Hand-Me-Downs Come Out of the Closet


A friend of mine wants to keep it hush-hush when her daughter is gifted a hand-me-down dress, as if wearing used garb signifies poverty or shame that might not fly in her affluent social circle.

My friend is a European whose family often struggled to make ends meet. And although she keeps it all in the closet, she accepts these offerings for all of the right reasons: they are clean and usually in perfectly good condition; It’s wasteful to go out and buy a new outfit when you can recycle; people who snub second hand goods are snobs. She may aspire to the don’t ask, don’t tell policy, but she knows better.

In fact, there’s a entire culture of thrifty moms who surf newspaper classified ads, Craigslist and Ebay to locate gently-used clothing and objects for their children. Seizing on this trend, an emerging site called handmedowns provides a one-stop destination condensing all of the shopping sites into one.  It combines the listings from the top five classified sites with original postings from trusted hand-me-down users.

It’s a brilliant idea because recycling clothes is good for us and for the shaky economy. The credit goes to two Hollywood dynamos: Norah Weinstein, a lawyer and mom who also founded The Hollywood Reporter, ESQ, and Jane Buckingham, who authored the bestselling Modern Girls Guide to Life.

“The sites that were out there had some great listings, but were simply not designed with a parent in mind,”  remembers Weinstein, who tired of sifting through torn, stained cast-a-ways on the web. “Our goal is to raise the bar for children’s classifieds and create a more family-friendly atmosphere.”

Buckingham adds they are saving parents time and money by pulling together safe, user-friendly products. Safety, they say, is heavily promoted to stay on top of government product recalls.

When you visit the site, you can click on your location and what you are shopping for (clothing for girls, boys, toys) and the age range. In terms of clothing, from layette to child sizes, you will find everything from shoes to winter outerwear and cute little legging outfits. There also are categories for selling, donating or giving your items away for free.

As the founders put it: “Once you start shopping at handmedowns, it may be hard to buy at retail prices again.”

It’s great news for kids who don’t have older siblings or cousins. I never met a kid who didn’t smile when I handed them something one of my girls had worn, from party dresses to ski parkas. For some, it’s even more special knowing your new posession was loved so well.

Image: manuel

Luanne Bradley

Luanne Sanders Bradley is the West coast Editor at EcoSalon and currently resides in San Francisco, California.