Storytelling through Materials: Listening to Nostalgia through recounting through past to present, and back again

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


What is it that makes us come alive when we touch our garments? What is the connection between fabric and soul, the pathway that re-connects experiencing selves with remembering selves (Kahneman, 2011)?

This research explores the connection between materials and storytelling, through a series of case-study interviews that shares and reflects on individuals explaining their clothing to an audience. The range of individuals includes a fashion activist reminiscing about the meaning of her wardrobe, a Gen Z fashion communication student explaining her jacket which is typographically printed with Gen Z values, and a 95-year-old Grandma showing her granddaughter her wedding veil.

Using narrative inquiry to share ‘stories as lived and told’ (Clandinin and Connelly, 2000), it looks at the simple case of character + object, and the vehicle of storytelling. It uses as a framework Jerome Bruner’s (2002) list of universal story components, which importantly includes the coda of ‘retrospective evaluation of what it all might mean, a feature that also returns the hearer or reader from the there and then of the narrative, to the here and now of the telling.’ In this, nostalgia can be found in the retrospective ‘throwback’, and recorded in the storytelling of the present, as materialised in fashion fabrics and garments, and memorialised in action.

This research suggests that rather than nostalgia being ‘pigeon-holed as an ossifying emotion that entrenches the individual in the past’ (Sedikides et al, 2016) or that its etymology of nosos and algos [Greek] is singularly apposite, that instead – when communicating the social life of materials through storytelling – nostalgia can represent catharsis in the present, and an experiencing of self through space. It is history as incandescent story, enacted through embodied storytelling.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021
EventNostalgia: 2nd Global Inclusive Interdisciplinary Conference - online, Bratislava, Slovakia
Duration: 31 Jul 20211 Aug 2021


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