How old is the oldest piece of clothing you still wear?
I asked my hair dresser that, and told her my caftan would undoubtedly beat anything she came up with.
“Caf–tan?” she asked, struggling with the pronunciation.
“Yeah, you know, those long flowing things, unstructured…” I trailed off, realizing she hadn’t a clue. The fact that she, who’s not all that much younger than I am, doesn’t know what a caftan is, tells you how really old it is.
I’ll admit I hadn’t given it much thought over the years.
I wear it during the warmer months as a sort of robe. It’s loose and comfortable and–best of all–covers a multitude of bodily imperfections. Then, last week I realized I needed to fix one of its seams. That’s when I discovered the seam had already been fixed once before, with a different color thread. I found where the neckline facing was restitched. I recognized that I had mended this thing several times before.
So, I did the math. I made the caftan back in the days when a group of us were taking turns hosting ethnic parties, making food and outfits from other countries. I picked Africa, and the caftan was as close as I could get to something that might be worn somewhere on that vast continent. That was in the early ‘70s. That caftan is at least 42 years old.
My hairdresser admitted that no, she had nothing that old in her closet. I have nothing else that old, either, although I do have a dress that’s close to 20 years old and I still get compliments on it. I have a few pairs of shoes that have been around for a good long time, too. If it fits, looks nice and I like it, my naturally frugal nature says keep it.
Trouble is, I like to sew. And my weight tends to fluctuate. So the chances of having a lot of clothes builds with each passing year.
The solution came when I moved, twice in two years. That’s when you realize how much you’ve accumulated! Four years ago we downsized to a small place, and there’s just no room for endless outfits even if I could afford them. So, in the past year or two for the first time, I’ve actually donated items that were in good shape and still in style but that I didn’t like any more, so I could make room to sew something different.
Not the caftan, though. That one stays. After 42 years, it has earned its place in this family.