Not long ago, while I was writing this post about the 7 forms of sustainable fashion, I realized that most days I wear at least one piece of clothing that used to belong to a family member.
It made me think about how second-hand clothes – in this case, ‘inherited’ ones – have their own love stories.
So I thought I would share with you some reasons why I love wearing vintage hand-me-downs, and how I manage to make each of these pieces my own.
And I’ll give you a little example of some genuine hand-me-down action.
Hand-me-down clothes and their love stories
I just started thrifting recently. But for as long as I can remember, waaaaay before I knew anything about sustainable fashion, I’ve been receiving clothes from older family members – YOU KNOW that bag of clothes from your older cousins.
I remember that since I was very young, I lived for the moment my older cousins or aunts would come through the door with huge bags of their pre-loved clothes. It always felt like a treasure hunt.
This is something I still do very often. I impatiently wait for the day my most fashionable aunt comes over to show me piles of colorful clothes she doesn’t use anymore. This activity, needless to say, is an institution in my family – a whole event in itself.
But I feel that the concept of hand-me-down is kind of stigmatized. Many of my friends seem to feel shame being (quasi)adults and having hand-me-down clothes.
Why hand-me-down-ing feels wrong?
You know, in movies or tv shows teenagers make a huge drama when they receive hand-me-downs. They make it look so traumatic. Not fetch.
I’ve asked myself this question many times. And I always come up with the same possible answers.
- Maybe second-hand clothing is stigmatized because we link it to poverty and not having $$ for clothes. Or maybe we even think of it as something from the past, something necessary when there were only a few clothing stores around.
- But maybe it has to do with the fact that we won’t feel like ourselves if we wear clothes that belonged to someone else. Maybe we think those clothes will never be really ours just because they once belonged to someone else. Know what I mean?
But both options are preeeetty irrational.
Think about it: do you feel that any chain-produced t-shirt from a fast fashion brand – and thousands of people own copies of – belongs to you or represents your style? Then, why wouldn’t a unique pre-loved piece of clothing make you feel butterflies in your stomach?
Just because you are not its first owner?
Maybe following pre-existing trends is easier. More practical. But not more you.
And this is another amazing thing about second-hand clothing, it forces you to be creative and find your style.
My hand-me-down clothes and their love story
Have I convinced you already about how awesome hand-me-downs are? Let me give you a real-life example.
And for that you need to know two facts about my mom:
- She’s always right
- And she never throws clothes away. That’s why she always has the best summer dresses from the 80s and the cutest knitted cardigans on the very back of her closet
Hands down, my favorite part of the beginning of each season is scavenging through my mom’s youth clothes.
I have done this already a million times, but I always find something that I love: maybe last year those pied-de-poule shorts didn’t catch my attention, but this year they will be a staple in my closet (because, surprise! trends always will come back), or my hips were too small for the beautiful dotted dress, but now it fits like a glove.
I have found myself doing this so so many times and getting lost in the process: mixing and matching, freaking out over how stunning my outfits will look with this and that blouse,…
So yeah, this is an example of me making my mom’s clothes my own. This is my star look from the “stole it from mama F/W 2019-2020” collection – and their little stories.
These were her prescription glasses sometime in the early 90s. One day, when I was around 16, I was in that room all homes have where we throw all the stuff that the family has ever owned. Amongst other things – like embarrassing childhood photos and a lovely esparto handbag that I also borrowed –, I ran into these beauties.
I ran to show mom. “Why don’t you get the glass changed into sunglasses?” She asked. And I did.
And that’s the story of how I met my favorite glasses ever. They had been in my mom’s life for maybe 30 years, and now in mine for 6 and counting.
Remember how berets became a thing last winter? Well, well, I didn’t have to buy mine because mom happened to have a collection of them hidden somewhere in the house.
When I texted her to ask about its story, she answered: ‘neither you nor your brother had been born when I bought it! *surprised emoji with crosses for eyes*’
Which makes the beret date back to the early 80’s.
I had seen this sweater thousands of times in our childhood pics, but it wasn’t until the day I found it on a chest that I saw all its true potential – in the photos it looked too 70s-ish for me.
The best part of it? Guess who made this with her own hands! Of course, mom. She made it probably 30 years ago, and it’s still going strong.
I love looking at the little yarn knots on the inside she made to connect the different colors, it’s like looking back in time at the whole process of her making it.
Every time I wear it, I get compliments on how original it is, and people ask me where I got it – Sorry, limited edition!
Now it’s your turn to tell the world your clothes’ love stories. Go thrifting, swap, borrow, have fun with clothes – that’s what they’re for, fashion wasn’t meant to be boring.
Realizing the potential of her second-hand clothes reassured to facts for me: my mom is so dams stylish, and hand-me-down clothes are the best.