What Women Wear: Teresa Colonett

— by Alyson Walsh

What Women Wear photos: Claire Pepper

Teresa Colnett is a curator at the Fashion and Textiles Museum in London. We’ve met several times at exhibition openings and talks and I’ve always admired her singular style and eye for good vintage. Now 60, Teresa started her career in retail, on a graduate buying scheme at Liberty. She then sidetracked into wholesale (still with Liberty), a role that took her to Paris in the 1970s where she met ‘cool people like Agnes b and Kenzo’. Moving back to London, Teresa worked at Laura Ashley, before marrying and relocating to New York, where she had four children. ‘I’ve always dipped in and out of things, my career has been quite serendipitous,’ she says modestly, of a professional life that has taken her around the world. Returning to London when her children were young, she volunteered in the education department at Somerset House, going on to study for a Masters Degree in History of Design at the V&A (in combination with the Royal College of Art). For her dissertation Teresa focused on the design of scissors, specifically the industry in Sheffield between 1850 – 1915 and, ‘The way women used scissors to cut through the patriarchy and create their own image.’ A subject she would like to eventually turn into a book.

Volunteering at the Fashion and Textiles Museum she developed her professional skills further and finally became a curator. ‘I’ve found something that brings a lot of my interests together,’ Teresa adds, ‘ This ticks all the boxes. I love social history and finding a voice behind an exhibition, researching, reading about things and I’ve always enjoyed writing and I get the chance to do that. There’s a lot of variety – styling mannequins is fun. Working at a small museum is great, and I am very lucky to have been there at a point when the museum has grown and taken off. I’m involved in all sorts of aspects – practical as well as theoretical and creative – it’s just a case of rolling your sleeves up.’

Teresa is currently working on ‘Zandra Rhodes: fifty years of fabulous‘ an exhibition celebrating the designer’s colourful career (27 September 2019 – 26 January 2020).

Teresa’s scissor necklace


Here’s what Teresa wears:

“The first outfit I’m wearing consists of a patterned, vintage Lanvin blouse (from Menage Modern Vintage) worn with floral trousers from Finery (now sold out but the skirt and jumpsuit in the same botanical print are still available), finished off with my Zara cowboy boots.  The volume of the blouse narrowing at the waist nicely complements the volume of the wide legged trousers whilst accentuating the waistline. The outfit feels fun but also practical. I like the combination of prints and colours.

In general, I like mixing things up – modern and vintage, different prints, clashing colours, feminine and tough, contrasting textures and proportions. I enjoy the process of choosing unobvious components and making them work together.  Wherever I am, they seem to come to me. I love a good rummage at Portobello Market or in a charity shop where you’re more likely to find unexpected pieces that offer new possibilities and there is something about the diversity of what you find in a charity shop that encourages you to try clothes that maybe you wouldn’t select in a high street shop. It’s very liberating! On the high street I do like Zara, & Other Stories, Finery, Warehouse – designer Emma Cook is cool – and I’ve recently bought a couple of pieces from Ganni.

My second outfit is a dress by New York designer Batsheva. I bought it when I turned 60, which was an interesting moment. I did reassess things and let go of clothes I thought I’d never wear again. I like the vintage references of the dress, the print and the colouring. I have always been a fan of a sailor collar!  Batsheva is influenced by the pastoral nostalgia of vintage Laura Ashley. I used to work for Laura Ashley in the early 1980s so maybe the nostalgic factor attracts me. Also I cannot resist a bit of ric rac!  A pair of tough flat boots provides a good contrast to this feminine, slightly prim look. I’ve owned the scissor necklace for more than a decade and wear it regularly – I’m a design historian/curator and the history of scissors and their power as ambiguous objects is a particular interest of mine. My house is full of scissors.



Batsheva dress and boots

Choosing my outfit helps me to get myself into gear for the day ahead and I enjoy looking in my wardrobe and deciding what clothes either mirror my mood or if I’m not feeling particularly positive, uplift it. I don’t plan, I just see how I feel. I’m quite eclectic and don’t have one particular fashion aesthetic, I enjoy playing with the contents of my wardrobe and surprising myself. I have always been a little experimental with my style but I think more so now that I am older. Now I dress solely for my own pleasure and love of fashion. For me clothes are fun and therapeutic and I don’t really take them too seriously. I never wear an outfit that doesn’t have some note of fun or individuality about it.  And I definitely choose colour  – I would never wear all black!”


What women like Teresa wear:

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