Lessons From My Grandmother

Posted by Jill Chivers in Attitudes and Habits, Shopping, Clothes and Emotions

Phyllis, my grandmother

My grandmother was born in 1919 and was a child of the great depression.  She married young – at 18 – and raised her 3 daughters (the middle of which was my mother) pre-, during and post- WWII.

When my grandmother died in 2012, I got this photo of her aged 16, taken in 1935.  People say I look a bit like her.

Here are some things I learned from my grandmother (slanted toward style, shopping and the other stuff we talk about around here):

  • Buy well and buy few.  My grandmother was not a shopaholic or a collector of clothes.  She bought few items but those she bought were of the highest quality she could afford.
  • Mend – don’t throw out.  My grandmother had never heard of the terms ‘fast fashion’, ‘cheap chic’ or disposable fashion.  She never once threw something out because it required mending.  She mended it and continued to wear it.
  • Be happy with what you have.  My grandmother was not a gleeful woman, that much is true.  But she didn’t spend her life hankering over things, or experiences, she did not have or could not access.  She settled her focus on what she could have and was happy, in her own way, with that.
  • Create – sew, crochet, bake, knit.  My grandmother did all those things.  She made me my favourite toy when I was a child — nearly life size versions of Holly Hobbie and her best friend Amy.  I loved those dolls!  I wish I knew where they got to.  My grandmother was always creating things with her hands – knitting, sewing, crotcheting, cooking.  She made many of her own clothes, and many of my grandfather’s too.  Whilst many of us have no great desire, need or time to go to those lengths, there are many creative activities we can apply ourselves to that yield great satisfaction.  I just refashioned a fascinatior I’m wearing to Oaks race day next Friday – I can’t tell you how much pleasure that gave me (rather than going out and buying a new one).
  • Live well within your means.  My grandmother never had a credit card and she never overspent.  She never bought anything that she didn’t already have the funds for – in cash.  She didn’t just live within her means, she lived well within her means.  For a woman with what we would now think of as having access to limited means, she never worried when a big bill or unexpected expense came along, because she always had cash for it.

In 1930, the average number of outfits housed in a woman’s closet was nine.  Yes, 9 (as in the same number of lives our feline friends are purported to have).  These days, the average woman (whoever she is) adds 60 items of clothes to her closet each year, resulting in hundreds (sometimes thousands) of outfits in her closet.

We waste so much and think so little when it comes to our wardrobes and our shopping.  I’ve devoted this site, and much of my time and talents, into helping women (and the men who find themselves here) into awakening into the possibilities that conscious shopping and consumption has for them.

If nothing else, my grandmother was a conscious consumer.  Perhaps that is the best legacy she could have left me.

And if you want more style secrets from our grandmothers, check out this two-part article:

Part 1: Style Secrets from our Grandmothers

Part 2: Style Secrets from our Grandmothers




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