Tuesday, March 9, 2010

My Vintage Green Raincoat

Welcome to the March Carnival of Natural Parenting: Vintage green!

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month we're writing about being green — both how green we were when we were young and how green our kids are today. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

I have a bright green raincoat I love to wear-its rubbery coating means I actually stay totally dry on wet days, and its mid-thigh length means even the tops of my legs benefit from this wonderful dryness. I've worn it to shop in, to run in, and all sorts of other rainy day activities. But I'll let you in on a little secret: it's actually a GapKids size XXL from about 1994. It used to belong to my big brother when he was in 4th and 5th grade. But in my family, we don't throw old clothes away: we hand them down. So when my brother outgrew it, it went into the coat closet until I grew into it a few years later.

Besides this raincoat, I was also a regular recipient of hand-me-downs from a girl at church who, like me, had no sisters. Luckily she had great taste in clothes and I got tons of compliments when I wore her old things. More recently, almost all my maternity clothes and a few of my nursing tops were generously given to me by my husband's aunt who had worn them herself about 3 years ago, and we've been dressing our son in the hand-me-downs from her toddler. When Baby is a big brother, his siblings will wear the same adorable little outfits he did (plus a few new things here and there).

"Hand-me-downs" get a bad rap; many people think it's shameful, an indication you can't afford new clothes. Many people who wear hand-me-downs are embarassed to admit it and do so quietly. But I think hand-me-downs are highly underrated, and actually one of the best traditions in our society. In fact, here are the top 5 reasons I think hand-me-downs are great:
  • Good for the pocketbook-since they are generally free, they save lots of money over buying all your family's clothes new.
  • Good for the environment-reusing clothes saves resources used in the clothing itself and in the manufacturing process.
  • Good for your pride-it's a lot harder to base your worth on material things when your material things are last season (or older) and have already been worn by someone else. It just becomes less of a priority.
  • Good for your imagination-you have to be creative to incorporate old clothes into your wardrobe in a fashionable way.
  • Good for nostalgia-when I wear my raincoat, I think about hiking through a French forest and exploring Irish castles with my big brother. A new coat wouldn't have those fun memories!

So next time you realize that pair of jeans is just never going to fit again, complete the bittersweet weaning of your youngest and don't need nursing tops anymore, or your 8 old's shirts are suddenly all 3/4 sleeves, pass them on. Pass them on to your younger kids, your cousins, your friends. Pass them on to other families in your playgroup or La Leche League meeting group. And don't be ashamed of wearing your favorite hand-me-downs. Proudly go out into the world and don your vintage green raincoats!

You Tell Me: What's your favorite hand-me down you've received or given (or both)?

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Code Name: Mama and Hobo MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants.
(This list will be updated March 9 with all the carnival links.)


  1. I am impressed by your commitment to and passion for hand-me-downs. We have a friend who's having a first baby and is so excited to receive our baby's outgrown clothes, and I know I loved getting re-gifted items like that when I could — but not many people offered, even though I said it would be great. It's funny how it's looked down on and people feel sheepish about offering used things, when really it's such a wonderful gift!

  2. @Hobo Mama- I agree! Even as much as I love hand-me-downs I don't give them out much because I'm afraid people will be offended at the offer, like it implies I think they "need" them because they are so poor! I do sometimes, but I've also ended up just donating to the thrift store (which isn't bad, but I like passing things to friends and family for free better).

  3. Honestly, I wasn't *dedicated* to hand-me-downs until we were expecting our first baby. Now I'm just as thrilled to get hand-me-downs for ME as I am for him :)
    Great list - thank you for participating in the Carnival!

  4. I love hand-me-downs! For me, for the kid, anything! Some of my favorite shirts were $.50 from the thrift store. Things don't have to be brand new to find a new home that loves them.

    (I also like to use worn out shirts to make stuffed animals and baby pants and give them as gifts)

  5. @Dionna- for me having a baby also made it seem more important, since they only fit a size for a couple of months, but need tons of clothes thanks to spit-up etc!

