What's In Style?

Children (and adults) sometimes wear name brand clothing as a badge of honor. My daughter was nine, when she came home comparing her clothes to those of a friend at school. Brigit's classmate bragged, "This blouse cost $50 because it's the best. And these are designer jeans too." Brigit felt discouraged. There were no flashy labels on her clothes. She was beginning to get the message that money was to be used to show off.

But the truth is we don't have that kind of money at our house. In fact, many of Brigit's favorite clothes come from the thrift store or yard sales. And those are the kind of places some children are taught that only "lower class people enter." So it was time for a lesson. We visited the thrift store that day. And God provided as always! A nearly new, name brand shirt, in exactly my daughter's size, practically jumped off the shelf into her arms. The price tag was $1.

We talked about what it meant:

* Would you rather spend $50 so you could say you got that at a fancy store, or spend $1 here so you have $49 for more necessary items such as food?

* And this shirt is practically new. So someone spent a lot of money to buy it, but hardly wore it at all...Do you think that is wasteful? Should you buy something just because others will think it's "cool"?

* Our world offers hundreds, maybe thousands, of flashy new products every single day. Some people spend hours looking at them, and they frown on anything that speaks of poverty or a lack of money, such as these stores. But we are finding good and useful things here. Do we really want to spend hours fantasizing about things we don't need and being tempted to spend money we don't have, for such things?

There are a lot of lessons to be learned from a secondhand store or yard sales. Lessons about waste, consumerism and the value of a dollar. And there are spiritual lessons too as we consider what is truly important. What do we really value? Have the things of the world been turned into "gods"?

I began to take Brigit with me to the secondhand store on a more regular basis. One day we ran into her friend with the flashy clothes there. The girls both seemed embarrassed, but in a few minutes they were running around the store trading ideas about what looks good--without regard for whether it's a name brand!


  1. Sylvia Martin10:45 AM

    I too shop at thrift stores. And it's only more recently as a result of the recession. The recent hardship has caused me to rethink old values and adjust habits. But even when money does come in, I find myself sticking to the newly-acquired habits. And my two teen children are also learning to do more with less. Must be God's way of putting our family in its place. Thank you for a wonderful article. It's a great reflection that relates to the other Mammon articles I see today in your wonderful Parish World magazine.

  2. Anonymous7:09 AM

    What an importat lesson you are sharing with your children and with all parents. God bless you.