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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Worn Worlds and Worn Scarves: An Appreciation

Unlike most people, I prefer the old to the new. And here I'm not talking only about antiquities and art and the like, but clothing and everyday items. That must be one of the reasons (among a zillion) that I love thrift stores.

I've been thinking about this predilection in part because we were invited to a wedding--the first of Frugal Son's childhood friends is getting married. I perused the registry and found myself wishing I could give them a giant box of slightly used items: I could get half the items on the registry for the cost of the single item I will end up buying. Of course, they would be appalled by the gesture.

The other reason is that I found an essay I thought I had thrown away: Worn Worlds by Peter Stallybrass. This was in the Yale Review many years ago and eventually morphed into a lengthy academic book Renaissance Clothing and the Materials of Memory, which seems sadly to be out of print.

I love the impressive tome, of course, but I also really love the earlier essay, which is a meditation on clothing and memory, centered on a jacket that was given to Stallybrass by a friend's wife after the friend died. The jacket itself was purchased at a vintage shop in London.

Interestingly, when I found the essay (in Frugal Son's closet--don't ask, my fault), I also found a box with a few linens in it and a scarf. The scarf is one of the few things I have that belonged to my grandmother who died almost 30 years ago. It is wool challis and made by Ralph Lauren. It used to smell like my grandmother's cream, a long discontinued Elizabeth Arden potion that I used to sniff at cosmetics counters.

I unfolded the scarf rather apprehensively owing to the fabric content and discovered--a miracle--that no moth or other creature had gotten to it. I aired it out and wore it to school.

I've also been wearing another scarf--a gift from a blogger who may not want me to reveal her identity. Like my grandmother's scarf, it is even more appreciated because it comes from another wearer.

My scarf is a beautiful and pristine gift, beautifully folded. My grandmother's scarf was pristine too, when I got it, save for the smell of the cream.

So many thanks to my benefactress for the beautiful gift and also to the gods of the closet, who kept my grandmother's scarf safe from the moths.


Liamsmom2 said...

Great sentiment. I was a new bride 5 1/2 years ago and I would have loved the used, but still useful, things! I also tried to get people to help me revise my registry to let me know what would be used and what wouldn't be used. This Christmas I displayed beautiful tea cups (used) given to me by my aunt. To me, this makes them doubly beautiful. Maybe this is why I read your blog!

Duchesse said...

Wonderful scarf stories!

In the case of the wedding, a vintage or antique decorative object would be most appropriate, a vase, for example, or antique mirror.

And since a wedding is traditionally the start of a couple's new life (even if they are already living together)new things symbolize that, so that's why used kitchenware or linens, the kind of thing you might give your kids for a first apartment, are not right in this instance.

Isn't it a strange moment when you are no longer the contemporaries of the bride and groom but the "parent-age" guests?

Anonymous said...

I like my clothing worn too. I love uncovering treasures I may already own. Plan to track down the essay you've mentioned. Thanks.

As for used gifts, we've given them at Christmas. One was a vintage juicer...and it was greatly appreciated.

Shelley said...

I like used as well, and not just for the price. I think I've lost my taste for new somehow. It's probably all in my head but I look at used items and feel they have a history and a mystery that appeals more than something crisp and new. Or maybe my head is just full of cobwebs...

Frugal Scholar said...

@Liamsmom--Ahhhh. You should have invited me to the wedding.

@Duchesse--i guess I'm having trouble because they registered at BedBathand Beyond, a store I hate--for quality (low0 and aesthetics (low).

@Terri--i think you would love the essay.

@Shelley--I agree--the history and mystery, exactly.