The other day, shelving books at the Orono Public Library, I was
delighted with the conversation of three young mothers. They were
discussing how they pass down clothes among children in their group of
families. I tell you, they aren't only saving money and keeping
garments with wear still in them out of landfills, as worthy as both
goals are. Their children will get the stories of their previous use
along with the jeans and dresses.
I grew up wearing clothes with stories. I decked my children in
clothes with stories. I still feel happier and more comfortable in
clothes with stories: the soft as a kitten grey sweater I inherited
from Katie, the shirt Amber decorated with fabric paint to let the
world know I'm easier to get along with after my coffee...or the
mystery and allure of thrift shop finds.
I was delighted to discover Mary Ann Hoberman's I Like Old
Clothes. The curly haired protagonist, who looks very much like my
child self, accompanied by her agreeable younger brother, extols the
virtues of used garments. Some from friends have histories; others
have mysteries. It's fun to guess where they've been or who wore
them. Even if they aren't new or in style a kid with enough
confidence can rock the look. Once good clothes can be creatively
worn for play. Outgrown clothes can be passed on to someone else.
You know something great about the story? It actually was
recycled. Originally published in 1976, it was made current for
today's kids by wonderful new illustrations. The way the narrator is
depicted, she has flair and confidence. In one picture she poses like
a model in sneakers, patched overalls, striped shirt, and opera
gloves. In a two page spread, she shortens a flowered dress and tries
it on, draping her cat in leftover material.
You and your family can use this book as a springboard to
creativity. Start telling the stories of your clothes. If you draw,
scrapbook, or quilt, capture them for the future. If you and yours
aren't rocking clothes with stories...geez...What are you waiting for?
On a personal note, this kid is my alter ego. Swear to goodness.
Here's something that happened days before I read the book. In Orono
Thrift Shop I saw a perfect little plaid suit with a flippy skirt and
a sash and bow at the accentuated waist. I felt so lovely in it I
left the dressing room and struck a pose. Friends and total strangers
stopped browsing to say, "Wow!" (the next week people on the street
were stopping me on the street to ask if I bought it.) The next day I
wore it to church with tights. Right before I walked out of my door I
remembered my cream felt cloche with the flower on one side. Voilà!
1940's movie star!
A great big shout out goes out to my Girlz who run Orono Thrift Shop
so amazingly and the many generous folks who bring in treasures! The
raspberry dancing hippo pajamas I'm wearing while I post this feel
heavenly--like wearing soft, puffy clouds.
Julia Emily Hathaway
Sent from my iPod