You are starting to think about what favorite wardrobe pieces you want to pass down. Yay you for being thoughtful and proactive! Here are a few time-tested tips to get you started.
This one may seem obvious, but any wardrobe piece that you are considering passing down to your kids one day needs to stay in as good condition as possible. This means two main things:
Cleaning: You will want your favorite pieces to stay clean. This means cleaning the items when necessary, not wearing them out in the washing machine, and being aware of chemicals used by dry cleaners. Make sure you use proper products for cleaning items like leather goods, jewelry, and your special Christmas quilt. If it’s homemade, consult a specialist, otherwise, look closely at the manufacturer’s instructions for care. Detergents and chemical solvents can wear down fabrics of all types. For clothing that could be stained by perspiration, cleaning them once they have been worn for more than a couple of hours is usually wise. Many coats and jackets can get by for an entire season before needing to be cleaned unless they are a go-to item that you wear frequently.
For special occasion items like a wedding dress or fur coat, consult a specialist about cleaning and storage and make sure to check references—especially if a piece is fragile or was already handed down to you as a keepsake.
Storage: When it comes to clothing, extreme temperatures and humidity should be avoided at all costs. If you want to store something in your attic, it shouldn’t be clothing. In the Midwest, attics can get as cold as 30 degrees below zero in the winter and hit 120 degrees in the summer — not what you want to put any garment through, much less one that you hope to pass on to the next generation. Also, be careful about basements and any room that is likely to be humid (for example, a walk-in closet immediately adjacent to a bathroom). Try to keep your clothes as close to room temperature as possible and in a moderately dry environment. You want those beautiful cashmere sweaters and women's cardigans to last as long as possible and look beautiful on your daughter or daughter-in-law.
If you have items that have substantial sentimental or financial value, be careful where you keep them. Perhaps a safe or safety deposit box at your bank would be wise for jewelry. Maybe a special closet for vintage clothing (one that small children are never allowed to enter).
Many realtors suggest removing jewelry, small electronics, cash, and prescription medications when you show a house that is for sale, and any pharmacist will tell you that all medications (including over-the-counter drugs) should be locked up regardless of who is in your house. If you revel in having a house with a lot of foot traffic, whether it’s from extended family, a wide circle of friends, or lots of volunteer projects, consider making some of these suggestions a low-key way of life for greater peace of mind.
If you are positive that you know who you would like to give an item to someday, feel free to share that, but keep in mind that things could change. Perhaps you plan to give your pearl necklace or those personalized Christmas stockings to a dear friend, but then your son who doesn’t seem to care about them marries a wonderful woman who loves family traditions. Don’t promise what you might want to change.
Clearly communicate to your children that your belongings are exactly that. Yours. You may anticipate sharing many of your favorites with them at some point, but until you do, they are for your full use, and you have the right to keep them for yourself, give them to your children, or give them to anyone else you desire. Be diplomatic in how you communicate this, but make sure that no one thinks that gorgeous designer suit is “theirs” before you give it to them. After all, you both want them to love the things you give to them. Clear communication helps to guarantee that.
Be prepared for their opinions, too. If you have officially given an item away, it is theirs. Don’t expect it to stay in your house or be displayed, worn, or used as you would prefer. The younger generation has its own ideas! And if you think back a few years, so did you. If you give a special occasion dress to your daughter, maybe she will decide to hem it, so it looks completely different. If so, that’s her choice (and feel free to compliment her on her creativity!). Half the fun of vintage clothes is rocking them in a new way.
With a little forethought and clear communication, your kids will love your thoughtfulness in handing down your favorite things. It is truly a gift for them, and perhaps for their children and their children's children someday, as well.