Even older than a man’s favorite shirt

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.

Via Bing images

Via Bing images

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.


About Monica Sawyn

I'm a retired newspaper reporter/columnist, and although I still freelance, I miss the weekly column I used to write. I still "see columns" in everyday life and need a place to put them after they're written--thus, this blog. I'm Catholic, have been a Benedictine oblate since 1977, and live with my husband and our beagle in Sturgeon Bay, Wis. When I'm not writing, I'm probably reading, sewing, taking photos or walking the dog.
This entry was posted in History, Lifestyle, sewing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Even older than a man’s favorite shirt

  1. blb1 says:

    The only thing that old in my closet is my wedding dress mom made 54 yrs. ago. Boxed/sealed after cleaning. Don’t know what I’m going to do with it. Daughter couldn’t wear it for her 2nd marriage and now she says she will never marry again. (she works a lot she will never meet a man to date.)

    • Monica Sawyn says:

      Sometimes I wonder why we save wedding dresses. Of course, those who do sometimes pass them on, or use the fabric for first-communion dresses for children or grandchildren, or provide clothing exhibits in museums. I guess it’s just sentiment. Maybe that says something about not spending a fortune on them, like some people do.

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