Saturday, March 19, 2016

Rick Rack and Hand-me-Downs


I don't think I've used this picture of Betty and me before. When I first looked at it I thought it was taken up at Aunt Evelyn & Uncle Howard's because of the barn in the background. But I have decided it was taken at Grandpa & Grandma Ridnour's. Both the Robert's barn and Grandpa Joe's had double doors on their southwest corners. When we all gathered at Grandma & Grandpa's there were cars parked all over their small barnyard. I am guessing we were sitting on the fender or hood of one of those cars.
And look how I have my arm protectively around my little sister. Even though I have talked many times of how jealous of one another we were and how we didn't get along, there were many times that we did and were happy to have our picture taken together. On this particular day, we were both obviously very happy about something.

Maybe this was when we stayed with Grandpa and Grandma for the week Mom was in the hospital and we were happy because she was coming home. Our ages would be about right for that time - two and four. I know from an old letter Grandma sent Mom % the hospital in Clarinda that she had made us new dresses, perhaps even the ones we have on all trimmed in rick rack.

How many kids today would know what Rick Rack is? Or have an article of clothing embellished with it? Yet when I was little, a dress hardly seemed finished if it didn't have some colorful trim on it. It could be some white lace, but most often it was in a coordinating color of rick rack.

Rick rack might also be used when a hem was 'let down'. The dresses made while we were still growing were made with a wide hem. As we got taller, the hem would be 'let down' whatever length necessary to come below our knees. Sometimes where the old hem had been would show. If that happened and looked unsightly, Mom or Grandma might sew a border of rick rack around the skirt so the old line wouldn't be as obvious. Another use along that same principle was if there hadn't been enough material in the hem to let down, a contrasting solid color might be sewed on to the bottom of the dress to lengthen it, with a band of rick rack added to make it appear part of the original design. Rick rack could cover a multitude of sins.

If the dress had been handed down to a younger sister or back and forth between cousins as sometimes happened, there might be two or three or four strips of rick rack hiding previous hem lines. It was mostly the younger siblings who *got* to wear hand-me-downs. If you were the oldest you got the new clothes and when you outgrew them they passed down to your little sister(s). I had two older girl cousins, so I may have gotten some of their clothes to wear for a year or so before handing them back for their sister who was younger than me.

Now if there are no siblings or cousins, clothes get passed on via garage and yard sales. I remember one time, before the advent of garage sales, when Mom was offered a sack of a neighbor girl's clothes for us. I think Mom was taken back a bit when the neighbor asked for money. I believe she thought they were being 'handed down' to us in the same way we were used to passing clothes around. I don't remember what the cost was, probably five dollars or less and at first I thought Mom was going to turn them down. But the clothes were a little better quality than what we were used to, so Mom bought them. I only remember one item of clothing from that sack - a yellow skirt - which I wanted (and got) because yellow was my favorite color.
Eventually Betty and I wore the same sizes but by then I did not want her wearing my clothes so we seldom traded clothes. And rick rack was a thing of the past except for some of the aprons Mom made out of left over material from our dresses. Not that I would want to wear clothes with rick rack on them now, but sometimes I miss those simpler days.




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