As the oldest child, I didn’t have to wear many hand-me-downs. Occasionally, I wore clothes from the daughter of my mother’s friend. When I reached junior high, I sometimes had to wear something of my mother’s. I hated that, because styles meant for a thirty-something woman in the late 1960s seemed frumpy on a thirteen year old. Except for one pair of orange dress shoes which matched a dress of mine perfectly—those shoes I didn’t mind borrowing.
My younger sister had to wear many of my clothes, saved a decade for her. And a few of the pieces both my sister and I wore even reached my daughter.
I think the first garment of mine saved was the little blue coat. My grandmother made this coat for me out of a lightweight wool, sometime between my first birthday and my second. It is lined in satin, and nicely done, though it is clearly handmade. The hem has been taken up and let down many times in its long life.
On the back of this picture of me, my grandmother wrote “the new coat Nanny Winnie made.” The little blue coat was big on me when I first got it, so I wore it a couple of years. See how the sleeves are turned up in cuffs to make it last longer, and it falls well below my knees.
I don’t remember wearing the little blue coat myself. But I do remember when, years later, my sister wore it. By this time, the family had a color camera, so you can see that the coat is blue. Note that the sleeves were turned up into cuffs to fit my sister also.
And twenty or so years after my sister wore it, so did my daughter. The little blue coat barely buttoned on my daughter when this picture was taken and there were no cuffs—it must have been her second year in the coat. And Easter bonnets were long gone by the time my daughter was a toddler.
Now, almost thirty years after my daughter wore it, and more than fifty years after my grandmother so proudly made it and snapped the first picture of me in it, the little blue coat hangs in a spare closet in my house, waiting for the next generation of girls.
What’s the oldest garment you still own?