My greataunts were twins. Two tiny ladies who never married and were loved by all the children. They were special, their names were Emerence and Prudence, French names. When I went to visit, they always had to touch my clothes and comment on the fabric.
If I wore a short skirt, they would pull it down a bit while touching the fabric. They told me that in their youth and adult years, they asked a seamstress to make their coats and dresses. They had a new coat every 10 years. You can imagine how they cherished their wardrobe! Few clothes were hanging there, but handled with delicate care! That’s the happy life they knew, a mindset of contentment.
Emerence told me she was once asked to knit a sweater for a boy. It had to be ready in one week. She did her ultimate best. The sweater was finished but to her horror she detected a mistake. She never accepted such an offer again.
When my mother grew up, being the fourth girl in the family, she only wore hand me downs. She remembered the day of the funeral of her grandmother as yesterday. Since she had no coat to wear, she had to stay home. No arguing. Now you must know that she didn’t grow up in a poor family. She was a daughter of a well to do farmer who had servants. Her mother thought spending money on clothes was not wise. The mindset of frugality taken a little bit too far as you will notice in the next anecdote.
When moetje, as I call my mother, was 13 she went to a boarding school. Every six weeks she could come home. Her birthday fell in October. To her surprise her mother came with a birthday present. Eagerly my mom opened the package only to discover uggly greyish undergarments my grandmother had knitted from upcycled yarn. You can imagine her disappointment which she couldn’t show.
Every Saturday the girls in the boarding school got a bassin of water to wash themselves. My mother felt so embarrassed to take off her clothes, as the girls would see her underwear, that she started crying. A compassionate nun came to her rescue, my mom could undress in a separate room.
When I grew up, my mother dressed me nicely. I did not have many clothes however. Clothes for school and clothes for Sunday. Every season we went to buy two sets of clothes which I was free to chose. She always told me:’When you turn 17, I will buy you more, you will be a lady by then !’. Seemed fair to me. A contented mindset!
Another thing I have always been grateful for is the fact that in middle and highschool I wore a uniform. We girls didn’t discuss clothes.
What a contrast with the world we now live in. Fast fashion has entered almost every household.
Children and adults have their closets full. Clothes aren’t that expensive. But where is the contented mindset? Never enough! Always looking for the next item, no inner peace.
The more you have, the less value you give to what you have. A child with many toys gets bored, a child with a few ones discovers new ways to play.
True, every company is now’ethical’ and does effort to be ‘sustainable’, so they say. But offering new outfits every week, stimulates people to buy and buy, even to the point of getting in debt, resulting in more garments being discarded after being worn only a few times. How ethical is this?
What can we do to bring awareness? We can go back to the simple contented life. We can buy some durable clothes that can be mended if necessary! We can make our own clothes from upcycled fabric. Just wear them no matter what people say and when the opportunity presents itself, explain why!