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I grew up in a large family and am one of four girls. I have two older and a younger sister. Our Mom used to dress us in matching clothes when we were younger. They might have differed in colour, but everything else remained the same. As the third girl, some of my clothes were handed down from my sisters – i.e., the oldest would hand them down to the second oldest and then to me. Our youngest sister did not have to wear our hand-me-downs because she came after our brother, and we have a seven-year difference between her and me.

Mom bought us new dresses every Christmas holiday, and she had a lovely sense of style. We looked cute and well-kempt despite our shenanigans growing up. We dressed in our Sunday best for the earliest mass every Sunday and were required to change into our everyday clothing once the church service was done. I learned that to preserve my work/gala/church, etc, clothing, I could not cook, play or do chores in them. As a result, even in adulthood, I have more than ten years old clothes in pristine condition.

One rule our Mom and Gogo (maternal grandmother) had was for us not to touch or wear other people’s clothes/shoes/accessories. We were taught to be content with what we had, which was not too much, yet our Mom ensured we felt it was enough. I recall one time in my teens, I went to church in my youth uniform, and my best friend had a shawl that I liked – she put it around my shoulders during mass, and I forgot to return it to her. Mom was furious, and she threatened to destroy it. I had to go to my friend’s house that day to return her scarf and tell her I could not wear anything that was not mine.

The women in my family were fortunate to share identical shoe sizes and almost similar body sizes. This meant we could wear each other’s shoes and clothing as we grew older. Now, as adults, we each can confidently share clothing items that were gifted to us by our sisters either because we saw the items and said, “Ooh, I like that, can I have it;” or “Ooh, I like that, I am taking it back with me;” or they looked through their closets and gifted clothing that they had bought thinking it was their style only to realize it suited their sister better.

As life became more challenging in Zimbabwe, some people travelled to countries like China to buy bulk clothing and gently used clothing to sell. Also, some people who had family members in the diaspora would receive a bulk shipment of gently used clothing to sell. There were other avenues as well. I recall going to Flea Markets and browsing clothes, but I knew I would not buy them because I could hear my mom’s and grandma’s voices in my head.

Once I came to Canada, I had no choice but to mute those voices and utilize Salvation Army’s Thrift Store to purchase work-appropriate clothing. It was not a pleasant experience for various reasons, which I will discuss in a future post. A few months in the country, one of the women whom I met at the shelter I was temporarily housed in told me to save $20 per month and buy my son new clothes at Zellers instead of getting him gently used clothing, and I did that. As time progressed and I became more financially stable, I bought new clothes. However, I was buying low-quality because I thought it made sense. After a while, I realized I was spending more money purchasing low-quality clothes that sometimes could not stand up to three washes. I will speak more about this in the future.

I was first gifted clothing during my UK experience with my sisters. It made me feel good, loved, elevated, seen, and valued as a woman, mother, and person. Over the years, I have gifted clothing to close friends at different times and for various reasons. It brought me joy to give and even more joy when, years later (long after I had forgotten), I got a text saying, ” Do you remember this dress? You gave it to me years ago.” As women, gifting clothing is another way of fixing each other’s crowns and appreciating and empowering each other. It does not always indicate lack or need, but sometimes it is JUST BECAUSE.

I find it amazing that despite my upbringing to not touch other people’s clothing, I am the founder of From My Sista’s Closet and I am actively engaging in the exchange and gifting of clothing with other women in the spirit of sisterhood. I would never have imagined that this would be the path I would take.

So, as we embark on this journey together, pay close attention to the clothes you have in your closet and reflect on what stories are attached to them. Can you imagine sharing some of those clothing items and their stories with another sister from a place of love? Can you imagine exchanging items with another sister again from a place of sisterhood?

Lastly, what stories of gifting with love do you have and are willing to share? Let us tell our stories #frommysistascloset #giftingcloset #giftingwithlove #ourclotheshavestories