hand me up

When we were kids, having hand-me-down clothes always had a negative connotation. All my friends who were the youngest siblings would complain about how they never had new clothes and always had to wear their older sisters throw-aways. Even though I’m the eldest girl, we had family friends who had three sisters who were all older than me. I didn’t realise how much of my childhood wardrobe was provided by these girls until I was well into my teens looking through old photos and my mum pointing out all the “Cindy outfits”: basically any organised family photos that required more than worn running shirts were styled with hand-me-downs. These were always my favourite – poofy dresses with matching socks, shoes, and scrunchies. However when my friends complained or snubbed hand-me-down clothes, I felt I was supposed to as well. Peer pressure is real and kids can be cruel.

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These days there are still some mixed connotations about second hand clothes. Thanks to Mackelmore and hipsters, thrift stores and vintage clothing are becoming more trendy but I have still come across my fair share of naysayers. TV shows make a point of indicating a family is poor by saying they are forced to shop at thrift stores and are then picked on by the cheerleaders. I’ve read fashion bloggers that claim they “aren’t even ashamed to tell you this item isn’t new” like it’s some huge confession and we should all be in awe of how brave they are to make such declarations on the internet. (I’ve also read similar proclamations about shopping at Target, so what do I know?)

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On my Otesha tour one of the sustainable choices we promoted was use of charity shops. This got us some shade from what was easily our most difficult audience – an all girls private school. Not only were these 12 year old fashionistas not impressed by our Simon Cowell impression, dancing cows, or tupperware rap, they gave off definite I-will-not-be-caught-dead-in-someone-else’s-discarded-clothes vibes. However once we discussed the issues surrounding fast fashion after our performance, these girls opened up about their qualms on the subject. It was a very Mean Girls-eque moment where they all realised they were insecure about their appearance and placed high importance on the clothes they wore. There is something empowering about the realization that everyone’s in the same boat and you have the ability to define standards. For these girls we were able to say “yes it’s OK, and should even be praised, to shop at charity shops instead of the high street”. It was awesome.

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As a poor, 20-something University grad without full time employment, I also no longer scoff at hand me downs. (My scoffing game as a 9 year old on the other hand was pro). All these years later, much of my sister’s and my wardrobes are filled with hand me downs from the same family. Every time we go to visit Cindy, E and I get to rummage through boxes of clothes not only from the three sisters but also from all the garage sales and basement auctions she goes to – which is a lot. I always have to make sure I leave extra room in my bags for all these great finds, which have included this top, these Calvin Klein leggings, a BCBG dress, and some pretty fab jewelry. My mum has pointed out on several occasions that when she goes on holiday, 90% of her outfits are from ‘Cindy’s Closet’ or CC as we endearingly like to call it.

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  • Top: Hand me down – Cindy’s Closet 🙂 
  • Skirt: Vintage Fair Victoria ($18)
  • Shoes: Target (over 10 years old so who the hells knows)
  • Necklace: Hand me down – belonged to my great-grandmother
  • Bangle: Hand me down – belonged to my mother’s godmother
  • Ring: Vintage Fair Victoria ($3)
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3 thoughts on “hand me up

  1. Mary-Louise says:

    I am in absolute awe of your talent for writing and for your talent of putting together “costumes” (as Opa would call outfits!)
    I had a slight smirk at the comment “when we were kids……”

    Liked by 1 person

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