‘For some young fashion lovers, the hottest place to shop is mother’s closet’
Every young girl has done it- cracked open the door of her mother’s closet and peeked inside, gently touching the silk skirt of a gown here and stroking the furry fringe of a coat there. If she’s brave enough, she’ll even dare to slip on a dress, hike up the trailing hem and strike a pose in front of the mirror. For that dark, cool closet is hallowed ground, and its holy grail are carefully tucked inside garment bags and hung on racks while they wait for their next turn in the spotlight.
But then the girl grows up, the clothes starts to fit and that closet starts to look more like a boutique then a big box of dress-up clothes.
For some, like me, shopping Chez Mom, was an enviably easy task. Since we had same tastes, there was a lot of pieces I liked. It was always sort of last minute- I would need a jean jacket that makes this outfit more casual.
Over the year, I have acquired more unusual pieces. I have assembled a collection of LBD (Little Black Dresses) from all era of and style, from the early 20’s to now, which have caught my own daughter eyes. It has always delighted me to lend them to her as my mom had done for me. For the most part I do share peaceful sartorial relationship with my daughter but I do have boundaries ‘’the very expensive collectable and fragile stuff is off-limits. Especially if she is going to a party and people are going to mess it up with drinks, food and make-up.
I’m sort of nervous with the borrowing of some gowns. Borrowing can be tricky. I have to not be in a fat phase or if it’s a certain time of the month, no one can come near my closet not even my own daughter! I do enjoy sharing my closet with my more conservative daughter. What I like to do with her is accessorize If she says ‘’ I’m just going to wear this minimalist black LBD, then I will say ’’ well, you should stop by the shoes inventory’’. It’s like playing stylist!
In many lucky cases, symbiotic fashion relationships are a family tradition. For example, since I regularly go on shopping sprees for ERA VINTAGE WEAR, returning with Courrèges ,Dior, etc… It is no surprise that my daughter has made a regular habit of popping into my closet for a quick fix.
I will let my daughter take anything. She has pulled out my black Chanel boots for a New Year’s bash and everyone was asking her what those were and what year, and materials. However, I don’t always love our open-door policy. If she does not bring them back it’s bad. I have a fairly organised closet (a bedroom completely transform) I have specific sections for everything: clothes, belts, sunglasses, jewelry, scarves, etc… Its great when I want or she wants to do a walk in- walk out raid, because you can find everything.
A girl takes a mental note of the stock of her mother’s fripperies. There is something from childhood, when your mother is getting ready and you see her as a princess. You become obsess with the transformation.
I would see my mom get dressed and put on her perfume L’Air du Temps, and go out with my dad, and I would think ‘’Someday maybe I can wear a Yves St-Laurent dress that twinkles all over’’ and sky high stylettos.
My childhood dream came true after waiting patiently: one day when I was able to borrow a white strapless silk jersey jumpsuit suit my mom wore to Studio 54 for my Prom night, I felt like the queen of it all in it! I was secretly a little nervous because it is not easy – it’s white , it’s strapless and I am 16!... But she told me never wear anything that has more attitude then you do…. but I had attitude and I went with it and didn’t care.
I also felt like that when I wore my first fur coat at 19. The fantasy materialised after my mom passed away. It was sentimental but I had wait all my life to wear it: white silver fox short coat. I remember thinking it was the most beautiful thing and being from Montreal, I felt no guilt as we must find ways to be stylish in subzero climat.
But there’s more to the appeal of the hand-me-down frock than a famous label and a couple of ostrich feathers. It’s something that somebody you love very much cared about. It meant something to them, and when you wear that, you feel special.
‘’Few’’ years ago, I went on a mission at Christmas: a vintage Barbie holiday for my 7-year-old.
I was especially focused on the carrying cases
When I was little, there were these amazing carrying cases, complete with cardboard drawers and tiny, tiny hangers for each garment. Oh, how I loved those hangers and my cases too!
