An Ode to Hand-me-down Clothes…

The Penny Mint are so young and enthusiastic. Their passion for life and art is inspiring. So, when they put together their Ode to Hand-Me-Down Clothes exhibit, and asked me to contribute, I was honoured.

This is what I came up with and can be viewed, along with my hand-me-down of choice at the Louis Joel Arts & Community Centre from September 3rd to 5th.

Material Bond

I am the wrong size.

I have been aware of this thought, for most of my life.

I have been the right size at times throughout the years, but rarely had the self-awareness to recognise it in the moment. Hindsight making a fool of previous incantations of self.

I am not obese.

I am just not the right size.

I’m not sure who determines the rightness or wrongness of my size, but there it is – my inner monologue, chipping away at my confidence.

My mum has fantastic legs. Always has.

My legs are more like logs. I don’t hate them. I just know that I do not have my mother’s legs.

My sister is much smaller than me. Having a sister, who’s clothes you cannot borrow, is kind of pointless.

I love my sister. And her size….

As a teen, I shuddered at the thought of sharing clothes with my mother.

As an adult, I rummage through her wardrobe, like a squirrel stockpiling for winter.

She gifts me her off-casts, but rarely offers up a treasured possession.

As children, we long to inherit our mother’s wardrobes – a seemingly wondrous space – a sensory gateway to possibility. Tactile textiles – a bridge to her soul, made up of fabric folds.

As the oldest, I never had to suffer hand-me downs. I was the first child. First grandchild. My clothes were my own.

Now, I wonder at what I missed….

There is a bond in sharing clothing. Especially if items move from generation to generation.

I look to my daughter and wonder at what I can give her, to show her who I am.

I look to my mother and wonder at what I can take, to find out who she was.

This woman, who gifted me life – lived an entirely separate version of her own, before I invaded her space. And here I am, in her wardrobe – invading her space, still.

I am searching. Sifting and sorting through silks and satins, lace and linen – trawling for that perfect something.

I feel it before I see it.

Delicate. Soft. Subtle. Inviting me to touch.

To feel.

I unearth this treasure, that has been buried down the back of a seemingly unending wardrobe. My mother’s wedding dress….

I am immediately taken back to my childhood. Gently tugging at so many layers of apricot organza-style fabric. Lace-trimmed. Pearl buttons. Fine silky stripes.

100% polyester – as was the way in 1984.

This was limited edition Anthea Crawford and it was glorious.

This sheer bit of loveliness was calling to me. Inviting me to try it on.

Surely it could not fit – I am not the right size….

As I slip into the cool layers of this cloth conduit – this portal to my mother’s past, I become my mother – if just for a moment. It might not fit the way it fit her, but in this moment, I forge a material bond.

I need this dress. This treasured possession must be mine. I do not want to take this item – my mum must reluctantly give it to me.

She does.

It is done. I promise to treasure it always. To care for it in a way that is worthy of this vintage peach. I am honoured and already planning on passing it down to my daughter. A rite of passage – the bridge I have been searching for.

Melissa Longo

*Join me at the launch on Monday September 2nd….


  1. Cr Sandra Wilson

    Gorgeous. I can feel the folds of that tactile textile….

    Would you like a sneak at mine?


    Cr Sandra Wilson Cherry Lake Ward, Hobsons Bay City Council 0419 287 117

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s