my first love at the tender age of 15 and a bit of a guru (understatement) of the antique clothing world. She was a huge influence in my early life and is still one of my idols. The Virginia nightdress in my shop was gifted to me by her. It is very special to me but the reason it was gifted has long passed and it needs to bring that joy to a new owner
The items were precious in my eyes and certainly "sparked joy" (have a look at Marie Kondo's methods if that doesn't make sense!), but what was the point of having it all sat in storage. I had always bought with the intention of selling or passing them on and it suddenly felt like a good place to start.
"Chiffe" was relevant once again! Old discarded bits of clothing to some....treasures to me and the very many fans of historical costume and vintage fashion. Rags to chiffon riches.
So when it came to the early task of picking a name for my new creative venture, Chiffe became the obvious choice. The rest is history.
Now also feels like the right time to do a shout out to my old class mate from art school days, Chloe Lamford, who went on to be a very successful Theatre Designer (as we always knew she would be!). We've mainly lost touch now but she is always in my journals and exercises on confidence and creativity as someone who always believed in me. I haven't forgotten it. She reminded me of this nickname some years back when I was between research contracts and dreaming of getting back into creative work. Once again, she supported my creative journey and played a part in why I chose Chiffe as my brand name. Chlo, if you read this. Thank you!
In this post I had also planned to share with you some of the very many people who have helped me so far. But on reflection, that deserves a blog post of its own. I hope sharing their details will help some of you on a similar journey to where you're meant to be.
As always, when it comes, I'll drop you an alert on instagram or you can sign up to my newsletters. They'll only ever be alerts to new posts, uploads to the shop or even bigger news ;)
If you have something you'd like to share, or any questions, feel free to drop me a comment below or send me a message. I'm also very open to receiving feedback if you feel like reaching out. It's early days for me and I'm most definitely a work in progress! Thanks for following along with me on this new journey.