This year my family spent a lot of time looking back on old photo albums. The reason for the nostalgia was sad, but the memories that looking through these visual records brought back were all happy ones - and a reminder of the beauty of vintage family photos.
In years to come our Instagram accounts, heavily curated, might be the equivalent of the albums of the past for recording moments in our lives both important and trivial. But sometimes a digital photo simply can’t capture the same warmth, or randomness, of an old-school image on film; though perhaps that’s just my age showing.
Summer holiday snapshots are a particularly sentimental genre, capturing people at their most carefree and relaxed; gathered to celebrate with friends or family at the beach, bach or backyard. These images are also a record of the clothes we were wearing at the time, whether it’s being dressed up as a child or the teenage years as we begin to use fashion to express our identities. They’re often an early hint of personal style to come, and almost always show our personalities too. With that in mind, we asked a selection of Ensemble friends to share a family photo from a summer holiday past, showing the style of the time - and share some memories of their own.
"My mother loved fashion and clothes and instilled the same in me. I am in a bikini here at 19-months so I imagine it's my first one. I’m with my Dad in our ‘70s-era house with orange curtains and his pointy ‘70s shirt collar (a collar style that has made a return of late). It was all about trips to the beach. I spent my first five years in New Plymouth and the beautiful black sand beach of Onaero was our regular, and where my childhood summer pictures are all taken.
"The second photo is me, warming in the sun after a swim at Onaero, at four–years-old. Still in a bikini but I think probably copying my mother who would have been sunbathing on her front and getting a tan. Dad is in the background on our family wool blanket that was baby blue plaid with touches of red and black, I remember it fondly. My parents met at a party at the surf club, and both loved the beach."
"This photo is one of my favourites, during summer 1990. I’m wearing my favourite knit hoodie that my nana made for me. I’m photographed with my Dad in it, who was a huge fashion inspiration for me growing up! He always looked so well put-together. Plus my little brother, in a denim-on-denim ensemble."
"I remember finding this photo a few years ago when skinny jeans were at their peak and thinking, 'oh my god, how on earth did I ever think it was okay to wear these?'.
Then, my teenage daughter started buying 'mom' jeans which had started to hit the stores, or sourcing vintage pairs from Savemart. I persisted with my skinny jeans for a few more years, sure the high-waisted, loose fit, to my mind unflattering cut she was buying would be out again quicker than you can say fast fashion.
Now, wearing jeans that are pretty damn close to what's in the pic, I see photos in my skinnies and think, 'oh my god, how on earth did I ever think it was okay to wear these?'.
It interests me that even when you're a reasonably confident dresser and that you're resistant to trends, there's something pervasive about fashion; it wends its way into your head. Also, the idea that if you wore a trend the first time you won't/shouldn't wear it again is one of those fashion rules that's born to be broken."
(Photo taken at Castlepoint, probably 1991).
"These photos are circa 1989/1990 when I was about 3 ½ (on donkey) and 5, on the beach at Whitby in Yorkshire. I was born and grew up in Yorkshire, and then Cambridgeshire until my family moved to New Zealand when I was almost 15. The beach was at least a two hour drive away so a trip to the seaside was a big deal! Fashion wise my mum was big on Breton stripes and always had a striped cozzie too. We had a lot of mini me moments; my hair is definitely styled as my mum had hers. I was very much a Laura Ashley styled ‘90s kid, ribbons in my hair, sailor suits (matching with my brother), smocking, big collars, and lots of florals and stripes. In these pictures I hadn’t yet started wearing hypercolour T-shirts and jelly shoes (my sister nearly drowned wearing her platform jelly shoes into the sea)."
"On this mid-‘70s weekend we’d taken the boat to Motuihe Island and look, not a single person on the beach but me, my mum and my brother, and, I guess, my father behind the camera. The white sand, golden cliff-faces, crimson blossoms and bright sunshine are an Auckland summer through and through. What makes me smile about this photo is the grooming my mother managed to keep intact even after an hour or so crossing the Hauraki Gulf at pace in our pretty basic weekend runabout boat – that hairdo looks like she’s just stepped out of the hairdresser. No surprises there for those who knew her."