    @grumbles- sounds like you found some great deals! So far we've gotten so many gifts and hand-me-downs we haven't needed to hit up the thrift stores, but good to know they are so inexpensive!

  6. Sweet take on hand-me-downs. I'm tried and true to them too. I'm not sure how much of a wardrobe I would have without them! My 2 fave HMDs right now are a black knit zipper front sweater from my sister (it's thickness feels so earthy and warm) and an old veeery soft white long sleeve that I bought at a thrift store at least 5 years ago (it has so many holes now but i can't let it go so I use it as pjs). Haha, now I want to go thrift store shopping!

  7. I grew up with hand-me-downs too. I haven't continued that tradition much as an adult but I did get a nice pair of gently used shoes from someone about a year ago. The original plan was to get secondhand items for my son but his grandparents have kept him clothed with new things so far. I do plan on either giving those clothes away or reselling them to the secondhand children's store here.

  8. I also grew up in my older sister's hand me downs. My son now wears his cousins hand me downs. One thing I'll say for my sister-in-law, she has nice taste in clothes - my little guy always looks smashing!

  9. I occasionally run into family who don't keep their older children's outgrown clothes for their younger kiddos. And I must say: I don't understand them. But I understand you! I LOVE that you're still sporting your brother's raincoat. You're my hand-me-down hero!

  10. @Acacia- sounds comfy! I'm a little jealous of your sweaters!

    @navelgazingbarjan- yay for generous relatives! there's definitely nothing wrong with new clothes (hey, hand-me-downs have to get started somewhere, right? lol)

    @Shana- I think people with great fashion like your SIL are awesome for giving hand-me-downs to the rest of us. It's like having a personal shopper!

    @Thomasin- I actually have some extended family that does just throw clothes away! I think they figure that the time and hassle of donating them to charity or friends or whatever outweighs the good of clearing out their clutter. They donate lots of money to charity, so it's not like they are just being selfish, but they just feel like they are too busy to donate clothes. I disagree, but I can see whre they are coming from.

  11. My favorite jacket of Peanut's is a hand-me-down from a friend. Everyone thinks I made it myself and it's the cutest jacket I've ever seen. I love hand-me-downs.

  12. @lactatinggirl- fun to get such a cute jacket for free! and I love that you call her "peanut" :)

  13. I love how you generated an entire post around an old raincoat. So creative! About once a year my group of local friends get together for a clothing exchange. Sometimes we all bring $5 and pool our money to give to the local La Leche League group. It's always lots of fun and I've been surprised at the great stuff I've come away with!

  14. This: "Good for your pride-it's a lot harder to base your worth on material things when your material things are last season (or older) and have already been worn by someone else. It just becomes less of a priority." is beautiful! So true. I used to wear thrift clothes all the time and I've slacked on it! Thanks for reminding me why I should do it!

  15. @Melodie-what a lovely idea! I especially like it because so many people nowadays live too far from family to swap with them. A community of friends trading sounds like lots of fun!

    @Paige- glad you liked it! I don't think it's bad to wear new clothes, but I know sometimes I get a little vain, and wearing something old can help me get over myself a little and adpot a better attitude instead!

  16. I was so happy when my sister-in-law sent me boxes of my nephews clothes and books and toys. Not only is it just so helpful in terms of expense, I think that a connection is established between the children, a legacy of sharing and extending themselves to one another. It's wonderful to see my son in outfits that his cousin also wore and I look forward to seeing my nephew who will be here in the next few weeks dressed in clothes I bought for my son. Once our family is done we will release them out into the world and hope someone else will enjoy them.

    My neighbors have also been amazing with handing down some clothing and lots of toys and gadgets that I probably would have never bought myself. But being gifted them makes it all the more pleasurable. We have to start some sort of awareness campaign that most moms welcome hand-me-downs and that packing up a bag of clothes and giving them at a shower is actually a fantastic gift.

  17. @seeking mother- I love the idea of hand-me-downs as a babyshower gift! I would've been so excited! (I didn't actually have a baby shower 'cause my friends and family are so scattered geographically).

  18. Some people are so stuck up about hand me downs. Not us! We love them.


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