Hand-Me-Downs Aren’t Just Frugal

When I was a child I’m sure I got hand-me-downs from my sister, two years older.  Well, at least until I got taller than her – which happened by the sixth grade.  The fact that I don’t remember wearing her hand-me-downs tells me that I really didn’t care one way or the other.  I’ve never been a clothes horse, so as long as I was dressed in something reasonably comfortable that fit reasonably well and looked reasonably presentable (which didn’t matter until about age thirteen), I was a happy girl.

I hardly ever got new clothes.  We’d do a shopping trip before school started and I’d get a few outfits, one pair of shoes and one pair of sneakers to last me, well, as long as they lasted.  I’d get a few more outfits for Christmas, and every now and again my Dad would buy an item or two, but that was pretty much it.

True, I wasn’t really interested in fashion, so it didn’t bother me.  In retrospect, though, I can see that our limited wardrobes were partly because almost everyone had limited wardrobes in those days, and partly as a result of finances.

Perhaps I was oblivious, but it seemed to me only the really rich girls had huge wardrobes.  I don’t recall any of my friends having more than one pair of “school shoes”, sneakers and perhaps sandals and flip-flops for the summer.  I had enough outfits to not have to wear the same clothes to school twice in about a week and a half, and it seemed to me that many of my friends had similar wardrobes.  We had play clothes for after school – clothes that were stained or torn or slightly too short – fine for around the house.

Even so, my Mom was notoriously terrible with money.  Or she had holes in her hands.  If given a choice between spending money on clothes and spending it on daily trips to Carvel, we shivered our way through soft chocolate on a sugar cone with chocolate sprinkles.  But it wasn’t a conscious choice for my Mom; she just never prioritized.  Never gave it a thought.  Always lived in the present and the past – not a thought for the future.  I’m sure that she dressed me in my sister’s outgrown clothing, and I’m equally sure that helped us keep our electricity running.

Today’s kids seem to have huge wardrobes no matter how much money their parents have.  Sure, some parents spend hundreds of dollars on sneakers and designer jeans and $30 Abercrombie tee shirts (I hope that the parents that buy this way are handing them down from one child to another, but perhaps not, at least if they care about what season’s fashions their children are sporting).

But even on our limited income my own son’s wardrobe is rather large.  He has about forty shirts of varying sleeve length,  ten pair of shorts (we do live in Florida), four pair of jeans and two other pairs of pants, plus an array of sweaters, sweatpants and sweatshirts.  He has one pair of sneakers that fit, and two pair of Crocs (both gifts).  And that doesn’t count the items in larger sizes, held in reserve.

Why so large?  Well, I do admit to a weakness for clothes off the Gymboree clearance rack, and the clearance racks of some of my other favorite stores.  And Grandpa hardly ever meets us for breakfast without a stop at Bealls outlet to see what’s on their clearance rack.  But one of the biggest reasons Son’s wardrobe is so large is that we are the recipient of hand-me-downs from Son’s older cousins.

And they are, without a doubt, his favorites.  He proudly wears A’s Hawaiian shirt, and J’s orange T-shirt is  almost always the first worn when it’s freshly laundered.  And Son tells people that he’s wearing A’s shirt, or J’s tee.  He loves his cousins so much, and gets to see them so seldom.  Wearing their old clothes makes him feel closer to them, and as cool as them, and his happiness makes me smile.

In these uncertain times I’m cutting down on my spending – even clearance rack spending.  It’s good to know that I can count on Son getting more clothes from his cousins.  And I look forward to handing Son’s clothes down to someone else, as more cousins make their appearances…


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