Growing up in a large family, hand-me-down clothing was a regular part of life. It wasn’t necessarily something I hated (after all, I really wanted some of them!) but it certainly wasn’t something I was immensely excited about. I mean, everyone else got brand-new clothes all the time. Everyone. All the time*.

In fairness, at the start of each school year, my sisters and I would each get a few items of new clothing. Then at Christmas, we’d get one or two additional pieces of kit. (Often socks and underpants. Santa was so practical back then!) But for the most part, clothing was passed down from one kid to another – sometimes through different families, too! But I digress…

I dealt with my hand-me-down world by embracing the opportunity to create my own style. Yes, I was one of those people who created new and exciting creations from old and tattered rubbish. (See Fashion Confessional for the full story of my rags-to-couture adventures.)

Eventually, my financial life improved and I was soon purchasing the majority of my clothing brand-new. I purchased a few key vintage items from speciality shops, but I was no longer buying second-hand out of need. It was fantastic!

But then life veered me down an unexpected path, and I soon ended up as a starving student once again. So when my friend, Rebecca, offered me a few of her hand-me-downs a couple of years ago, I happily accepted – even though at the time I wasn’t in actual need of charity. (She is, after all, a woman of great style!) And, in true Frances style, I re-jigged a piece or two to suit my needs.

Only now that I’m doing my PhD, I find that I am actually in need of a bit of frugality – a lot of frugality! So I’m a hand-me-downs girl yet again. Only this time, I’m not looking at it as an embarrassment, I’m looking at it as a means to an end.

Luckily for me, grown-up hand-me-downs are way better than childhood ones because the garments tend to be better cared for by the previous owners – and better quality, too! Sometimes they’re passed onto me because they no longer fit the owner. Sometimes they’re passed on because the owner has too many clothes or because they are bored of a particular item.

Like some of the hand-me-downs, I got when I was a teenager, the ones I’m given now are not always perfect. But I’ve learned that if someone gives you a high-quality dress that’s slightly too big, it’s worth the small cost to have it taken in by a seamstress. And if someone gives you a basic frock that doesn’t quite work for you, it’s perfectly acceptable to chop it up and turn it into a skirt. And if someone gives you something that just won’t work, it’s OK to say “thanks, but no thanks” and offer it back to them or to pass it along to someone else.

The current lot was passed onto me by my friend, Eleanor, and two of my sisters, Veronica and Royann. The green one to the far right was taken in by a seamstress so that I could wear it to a wedding. The next one (full-length, slinky red) is a perfect fit and will be enjoyed as-is. The two purple ones are not quite right for me, so I will be turning them into skirts. The white and yellow one on the left is lovely, but I don’t know if I have the chest to pull it off… so I don’t know if I’ll be able to wear it or if it will be passed on.

Oh, how times have changed! From feeling embarrassed and a little too proud to happily accepting the cast-offs of others – without an ounce of shame – I am a hand-me-down queen! And each lovely item is accepted with bucket-loads of appreciation and gratitude! I look forward to the day when I can afford to buy all of my clothes brand-new again. Although even then, I’ll happily wear second-hand!

Stay tuned for before and after pics of the purple dresses. And, who knows, there may be a few other recreated items to share as time goes by!

* Obviously, this is a factual statement. No one else I went to school with ever – not even once – had to wear second-hand clothes. Their parents loved them so much that they got new clothes all the time and their lives were absolutely perfect. No, wait. That still sounds like the grade-school me who didn’t know any better. OK, I’m sure everyone else was stuck with hand-me-downs at least on occasion. And, I know, some of my school friends had it worse than me growing up. I know that now, and I probably knew that then.

2 Replies to “Hand-me-downs”

  1. You mustn’t forget that you sometimes pass your own clothing to others. I’ve seen it happen and I’ve seen the look of joy on some recipients’ faces! Swap away, girls! Pass it along so others can enjoy it, too.

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