"In this series of photos I’m about three or four, at the Singapore Zoological Gardens - and I’m clearly getting increasingly hot and grumpy, and have to lose my shirt. I would probably still wear this outfit now, at 38-years-old."
Delphine Avril Planqueel, photographer
"Camping with my Maman in Sarlat, Perigord, South of France. My Maman is sporting an ‘80s haircut and outfit and I’m in just a dungaree and a big baptism locket on a chain. Our Citroen car is parked up next to the tent and I think the camping set up belonged to my grandparents who camped a lot. Maman adored this region and now owns a house there with my step dad where we go every year in pre covid climate. It's special to have the ongoing connection to where I holidayed as a child."
"Every year my grandparents took me to a different region of France for the month of summer. If they really liked the region we would often return there a second year. In this photo I am six-years-old and with my dear Mamie in Perigord, as she also loved this region, and I remember spending all my days in the pool. We are in our one-piece swimsuits and I have a red sailor hat."
"We camped on our wild overgrown section at Ōpito Bay for many years until finally building a bach after I finished primary school. My mother made all my clothes in those early years, she did a course called KnitWit to learn how to sew and she was very into beautiful trims and finishings. I had always thick, wild hair so in a very gendered ‘80s way these pretty dresses and skirts were my nod to being more girlish. I have a very clear memory of standing in this spot a few year years after this photo was taken and mum coming out with a Cindy doll peace offering (like a feminist Barbie) and telling us she was going back to work and wouldn’t be around as much. She was a teacher, and ended up studying te reo at Waikato University before going onto teach maths at Ngaruawahia. Didn’t get as many pretty dresses after that."
"My sisters and I floating around an estuary in front of our house at Ōpito, Christmas 1980. The beach has changed so much in the 40 odd years since this photo was taken and the estuary is no longer there. One thing that hasn’t changed is my dad's old Dunga longboard which my younger sister is currently in possession of. My poor father tried to teach us to surf so many times on that thing but we were way more interested in sunbathing back then. Ironically now my father has finally retired his board, I am trying to learn how to surf."
"A classic NZ garage party, New Years’ Eve 2000. The wider Walker family had congregated at Whatuwhiwhi up North for the most anxiety-inducing NYE ever thanks to Y2K fears. I had just turned 15, and was lucky enough to be allowed to invite three of my friends on holiday and it was the epitome of hysterical teenage girl fun. We drank KGBs, and I remember hijacking the radio so we could play S Club 7 as the clock struck midnight (sorry to all the adults in the room). I must have decided to dress up for the occasion, in a very 2000s ‘suburban girl at the beach’ look: the extremely literal ‘00’ T-shirt would have been from Glassons, Jay-Jays or JeansWest, the denim pencil skirt with fringed edging probably from Wild Pair or Tommy Gun, paired with a luminous pair of Skechers. My friend and cousin, who you can’t see here in this photo, were both wearing a blue Hawaiian shirt from Glassons that everyone had that summer (including me)."
"Christmas day with my cousin and sister at my Aunty Lisa’s house in Te Atatu North, early to mid ‘90s. The three of us were very close and quite spoilt; Christmases and summer holidays were always filled with wonderful family memories. This particular year, Nana had gifted us each a patterned outfit that we immediately changed into, to ‘model’ for the family: cousin Crystal’s, striped and sporty; Jade’s a 1960s via the ‘90s swing dress with matching bike shorts; and mine, floral, girlish and prissy with a lace collar. It’s the details that make this photo for me: Jade is also holding a whoopie cushion, and the green umbrella peeking in at the side is Steinlager branded and I know that my Poppy would have been sitting underneath it with beer in hand and a smile on his face."