Confession: I don’t much like old clothes. I was raised by a woman who passed on to me her undying love of J. Crew catalogs and expensive things. (You’re the best Mom). And so, I was never destined to be a thrift store shopper. As pretty as they might look on etsy, vintage shoes sort of gross me out. In all honesty, sometimes when I try something on in a store and I think about the fact that at least one person has probably tried this very item on before me, I’m not so cool with the idea. It is therefore surprising that after reading I Like Old Clothes by Mary Ann Hoberman, illustrated by Patrice Barton, I feel a twinge of inspiration to go hunting for my own pre-loved treasure.
This has to be one of the loveliest little books I’ve read in a while. It has charmed me completely. I am going to stop hugging it now so that I can put it down and look at it properly and tell you all of the things I like about it. First (and foremost), the illustrations are heavenly. I had not come across Patrice Barton’s work until today, and now I plan on ordering all of the picture books that she has ever illustrated for the school library. The illustrations are soft, with a warm and smudgy, almost worn quality to them, which perfectly matches the theme of Hoberman’s poem. Barton uses a variety of textures and patterns on top of and against each other to mimic the appearance of different fabrics, all of them well-loved and a little washed out. Everything blends and goes outside the lines to create a sense of imperfection, but also liveliness and movement. I pretty much want to have one of Patrice’s pictures framed on the wall in my bedroom.
And if the illustrations alone aren’t enough to put you in a smiley kind of mood, Hoberman’s words should do the trick.
“I like old clothes.
I really do.
Clothes with a history,
Clothes with a mystery,
Sweaters and shirts
That are brother-and-sistery…”
The text doesn’t really have a narrative line, and that’s fine. It’s an exploration and pure celebration of the wonders of old stuff. In an age when everyone, including children, covets the new, I’d say there couldn’t be a better time to read this picture book and consider its message. I’ll bet you’ll fall head over heels for the whimsy and sweetness here, just like I did. Maybe there’s room in my closet for some “not-my-own-clothes” after all.
I Like Old Clothes is published by Alfred A. Knopf.