Friday, July 14, 2017

Did I Say They Were Frugal?

They being the grandparents of the previous post, and yes, they were frugal. Both had grown up in large families in which it was not frowned upon to grow much of one's food, sew and mend and use of variety of tools for household repair. My grandmother made sure both of her daughters knew their way around a sewing machine and could run up outfits and dresses from any pattern. My mother in fact made several items of clothing for me as a young child but made sure to tell me during my teen years how much she hated sewing and considered it a mark of poverty. This while insisting that I, born with less than average motor skills, tackle a Home Economics class and a sewing project for which, as it turns out, a large amount of motherly intervention was necessary in order for me to obtain a passing grade. The buck stopped with me as I never did master the rudiments of sewing. That said, I do not consider creating useful and attractive clothing a mark of anything but talent and skill. The fact that one can save money on a wardrobe is an added bonus.

My frugal grandparents, busy with their working lives and juggling the needs of three kids, tried to impart frugality not because they were poor but because it made good sense in the long term. However, as stores and malls proliferated, so did available goods and my mother's generation preferred the convenience of even limited commissary stock to a cache of McCalls or Simplicity home patterns. Fortunately, for me, desperation in finding a suitable gown for public choir performances resulted in the maternal largesse of a dress made for just that purpose and one which I was proud to wear.

School clothes were a different matter. We shopped for those and when in the US, that meant an end of summer visit to Montgomery Ward or Sears. Three dresses, a skirt and two blouses, two pairs of shorts, a package each of underpants and socks and a bathing suit. Predictable, and fine until puberty struck, landing me in a sea of awkward hormones and my mother and hers at war over suitable behavior and attire. At twelve, I shot up about five inches in less than six months, leaving my mother desperate to keep pace with a wealth of changes not the least of which involved my hem lines. When she could lengthen dresses and skirts no more, I wore shorts beneath them until they simply no longer fit. Communicating this situation to my grandmother led to an unbeknownst to my mother chat with the aunts, all of whom conspired to help without making it obvious they were doing so. Money changed hands and my grandmother sent a check with instructions to me to look for some new clothes.

My mother's Singer, left to gather dust for a few years, was once again heard to hum in the night, and one day, a large parcel was deposited at the end of my bed bearing greetings from my cousin in Florida and her mother. Inside, shorts, tops, tee shirts, dresses and a skirt, all of which fit. That they had been previously worn by my cousin bothered me not in the slightest. I was simply happy to have nice clothes that fit properly and which did not call attention to my changing physique.

My teen years found me in trousers and jeans rather than the dresses and skirts of my childhood. I grew to loathe clothes shopping and malls and preferred second-hand stores and my school's weekly flea market, which of course led my mother to forecast that others would think I was poor and a slob, though which of the two embarrassed her more remains unknown. She of the pillbox hat and pearls generation was aghast to learn she had spawned Miss Tie-dye the tee shirt and jean queen. While my cousin was becoming a Junior Leaguer, I was marching for women's rights, found myself in jobs in which jeans were appropriate, learned about frugality and minimalism and refused to be swayed by my mother's increasing lamentations as I pursued advanced degrees, not on her dime.
Frugal? Yes, and proud of it, thank you.

12 comments:

Elephant's Child said...

My parents were also frugal (I never knew other relatives). I wore hand me downs often. And new clothing was almost always made at home - except for school uniforms. The garden provided a lot of our food, and when times were tight my father fished and hunted. When I see the price that stores charge for rabbit today I remember when it was most definitely a sign that times were tough at home.

Blogoratti said...

Frugality has its perks. And better to be frugal than not. Warm greetings!

Live and Learn said...

Very interesting stories about your clothing growing up. Peoples background have a big effect on how they view the world. My mother or I sewed most of my clothes growing up. That was okay because many of my classmates did the same thing. I wore hand me down clothes from my sisters and cousins and that was all right. However, I was a little embarrassed when I had to wear clothes from someone in town had been given to us. I felt I had the "poor" stigma then. When you grow up in a small town, people will actually recognize something that someone else had been wearing and discarded.

Now clothes are not that important to me. I go for comfortable, good value, appropriate for the situation clothes. I too was in the blue jean wearing, women's rights era and prefer clothing from then. Or at least the essence of it. It was/is so comfortable.

jenny_o said...

Both of my parents came from families who had very little, and they themselves struggled for years. So I am well acquainted with frugality, second-hand clothing, and eating up leftovers. People throw out so much stuff just because they are "tired" of it and they buy so much stuff based on name brands. Most of my clothes come from the second-hand store. They are pre-shrunk, worn to softness, and cheaper than retail - and help protect the environment. My mother and I both sewed at one time; most of my sewing now is alterations to my second-hand clothing. I'm happy to find lots of websites on these topics in blogland. Frugal people of the world: unite! :)

Martha said...

We were a poor family and my parents had no choice but to be frugal! But seeing how expensive everything is these days and how much we dispose unnecessarily, frugality doesn't look bad :)

e said...

We bought clothes, food and other things from a commissary or if in the US from department stores. We also had several Chinese Gardens from which to buy produce or we could go into Panama and buy from stores there. There was no fast food though one could eat in restaurants, communities club houses or if military, NCO or Officer's Clubs. When my mom or her husband entertained, it was usually at home and going out was a treat.

e said...

I agree and warm greetings to you as well!

e said...

I never had to worry because my cousin lived far away, and I always went for comfort, was never really "girly."

e said...

I agree!

e said...

We weren't poor, but there is certainly nothing wrong with not living in debt, as so many do today. We definitely consume and waste much as a society.

Secret Agent Woman said...

Frugality is a good thing. I have found an on-line thrift store that I just love and am happy to be able to save money on clothes that aren't new but new to me.

Jenny Woolf said...

I think many people were frugal in times gone past. In human history, indeed. One day I feel our descendants will look at how wasteful we were.