Cursed clothing: fashion that fights back

Washing Machines

My flatmate had a cream one and a boyfriend had a brown one.

I've got a green one now, but I used to have a navy one, although I have possessed them in several different colours over the years. You see, I have a theory that everyone owns at least one item of Cursed Clothing – the thing we wear that has a sinister occult power to attract disaster. We don't wear these things often, at least not after the first time. After all once is surely an accident, twice could be a coincidence but the third time you end up in the ketchup/wet paint/chewing gum is incontrovertible proof – this item of clothing carries the sartorial equivalent of the Mummy's Curse. You have an albatross in your wardrobe.

Let me explain. My flatmate had a Fenn Wright Manson cream linen suit, which she had worn on only two occasions – once, when it fell victim to a passing pigeon, and a second outing that included an accident with the contents of a sachet of mayonnaise. My flatmate was very down-to-earth, but even she was beginning to feel that this suit was in some way … jinxed. Given its history I was a bit surprised when she decided to wear the suit to a smart summer wedding but then, as we both reasoned, this was all superstitious nonsense, right? Wrong. It was a very hot day, even in church, and when Emma tried to stand she found she couldn't – her skirt was welded to the pew because she'd been sitting on a patch of old brown varnish, warmed by the sun to the consistency of black treacle, and the stain it left was most unfortunate.

The boyfriend's suit was also prone to attracting food, whole platefuls of it. Again at a wedding (but this time at the reception) he sat down, and neatly flipped the whole main course into his lap, and something similar happened every time he wore it. I bought a peasant-style dress in a pretty pale blue and pink floral in 1973 but I had to stop wearing it in 1974 after it had been re-christened The Vomit Frock. In 2012 I acquired a new "albatross" in the form of a green Leicester Tigers hoodie and given that you can tell what I've had for breakfast, lunch and dinner by the collection of stains at the end of the day, sadly I can only ever wear it at home. It is a phenomenon that defies explanation.

More easily explained is the clothing that arrives with a mechanical fault; the thing you bought that appears perfect but is in fact covertly defective. These are the items of clothing that can ruin your day by an utter failure to fulfil their basic function, which is to look attractive (to you anyway) and preserve your modesty and comfort. Whether it succeeds or not is largely down to manufacture and if you were unlucky enough to pick up a "Friday afternoon job" you're doomed from the start. For my money the worst of these is The Twist, which is that thing whereby you carefully line up your tights in the approved manner but by the time you've reached your knees one leg has twisted itself into a tourniquet and the back is now the front. Undeterred, you try again … and the same thing happens. It is, I think, possibly the most maddening thing ever.

T-shirts also do this and it's not limited to the cheaper end of things either – I bought a Cavalli T-shirt once (I know, I'm an idiot) and one sleeve and the body both twisted. Trousers do it too – you'll be pressing them, suddenly notice that one leg is on the piss and you will know, with a sinking heart, that a straight crease will never, ever be achieved. Add to this the trial of buttons held on with spit and fresh air, the hem that got missed in the quality control check and, my personal favourite, the unravelling seam. Seams, zips and buttons – the things that keep your shirt, skirt, trousers or frock where they're supposed to be – are the clothing equivalent of faulty brakes. There is no coming back from a major failure in any of these areas and apart from keeping a packet of safety pins permanently stashed about your person, there's no possible way to prepare yourself for it.

There is a silver lining though. We mere mortals are not the only ones afflicted and isn't it just brilliant when it happens to someone else – especially in glorious Technicolor. It's not often I can claim an affinity with a bona fide Hollywood star but when Jennifer Lawrence's Dior dress appeared to split in two at the SAG awards I knew EXACTLY how she felt.

Follow The Invisible Woman on Twitter @TheVintageYear

Powered by article was written by The Invisible Woman, for on Wednesday 19th June 2013 15.00 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010