We're big on hand-me-downs in my family. I would say that more than half of what my husband and I own came from somebody else who used it first--parents, grandparents, friends, strangers (you know me and my thrift shops). I've never, as long as I can remember, resented hand-me-downs in the stereotypical way. I would even say I prefer them.
I'm sandwiched in between two brothers so as a kid I never had an older sister to bequeath me with all of her too-small clothes, but my mom always found a way to get me hand-me-downs despite this. I remember bags of clothes being dropped off by friends of the family who had slightly older girls, and this was always the most exciting thing. It helped that a lot of the clothes were totally stylish (my favorite were Gap hand-me-downs) and I loved sorting through everything and finding things I liked. It felt so special, like a big bag of presents had magically landed on my bedroom floor and it wasn't even Christmas or my birthday.
That feeling stuck with me and I remember a few years ago giving some tops and sweaters I no longer wore to a girl I babysat in New York. She didn't have any sisters either and her smile as she looked at the clothes and tried things on lit up the room.
This tradition has carried me long into adulthood and some of my favorite things are hand-me-downs from my mom, things that she wore when she was my age. This Irish wool sweater is the warmest, most comforting sweater I own. My mom got it in the Aran Islands off the coast of Ireland when she was about 20 and wore it a ton throughout her 20s. It's still in the most beautiful shape and so classic--the warm beige wool, the knitted design, the leather cognac-colored buttons. I love getting it out each fall and winter (which I didn't do at all in Alabama, so I've missed it) and I love its comforting and meaningful history.
These adorable black leather mary janes were also my mom's and also from Ireland. They were handmade by a cobbler in Cork and my parents got them on a trip to Ireland when my brother and I were babies. My mom must have worn these a ton because I have the most vivid memories of her in them. When I wear them now, even the way they sound when I walk sometimes flashes me right back to my childhood. It's pretty amazing. The soles were quite worn so recently I took them to a cobbler and they put on new half-soles. The rest of the shoe is in pristine shape and I'm pretty sure they'll last long enough for me to pass them on to my daughter someday.
(Don't you just love that soft, crinkly aged leather?! I've always said it--old leather beats new leather every time.)
I just happened to be wearing both of these special heirlooms yesterday and I had my husband snap a photo so I could share these stories. Because what we wear really does tell a story and how wonderful is it to slip on a pair of shoes your mom wore when you were just a baby, or cozy up in a sweater that kept her warm on countless days? There's so much history wrapped up in these treasures and I'm a lucky gal to have them.
Thanks, Mom. :)