I confess that I didn’t so much “play” with Barbie as “organize her closet.” That was the fun part for me, putting all the dresses and blouses and skirts on the hangers and organizing them on the racks.
I have such happy, happy memories of all those clothes, with their tiny buttons and tiny snaps and teensy seams and perfect, perfect smallness. I wanted to offer that to my daughter, as well–since the clothes I played with as a child, which would have been absolute heirlooms today, were lost somewhere along the way between moves. Maybe they might have been too precious to allow daughter to actually PLAY with today?... Anyway: Isn’t that a tragedy? Doll clothes too nice to let children pretend with?..but not for mine
Turns out, Barbie clothes are super, super collectible, which I think I knew on some level, but not to the degree that I discovered while putting the gift together. What I learned, fascinated me: the tagged Barbie clothes, produced by Mattel, are all catalogued and collectible and highly sought-after by people who love All Things Barbie. But the handmade clothes? The ones made from scraps by someone’s mother as a sacrificial act of love and devotion for a child to play with? Those seem to have very little value at all, and can be bought by the lot on eBay for ten to thirty dollars a gallon.
Lucky for me, those are exactly the Barbie clothes I most wanted! The ones that were of primary interest to me were the ones that were made with bits of lace and leftover fabric and unfinished seams and no tags at all. They fascinate me, and I knew that not only would they be fun to play with for my daughter, but that they’d be fulfilling their purpose in this world by coming into a little girl’s home.
So I bought. Giant lots, big bags. Some of them were…not up to snuff, let’s say. All of them had that odd thrift-store smell to them. And some of them... were heavenly!
It’s their hand-made-ness that I love the most. Their stains, their imperfections. These were made by someone who wanted to take the time to stitch teensy stitches just to see the joy on a little girl’s face. And let’s be honest: Some of our Barbies were not so pristine, either. And no one cares even a little bit in my house!
There are the teensiest little blouses, and sweet little cropped pants. You can tell that these clothes were made over the space of decades, mostly in the 1960s and 1970s, but a few in the 1980s, as well. With such careful details–bust darts and itty bitty collars and hand-sewn snaps.
They have trim and lace and button details on them that I can’t even imagine.
I have to guess that most of them were made from sewing room scraps. Something about that makes it EVEN BETTER to me. Since this is what I do everyday!
A lot of them are made so carefully–and others are a little amateurish. I can’t say in complete honesty that I love those the most. I really appreciate good craftsmanship, after all. But there is a great deal of charm in those little spots where a few handstitches were the only way to make it work.
Occasionally, I see a great idea applied on a small scale, like using ribbon to hem a full skirt. Or accenting with tiny zigzags at the edge of trims.
Not all the pieces I collected & bought are for Barbie, of course. There are some for Skipper's, KELLY'S and others for the bevy of non-Barbie ladies who are nearly the same proportions.
Genuinely the ONLY disappointment of the entire endeavor has been the rare occasion when a garment won’t fit a particular doll.
One day, we were having a super rough afternoon. Everyone came home so grumpy, and my girl and her daddy (aka my boyfriend) were snipping at one another over nothing. Out of nowhere, I asked my daughter if she wanted to play Barbie. She replied, “Will you play with me?” Uh, YES & yes again!
Next thing I know, my daughter and I–are on the floor of the play room, jammed up against the dresser drawers, dressing and organizing and searching for hangers and trying on tiny shoes. And it was so much fun, fun to re-discover these tiny treasures. Exciting to show her how to operate the itty buttons. And affirming to know that these things are meant to be played with and loved...and they are!
If you ever have a moment where you think, “Does sewing even matter? Does what I make MATTER?” The answer is YES, in so many ways you may not even know. Your stitches may survive you, your family, yard sales, eBay and storage lockers to someday land in the hands of a family who desperately needed exactly what you were making just to make it through the day. Keep sewing. Just keep sewing.