My sister, brother, and I in sleeping bags that were no doubt passed down to others.
As previously mentioned, I come from a big family. Of course, some of the youngest kids weren’t around yet when I was growing up, but I’m in the middle so I’ve always been surrounded by siblings. I also happen to live about 5 miles from one family of cousins. We grew up very close: seeing each other at birthday parties, play dates, holidays, school, and church functions.
This one family of cousins (let’s call them the Romanos) happens to have seven children, while my family is made up of eight children. None of us are exactly the same age, but here are a few stats to give you a feel of the make up:
Devenneys - 8 total, 6 girls, 2 boys, 19 years between bookends
Romanos - 7 total, 4 girls, 3 boys, 16 years between bookends
Needless to say, it was pretty much a blast having so many cousins around to play with - and to share clothes with. Kids clothes can be really expensive, and children seem to grow out of them just as soon as you can get them in the closet!
We did a lot of clothes swapping growing up - it always seemed like my mom or aunt had a garbage bag filled with articles whenever we got together. Apart from the obvious financial benefits, I loved sharing clothes for many other reasons as well.
1. You get to look forward to what’s coming your way.
I always looked forward to the great clothing swaps at the change of each season. My mother would dedicate a weekend to turning over our wardrobes from summer to winter or whatever was required, and we would try on just about everything we owned.
You can imagine my delight as I watch my older sister try to fit into that one sweater I’ve been eyeing for years, and it just doesn’t make the cut. Finally! I loved getting my hands on those great clothes I was always jealous of.
2. Your clothes get a great story.
It’s great when someone compliments your clothes or accessories and instead of saying, “Got it on sale at Macy’s,” you can tell them how your sister wore the same dress to her sweet sixteen and your purse was your cousin’s from prom. Looking through old pictures, you can practically trace the network of clothing swaps through the family tree: t-shirts passed down from the old band trips and souvenir sweatshirts end up on a child who never even went to Texas.
My youngest siblings like this one the best: sometimes they feel like they missed out on the “good old days”: when we were all younger and went on road trips together. I find it helps them feel connected somehow when you give them a jacket and let them know that it’s been worn for the last ten years by various cousins and siblings (and it’s usually not an exaggeration!).
3. It’s always new to you.
Sure, we got a new outfit every fall for the first day of school, and a new dress for Easter - but the rest of the year, we didn’t just go out to a store and buy new clothes. I never got sick of my clothes, though, because I got a steady supply of “new” items from various relatives and friends.
I loved re-styling old clothes to incorporate them into my wardrobe. Clothes can look very different on different people. I still love swapping clothes with my friends and figuring how to make them work for me. You still get that “new clothing “ feel without the feeling of a slightly lighter wallet!
It would be impossible to say just how much our families have saved over the years by trading clothes. (Although Trent from the Simple Dollar recently tried to calculate it!) There are a thousand ways to share clothes (and even toys and furniture) between friends and family. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Host a clothing swap at your school or church: you can put up fliers and invite everyone to come. Some swaps give tickets for the number of items you brought, so you can take the same amount.
- We could open our own dress boutique with the number of prom dresses and bridesmaids’ dresses we have in our closet. After prom, though, those expensive dresses just take up space. So we usually swap them - trade with friends at school or donate your old dress to a local dress drive. (After all, girls don’t always need a new dress:)
- Our town has an annual coat drive in the beginning of the winter for underprivileged families. If you find that there is no one else around to take that jacket off your hands - donate it for a good cause!
- You could put a notice in your church newsletter, mom group emails, or preschool parent’s letter if you have some clothes you are looking to get off your hands. Also if you are expecting a little one, find other moms who have a child 6 months-1 year old and ask if they can consider passing down their used items.
What are some ways you save on clothes for kids? Did you grow up with hand-me-downs? What did you like/dislike about it?