I was 16 when I mostly graduated from hand-me-downs to clothing I had chosen myself, usually from Eaton’s catalogue. Until then my brother, sister and I were regular recipients of other people’s clothing. We benefitted from a variety of sources. An unwritten neighborhood swapping agreement ensured that outfits were passed back and forth regularly. Older cousins and petite aunts also provided useful additions to our scanty wardrobes. Because there were more female cousins than male, and because male cousins were more likely to have worn out theirs, my sister and I enjoyed a wider range of interesting apparel. The arrival of well wrapped parcels and the delivery of bulging bags was an event for celebration and exploration. That they were not always age appropriate, or the right size, didn’t matter. By age 10 or 11 I could change hems and do minor repairs. By 15 or 16 I was altering waist size as well. Strutting, cavorting and giggling in our acquired wardrobes, my sister and I often enjoyed staging fashion shows in the living room with or without an audience.
When I did get to purchase my own clothing my first acquisition was a well lined white winter jacket, the parka adorned with faux white fur. That and some of my subsequent choices weren’t all that practical but my parents didn’t interfere with my decisions. Live and learn. As the eldest girl in my family my old clothes were supposed to blend into my younger sister’s wardrobe. Celeste had other ideas. She was quite determined that she wasn’t going to wait until she was sixteen to be in charge of her wardrobe. By then my parents could afford to grant her requests - within reason.
In residence at Regina College several of us exchanged clothing and shoes on a regular basis. Collectively we sported a fine range of choices. I wonder how many of us could swap now!
My beautiful maternity outfits certainly made the rounds, and subsequently so did many of my toddlers’ outfits. Our daughter and her friends have maintained this collegial and eco-friendly tradition. It makes perfect sense!
Lately I’ve become more aware of hand-me-downs that are invisible, unexamined ideas and beliefs that we inherit from our parents, the media and the communities in which we live.
Some are relatively benign. Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Bogeyman, Fairies and Ghosts are fine examples. It’s possible to find a rationale for each of these – some happily excite and soothe and some act as prohibitions. Superstitions passed down from one generation to the next can have negative or positive effects. Not walking under a ladder certainly has practical applications. So does spilling salt when salt was more expensive than it is now. Black cats are a bad omen for some. Not me. I love them.