Hand-Me-Downs, Sustainability and Love Stories

Making the most of hand-me-downs is such an overlooked way to do fashion sustainably. We love them but, for some reason, they haven’t had their moment as a prime form of green fashion yet. Let’s talk about that.


Not long ago, while I was writing this post about the 7 forms of sustainable fashion, I realized that every day I wear at least one piece of preloved clothing – either something bought at a second-hand shop, or a hand-me-down coming from my mom’s closet.

It made me think about how all second-hand clothes – but especially the ones we inherit from family or friends – come with their very own love stories.


why hand-me-downs deserve a place in your sustainable wardrobe

Hand-me-downs and their love stories

I started thrifting in 2018, after I moved to a big city, because my hometown didn’t have “cool” second-hand shops at the time.

But for as long as I can remember – and way before I knew a thing about sustainable fashion – I’ve been receiving clothes from family members. You know that bag full of your older cousin’s clothes that you would receive at the start of the school year.

I have a very large extended family, so there were lots of those big bags full of preloved clothes, and clothing swaps were a family event.

To be honest, I liked the experience of receiving these clothes, but I wasn’t always happy to wear them. They weren’t always the newest trend or the coolest piece, and if a 14-year-old wants something, that’s looking like an influencer.

Obviously, I grew to love hand-me-downs, only that now those bags are filled with my younger but taller cousin’s clothes. Something that hasn’t changed is that receiving them still brings the best feeling of childlike comfort.

But I feel that sometimes the idea of wearing hand-me-down clothes has bad rap.

Why does hand-me-down-ing feel weird?

You know, in 90s movies and tv shows pre-teens make a huge drama out of having to wear hand-me-downs. So traumatic. Not fetch. 

But why? And why when second-hand clothes come from a consignment store or from a vintage pop-up store we don’t have the same problem? I have some theories:

  1. Maybe the reason is socio-economic. It’s not a secret that a lot of people see a link between second-hand clothing and scarcity.
  2. Maybe hand-me-downs feel outdated. We might think that wearing hand-me-downs was normal when we didn’t have a fast fashion store on every corner, but something unnecessary now that we have options to look all cute and on-trend.
  3. 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. Know what I mean? I know for a fact that this keeps a lot of people from thrifting.

But think about it: do you feel that a new fast fashion chain-produced t-shirt that a million other people own represents your style? Probably not much. Shouldn’t a unique pre-loved piece of clothing give you butterflies?

Maybe following pre-existing trends is easier, and more practical. But cookie-cutter looks are boring and dressing in second-hand clothes encourages you to be creative and reinvent each piece.

My hand-me-downs and their love stories

You need to know two things about my mom:

  • She’s always right
  • She never throws clothes away. That’s why she always has the best summer dresses from the 80s and the cutest knitted cardigans hidden in the back of her closet.

Hands down, my favorite part at the beginning of each season is scavenging through the clothes from her youth.

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, news flash! trends always will come back), or my hips were too small for the beautiful navy dotted dress but now it fits like a glove.

I have done this so, so many times, and every time I get lost in the process: mixing and matching, freaking out over how many outfits I can create with this shirt and that blouse,…

So yeah, these are two examples of me making my mom’s clothes my own, aka got it from my mama F/W 2020-21.

Exhibit #1

hand me down clothes outfit

The “her short-sightedness paid off” sunglasses

One day, when I was around 16, I was in that one room all homes have where all the clutter ends up, and I found these beauties buried under embarrassing childhood photos and a lovely esparto handbag that I also borrowed.

These were her prescription glasses sometime in the early 90s and I just had to pay my local optician a visit to change the lenses and have a “new” pair of sunglasses.

These glasses had been in my mom’s life for maybe 30 years, and now in mine for 6 and counting.

The “am I wearing it right” beret

Remember how berets became a thing sometime during the winter of 2019? Well, well, I didn’t have to buy mine because mom happened to have a collection of them hidden somewhere.

I texted her to ask how old she thinks it is and she answered: “your older brother wasn’t even a thought when I got it *surprised emoji with crosses for eyes*

Which makes the beret date back to the mid-80’s.

The “kinda itchy but worth it” sweater

I had seen this sweater thousands of times in our childhood pics, but it wasn’t until the day I found it in 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. That was probably 30 years ago, and it’s still going strong.

I love looking at the little yarn knots she made on the inside to connect the different colors, it’s like looking back in time and feeling the process of her knitting 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 💁‍♀️.

Exhibit #2

This coat is special for two reasons: it’s reworked and it belonged to my great-grandfather.

how to create a capsule wardrobe

I never met him, but I like to think he’d get a kick out of seeing a 20-something girly girl wear his three-quarter wool coat and take photos in it for the interwebs.

When he owned this coat, it was longer and it didn’t have any faux fur around the neck and pockets. Those were additions one of my aunts – a true visionary, if you ask me – made when she was younger.

Welp. It has become my favorite and most worn coat of all time. It checks all the boxes: comfy, warm, big pockets, versatile, sustainable.

Now it’s your turn to tell the world about your clothes’ love stories. Go thrifting, swap, borrow and have fun with clothes – that’s what they’re for.

Fashion isn’t meant to be boring, and hand-me-downs are made to be worn with pride.


hand-me-downs, green fashion and love stories
your ethical wardrobe needs hand-me-downs

What do you think?

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