Several years ago I came across these vintage promotional items on the internet. The button is from WWI, and the booklet came out during the Second World War. Materials and goods were scarce during wartime, and people drastically altered their lifestyles as a matter of patriotism. It is easy to romanticize those days, but the sacrifices people made were real.
Times aren’t nearly so bad for me in present day Topeka, KS; still, these images speak to me. Around the time I stumbled across the images above, we started to go through old photographs to cull pictures for the many “memory board” activities that preceded my son’s high school graduation. My kids began to point out how many of their childhood photos showed me in clothing I still wear today. They give me a hard time about the twenty-year-old items in my wardrobe, but it doesn’t bother me. I don’t care much about fashion as long as I look presentable; and if I am home painting or gardening even presentable becomes negotiable. Thumbing through those photos, an idea for belt tightening hit me. While the kids were all three in college or dental school, I followed the philosophy behind the WWI button: I am making my old clothes do.
I was able to do this because:
I have always believed in buying quality. So, what is in my closet is well constructed from reliable, natural fabrics.
I do not follow trends. I choose things that have simple lines and classic design which keeps them from becoming dated too easily.
I personally don’t place a high value on fashion. Some people express themselves in what they wear which would make this choice harder. I express myself in art, writing and decorating my home. For me clothes are pretty much just functional. I hate to shop.
For the past five years I have been embracing this lifestyle. It fits well in my overall life-simplifying plan. I play little games with myself to keep it light-hearted, choosing one garment at a time to wear todeath. As I write this I am wearing the current target, a blue striped Ralph Lauren shirt circa 1991. The cotton is worn, soft and comfortable, the collar and cuffs gently frayed at their edges. Its like an old friend I will miss when it is gone… just as I will eventually miss the peach shirt that steps into replace it or the lavender that will replace the peach.
I wonder about the sense of gratitude I now feel for the literal shirt on my back. With each garment that passes to the rag bag, I feel a sense of satisfaction that it has served its purpose well. Would I even notice my old favorites slipping away, if I had not made the commitment to be conscious about fully using what I have before buying more? I suspect not. Five years ago I thought I was making a sacrifice, but instead I find myself content and more aware of simple everyday blessings. In the end, making do has been no sacrifice at all.