Re-Purposing Your Family Wardrobe

Conforming to the stereotypical characteristics of a little girl, I loved going through my mother’s closet and devour it as if I were on a treasure hunt. I would secretly wear her blouses as dresses, try to match the shoes with the bags, the bags with the jewelry and the jewelry with the color of lipstick. I can still remember the clumsy clicking and clacking of the high heel shoes on the marble floor as I walked to the mirror to check myself out. What I would hope to see, was a reflection of an adult.

I think children rush to grow up not only to finally attain that mystical freedom to do whatever they desire (oh what an illusion that turns out to be) but also, deep down, they wish to be a part of their parent’s life that is happening outside of their realm of homework and play, family dinners and summer vacations. They are hyper-aware of and sensitive to the fact that there is a another world of their parents, which revolves around only other grown-ups. They feel… left-out.

Looking back at my little self, believing that her mother was the most beautiful and mysterious woman in the world, I now realize that I actually put on my mother’s shoes to try to see the world the way she did. I grabbed her bags to see what secrets they carried. I put on her rings – on every chubby finger of mine – to be linked to her other life, which did not include me as a child.

20 years later, I am still fascinated with my mother’s wardrobe. Despite her occasional protests, every time I visit my parents I walk to her large wooden closets to collect another piece. Every season, we ceremoniously open up her vintage suitcases that preserve the pieces she wore in her youth. With a certain gratitude that we are the same size, I now play this enchanting game of dress-up with the awareness that these pieces are actually the threads that weave our lineage.

An heirloom doesn’t have to be a giant diamond ring. With the risk of sounding like a Mastercard commercial, I am going to say that whatever the actual value, wearing something that once belonged to your mother or grandmother, father or grandfather, is priceless. Because you are not only wearing a vintage piece, but also telling the story of your family.

What’s incredible is that each time I ponder into those family trunks, I gravitate towards something entirely different. Just like history repeating itself, fashion also repeats itself. Whether it be a masculine wide-shoulder jacket from the 80s, a high-waisted pair of pants from the 70s, or a mini dress from the 60s, they always swing back into trend at one season or another. With a trustworthy tailor, modern accessories and creative styling, you can totally rock, say, a dress your grandmother made for your mom in college.

And trust me. It stirs up a different kind of satisfaction when someone compliments you on those pieces than something anyone can get off the rack. It is what makes them, and you, unique.

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